A lot of people coach youth sports but few really know what they are doing. If you played sports growing up you may think that you’d be a great coach. You learned from your coaches and you can pass that knowledge onto the next generation, right? Well, it isn’t really that simple. How many good coaches did you really have? Coaches are like teachers: anyone can do it, but few can do it well.
So before you go out to coach youth soccer, basketball, or some other sport, take a while to think about the coach you want to be and the approach you want to take. You probably have some stories of nightmare coaches. And that’s not who you want to be.
Before you start coaching it might be a good idea to think about what mentality you want to have. What do you want to teach your players? It’s all too easy to fall into one of two schools of thought: playing for fun or playing to win. There’s a myth in youth sports that some teams are out to win and some are out to have fun. And this kind of thinking comes from the coaches.
But the truth is that you can and should do both. The point of sports it to have fun. If you’re not having fun you shouldn’t be playing. But there’s more to sports than just fun. Improving your skills and teamwork can be fulfilling and kids can learn a lot from working with a team and improving both individually and as a group. So while the goal is for every kid to have fun, an emphasis should also be placed on improvement.
If you do things this way, you might find yourself with a happy team that only gets better and better at winning. And that’s fun too.
How to Structure Practices
There’s a bit of an art to structuring practices effectively. You want to have a variety of activities so the kids don’t get bored. But you want to make sure they are learning something every time and practicing important skills.
There’s a basic rhythm to the typical practice. In the beginning you start with a light warm up. In a baseball practice this might be playing catch. For soccer it might be passing the ball with a teammate and running a few laps.
After the warm up you get the kids practicing some basic skills. Remember, they are not pros. They still need help perfecting simple things like dribbling or passing a ball. So if you’re running basketball practice, do some layup lines. For soccer, some short-distance passing drills.
Once the kids have warmed up and they’ve practiced some basic individual skills it’s time to work on more complex team skills. So in a soccer practice you could work on keeping possession using a keep-away drill. In baseball you could hit ground balls and let the infielders make plays. This part of practice is focused on building team chemistry and running through situations that may arise in games.
The Dreaded Conditioning
No practice is complete without sprints. Kids tend to hate this so make it a competition. If it’s seen as a game then it might not be as much of a chore. Conditioning is important so it can’t be skipped just because it’s unpopular.
It’s good to end practice with something fun. Do a free throw contest or a shoot out. Or just have the kids scrimmage. Some healthy competition among teammates is a good thing. And this way, the kids leave practice remembering they had fun.
If you follow these steps you are sure to help your players improve and keep their motivation up so they want to keep practicing and getting better at their sport.