(By guest contributor Chelsea Gladden)
Coaching Kids. After receiving the fourth email that said my son would not have a soccer team unless one of the parents coached, I once again unsuccessfully tried to convince my husband he should volunteer. Sure, he was a star college track athlete who had broken some records in his time, but it was mainly because he is such a patient, kind person who I have always known was destined to coach. But he refused no matter how hard I tried. And tried.
Finally, I said either he needs to coach these 5- & 6-year-old boys or else I would!
Soon after that conversation, I found myself one Saturday in a room full of other parent volunteers waiting for our 7:30 a.m., 5-hour training session to start. My only previous experience in soccer was as a little kid and then one year in high school because I liked riding the bus with friends to the games.
Working full time and a mom to five kids, ages 8, 6, 4, 1, and 1 (twins) at the time, I now spent my nights studying what I learned in my training class as well as googling “how to coach kid’s soccer.”
During our first practice with my 14 first-grade and kindergarten boys, in addition to hoping no one peed their pants … again, I was also told I needed to find an assistant coach because our games were split into two, and we’d need a coach to oversee each one. No one volunteered when I asked the parents. Not. One. Person. My 8-year-old daughter, who was on a competitive soccer team, stepped up. But, um, she was eight!
It was finally, finally, at this point, my husband said he would help. So, he became the Assistant to the Assistant Coach, as my daughter was not going to let her title go.
This first team coaching together would mark several more teams to come. I no longer asked my husband if he would coach but just signed him up. It’s a story he has now told at countless end-of-the-season pizza parties.
We also learned several lessons in the first season as well as many more seasons to come that HE coached. Here are some of our takeaways – those we learned together and those he shared with me when I asked him for his advice for this article:
Lessons Learned Coaching 15 Kid’s Teams
Believe me, I know what it feels like to be busy (did you read the part that I was working full time with five kids? You can do this!), but it will make for endless memories and the ultimate bonding with your child.
Do Not Over-Coach Your Child
Keep the bonding session positive by not over-coaching your own kid because, um, they’re your kid. In fact, if at all possible, have the other volunteer or coach be in charge of your child and you in charge of theirs. They get to hear a LOT from their parents outside of sports, so do your best to treat them like the other kids while coaching their sport.
Make it Fun
Back when I was looking into preschool options, I read an article that said if you find a school that makes your child happy, you plant the seed going forward that school is fun. This idea really stuck with me and I applied it to sports as well – if the kids get to have fun, they’ll continue to want to play the sport! Give the drills fun names or relate them back to Star Wars, etc. Get creative and relate what you do in practice to their interests.
Remember Kids Don’t Know How to Play
This tip has always fascinated me – most of us parents assume the kids know how to play the sport! In fact, for a lot of the kids, coaches need to take the time to explain the point (pun intended) of the game – whether it’s to score a goal, hit the baseball, make a basket, etc.!
Work on the Basics
Make sure to practice the not-so-obvious things that will come up in games, such as corner kicks, throw-ins, goal kicks, or similar skills and situations, so kids aren’t lost during the game.
Plan Your Practices Ahead of Time
Have a set of drills to accomplish for each practice, but also have a set of backup drills. The key is to keep the kids’ attention, which isn’t always easy. If you have chosen a drill that clearly has them bored, switch up to plan B. Also, rotate through several drills, changing things up, so it keeps kids moving and focused. Restless kids result in a chaotic practice.
Know That Not All Parents Are Nice
We had a great first season of coaching. One of the other coaches I made friends with did not have the same experience. Not only did parents coach over her, but they also criticized her coaching. She reminded them which one of them took the time to actually volunteer! My husband has since been in this same situation, and he also reminds the parent which of them volunteered.
Either Coddle Equally or Don’t Coddle
A recent article my husband read noted that often girls will be picked up off the field if they get hurt and carried off, but boys are told they are fine and to get up and start playing. Definitely check on a child who appears injured, but treat both boys and girls the same – either carry both off the field or encourage both to play again once they have recovered from the play.
Do or Don’t Push Competitiveness
Initially, kids should be learning the sport and getting a feel for the game while having fun. That said, there are the standouts who can either go on scoring every point unchallenged or be moved up to the next level. Just make sure it’s what the kid wants because pushing competitiveness too soon often burns kids out on the sport. That said, if they aren’t feeling challenged in a sport, that can burn them out too.
Recap with the Team
The first practice after a game or track meet, my husband likes to discuss with the kids what went well in the last game, what didn’t go well, and what opportunities there are to get better. It’s a great recap that brings the team together and lets them decide what to work on.
It’s Not About Winning, But Winning is Fun
Coaching kids is all about letting the kids have fun and have a positive experience. But let’s be honest: winning is fun! Properly preparing the kids leads to wins, or at the very least, successful play that results in an overall positive experience.
My husband has now coached 15 teams, including 8 soccer teams and 5 basketball teams, and is currently in his second season of coaching track. True, I went to great lengths to prove I was right that being a coach is his calling, but I also learned how much fun it was to volunteer myself. Though it’s always been him that has coached since that very first season, I recently came out of coach retirement and have volunteered along with him to help coach the track team – a team of over 65 kids, with five of them being ours. I guess you could say I am currently the Assistant to the Assistant and loving it.
During the day, Chelsea Gladden does Public Relations for her clients landing national television, magazine, and online features. In the evenings, she can be found coaching track or walking her kids to soccer practice. In her spare time, she runs EverythingTechGear.com, an online store inspired by the time her phone ran out of battery while trying to FaceTime PKs during the State Cup.