But is that really the most important thing that sports parents look for in their child’s coach?
As a sports mom of three athletes for 20 years, I’ve seen a wide variety of coaching types on school, city league, and travel teams. And I’m here to tell youth sports coaches everywhere that parents want coaching qualities that go beyond the ability to light up the score board.
What do Parents Want?
Qualified coaches. Whether or not you are a first-time coach or a veteran, parents want to know that the coach is well versed in the sport and knows how to run a practice, teach skills, and work with parents.
CPR trained coaches. Parents want to know that their child is safe. There should always be a coach or someone present at all practices and games, who has training in basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Positive coaches. The healthiest environment for kids to plays sports in is a positive one. And that means a coach that doesn’t harp on the negative, but instead focuses on even the small victories. Of course, he wants to win, but not more than he wants the players to have a good experience. He points out the mistakes, but doesn’t belittle the team for losing.
Informed coaches. Parents want to know that their child’s coach understands the risks of playing sports, such as heat stroke and overuse. Experts say that the number and duration of organized practices and games should be based on a child’s age. According to the Alliance for Youth Sports, for children up to age 8, these should be held for no more than one hour, three days a week; for those 9 to 12, a maximum of one and a half hours, four days a week; and for those 13 and older, not more than two hours, four days a week.
Not only are the coaches informed, but they put the health and well-being of the players above the desire to win.
Communicative coaches. As a sports mom, I was grateful for coaches who clearly communicated to parents and players. Parents want to know a coach’s philosophy, the team’s schedule and up-to-date changes; they want a clear understanding of what to expect so they can plan ahead, especially if they have other kids in sports. Players appreciate knowing what their role is, how they need to improve, and when they are progressing.
Bigger Picture Coaches. In my opinion, every youth sports coach needs to see the bigger picture of how sports can teach character building. In addition, he should really love kids and want them to have a great competitive experience.
Fair-play coaches. At the younger level, every child on a team, regardless of ability, should be given a chance to play. As they get older and the games get more competitive, I understood that my children had to work harder to earn their time on the field. All I asked for was a coach that gave them an opportunity to prove themselves.
Learning coaches. During the entire 28 years that my husband coached football and 10 that he coached softball, he was always a student of the game. When his team didn’t perform well, he took the blame and looked for ways to improve his own skills as a coach. I love knowing that my kids’ coaches want to continue growing even as they help kids grow in their sports abilities.
Believing coaches. A coach who expresses belief in an athlete can be a powerful influence.
I saw this when my son was a senior quarterback. His team had just lost in torrential rains because of a terribly sluggish offense that could do nothing in the mud. We all wondered if he would losing his starting QB spot. On Monday, the head coached called my son into his office and said, “TJ, these are the 3 reasons I want you to succeed”. After hearing how his coach believed in him, he left walking just a little bit taller and went on to have a stellar offensive performance in the next game.
Organized coaches. Organization may not be a skill that is highly sought after in a youth coach, but believe me, parents will notice when a coach is unorganized and it will probably bug the heck out of some of them. If a coach doesn’t have the gift of organization, a good team parent as a right hand man/woman can solve that problem.
Of course, no one expects coaches to be perfect. But if coaches are aware of what parents want and expect, it will help minimize parent/coach conflicts and maximize chances for a great season.
Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.