To kids, a youth sports coach can be a lot of things:  mentor, role model, motivator, disciplinarian, advocate, medic, comedian, etc.   I am handy with an ACE bandage wrap or cold compress.  I can be funny; quick to joke with my players to lighten up their mood.  I can be stern; ensuring there is never any bullying of players by their fellow teammates or back talk from players to coaches.  The definitions of what it means to be a good coach will vary among participants, but at the end of the day, you remember what those coaches taught you and how they made you feel.

In 10 years time, I have coached just about everything:  Football (flag and tackle), baseball and softball, basketball, soccer (indoor and out) and lacrosse.  Through coaching, I have been entrusted with the physical and emotional well-being of 100’s of children and it is a responsibility I do not take lightly.  I have seen a lot and coached against a lot of different personalities. And though I do not claim to be an expert, I believe the following things are tantamount to good coaching:

Nothing should come before Respect, Sportsmanship and Teamwork – Yeah I know those sound cliché, maybe they are. But a good coach sees the bigger picture and knows that the values taught are more important than wins and losses. Your kid may be a great athlete, but I hope you also want them to be a great person too. A good coach insists players respect their teammates, their coaches and the game. A good coach teaches players to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. A good coach teaches that hard work beats talent, when talent does not work hard. A good coach teaches values young athletes take with them beyond the sport itself.

It has to be about the kids, all the kids – A good coach wants all their players to improve. At the end of any season, especially where playoffs are involved, you always want to win your last game. But in doing so does that mean you gave more playing time to certain kids and not others? All the kids on a team should improve, not just some and the only way to improve is to play. Losing a game with all of the players involved is better than winning a game with just some of them.

Teach Confidence – We are teaching kids to compete through athletics because life is competitive. However, kids already have a lot of pressure on them. Ask my two high school age teenagers, they’ll tell you. So as a coach, take the stress out of it. Don’t make their mistakes intimidating for them. A good coach knows that a player’s mistake is a platform for that player to achieve wisdom and experience. A good coach sees a mistake as an opportunity to build and improve confidence versus an opportunity to criticize a player.

At some point, I will entrust my youngest child to coaches who get paid to coach and whose performance is based on number of wins. I will hang up my coaching hat and become a full time spectator. But it always brings a smile to my face when I see former players and they still call me coach.