Over the all the years my sons played sports, they have had a wide assortment of coaches with different personalities, coaching styles, philosophies and approaches:
- Some "safety comes first" coaches postponed games at the sound of approaching thunder. Others insisted that kids remain on a baseball diamond while lightning flashed nearby
- Some developed every player by giving them equal playing time. Some sat a couple of players sitting on the bench except for a couple of innings a game or denied them the chance to play the "fun" positions.
- Some had training in the sport they were coaching while some didn't even know all all the rules or equipment requirements.
- A few coaches knew about child development and gender differences.
While youth sports coaches come in all shapes and sizes, with different types of personalities, here are the ten things a parent should look for in a youth sports coach:
- Has demonstrated his commitment to the health, safety and development of players by becoming trained in child development, safety (first aid/CPR/use of AED, injury prevention and treatment) and in the sport he is coaching
- Teaches, models and demands respectful behavior, fairness and good sportsmanship;
- Insists on proper sideline behavior by parents;
- Sets realistic, age appropriate expectations for athletes;
- Understands gender differences but avoids reinforcing culturally-based gender stereotypes;
- Is patient, stays calm and never loses his cool;
- Doesn't unnecessarily intrude on the learning process during practices and games, knows when to teach, emphasizes the positive, makes practices fun and teaches that sports are as much about having fun than about winning;
- Adjusts his coaching style to fit the individual and team. Like a good teacher, the coach gets to know his players as individuals, is sensitive to their needs, both in sports and their personal lives, understands what works and doesn't work to motivate an individual player to do his or her best, and helps them learn new skills. By being child- rather than adult-centered, he allows every player to express their individuality and realize their full potential
- Looks for team-building opportunities. She looks for chances to help her players bond as an effective and cohesive team by, for example, holding team parties, going to high school games together as a team, team carwashes, and encouraging high fives, rally caps and "dog piles." I used to bring a cooler with popsicles and other frozen goodies for break time during practices. It is the little things that go such a long way to bring together a group
- Is sociable, empathetic and has good communication skills.
Brooke de Lench is the founder of MomsTeam, a youth sports consultant, blogger and author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006).