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Coach Mike has a straight forward coaching philosophy. He believes and has proven that there are only a few main components to succeed in youth sports, and more importantly to ensure the children enjoy the experience and learn. Here are a few of the basic principles you need to be a successful coach.
1. Be Positive! When you provide criticism, put something positive with it. Say a baseball player missed a grounder. Example: “Nice effort on that grounder Billy, next time remember to get your glove all the way to the ground. Good Job!” Sandwich constructive criticism with positive re-enforcement.
2. Make it Fun! As a coach, you must make the game fun! That does not mean that there is no discipline and no goal of winning. It means you have fun while teaching them a game with discipline included and a goal of winning. Handle wins and losses in a respectful manner. We’re talking about children, not professionals, so keep it light but organized.
3. Goals and Expectations! Talk to your players at the beginning of the season; ask them what THEIR goals and expectations are. Emphasize their goals are not necessarily their parents, and not yours either. Ask each player to write down their goals and bring them to practice. Give examples such as: become a better power hitter; improve my fielding; become a better blocker or tackler; improve my free throws. Encourage them to stay away from statistical goals such as: hit 20 home runs; score 12 touchdowns; score 20 points in a game. Review their goals with them on an individual basis throughout the course of the season.
4. You are the Coach! Make sure they understand that they are there to learn a game and you’re going to help them become better players. They MUST pay attention when you are demonstrating drills and limit the goofing off. A simple warning, then a lap around the field if they didn’t respond to your warning usually works. There is no need to raise your voice or embarrass the player.
5. The Three R’s! Teach your players The Three R’s. RESPECT the game (including coaches and officials) ; RESPECT their team mates, and RESPECT their parents. Share this with parents and expect the same from them. They need to remember they are an example for their children. Yelling negatively at the official, the other team or their child does not show RESPECT.
6. Short Term Memory! Help your players develop a short term memory. This means not to dwell on mistakes. Teach them that mistakes are alright. They happen at every level of play. Teach them that they will become a better player if they learn from their mistakes. Getting upset at themselves takes them out of the “mental” game. Not putting it behind them and moving on is more detrimental than the mistake itself.
7. Don’t Coach DURING the Game! Try (and I emphasize try because it is not easy) to NOT coach during the game. This is very difficult to do, especially with younger children. The time to coach is at practice. Game time is when the work you do at practice is applied. Specifically, I mean let them play and learn on their own. Provide subtle reminders though. Example: “Hey Johnny, you know that guy is your block right? Now let’s get him next time!” That’s all you need to do. You don’t need to chastise Johnny for missing his block; he knows he missed it! Keep the coaching during game time to a minimum. The team that learns from their mistakes on their own will ALWAYS be a better team than the one looking at the coach for direction during a game. If you must coach during a game, do it during a stoppage of play, preferably in private. Interact with the player; ask them if they know what they did wrong. When they acknowledge it, say “alright, now let’s go get ‘em,” or something similar with positive reinforcement.
8. Develop Leaders! Give leaders of the team more responsibility on the field. Allow them to tell the other players what to do, as long as they do it in a respectful and positive manner. Tell them they can correct and criticize the other players only if they communicate with respect for the other player or how they would like to be talked to. This will develop their leadership abilities and drive other children to become leaders. Example: A 10 year old playing majors in Little League will be a good player, but if he is shown how to be a positive leader by the 12 year olds on the team, when he is older he will use this example. This type of leader on the field is invaluable to a coach. Plus, it develops positive traits in children for life.
IN SUMMARY: Never forget that it is a GAME and should be FUN! Joke with the kids; get to know them; find out what they like. After a good practice go get ice cream, or bring gum or candy. Do little things like this that kids enjoy. If you forgot what kids like, just watch them one day at the field. It is pretty easy to figure out.