By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
I write consistently about how we all need to change the game. How if we act together, coaches’ players, parents, administrators and all connected we can create a truly great youth sports environment that at its most fundamental level values these things above all others:
• Learning as part of competition
• Respect for all involved
• Holistic growth where coaches think more of their players as than as mini-professionals
It seems appropriate with the season upcoming to offer something of an action plan for the major groups that impact the youth sports environment and offer a few ways that could help change the game.
• Make a determined effort to no longer joystick the players – it is their game so allow them to make decisions and mistakes, it is all part of their learning process.
• Go to every session with a plan that is well-thought out and puts the developmental needs of the players before the need to win every game.
• Work hard to ensure that every player in the team knows you care about them as people before you do as mini-athletes.
• Develop and display a growth mindset where mistakes are seen simply as opportunities to grow. (Fear will leave the building)
• Dedicate one hour each week to improving as a coach (podcast , article, blog, chapter of a book)
• Go to each practice with the thought that you will do all you can to help your teammates learn at the forefront of your mind.
• Play with a smile and remember that mistakes are simply part of you learning the game.
• Find a way to dedicate 20 minutes a day to improving your ball control- be an independent learner.
• Challenge yourself in every practice to find a way to pick up a teammate who looks deflated or fed up.
• Compete with your best effort in every game regardless of the interference from opponent, coaches, parents or anything else.
• Remember the reason you had your kid start to play – it was about fun, sports for life, making friends and learning some social skills. These should still be your drivers.
• Teach your child through example that the way to deal with adversity is with calmness, strength of spirt and respect for all.
• At least once a season ask another parent to video or record your behavior on a touchline.
• Ask your child to write down on a piece of paper before the first game of the season the things they would like you to do AND not do as you watch their games.
• Communicate frequently and openly with the coach with a view to finding out how you can best support them throughout the season .
If all three groups noted can find a way to focus on their five ideas shared, I suspect that everyone involved will enjoy the season a little more.