I went to the first football clinic for the new season last night. No. 5 was eager to get out there and make new friends and at the same time, pick up some new moves for the season. As is always the case at the start of the season, you get a new crop of talent mixed in with the old crowd. Some of the new players are athletes and you can tell that they have played another sport before considering football. There are even some that you might guess played soccer or flag football because they have decent footwork. But the majority of the newbies and even a few of the oldies are still learning the game and just like the rest of us, we know that there will always be bits and pieces of the game that we are still picking up after years of exposure to the sport.
The one obvious truth that most people who have coached any sport immediately recognize is, whether or not that kid is being coached at home. I say this for several reasons and I’ll explain shortly.
As a coach, your responsibilities vary depending on your team. You could be coaching seven-year-olds in basketball and spend most of your practices teaching them the rules of the game without ever getting to the actual fundamentals. The other practices will be spent trying to herd them in one direction, talk over the top of their exuberance and managing their breaks for potty and drinks. Oh, and you’ll be in charge of bringing snacks after games too.
If you’re coaching twelve-year-olds in baseball, you initially operate on the premise that these kids have played or at least watched the sport before and you can cater your practices to their strengths and weaknesses. But, as any good coach knows, you get one kid who doesn’t know what they’re doing, another kid who knows what they’re doing but can’t quite do it and yet another kid who knows what they’re doing, can actually do it but doesn’t want to, then you’re left with what a typical coach goes through every day until the season ends.
Which brings me back to my point of kids receiving coaching advice at home; sometimes coaching at home is a detriment (see: crazy sports dads living through their kids) but every player should be getting some help from mom and dad on the rules of the game or to increase his/her fitness.
And here’s why:
Fewer 1-on-1’s – Don’t get me wrong. Some players need individualized instruction and coaching but taking too much time to teach one player a concept or even the fundamentals takes away from the goal of teaching the entire team. If you’re helping your player to understand the basics at home, they will be better prepared to receive the information they receive with the team.
Team Chemistry – Little guys/gals aren’t going to feel frustrated with a teammate who is cutting into productivity but even young players feel the stress of having to wait and watch while coach is teaching ‘little Johnny’ how to ‘attack the holes’. Over time, especially with teen and young adult athletes, the entire team will lose focus and ‘little Johnny’ becomes a target for negativity. There are ways to prevent that from happening, but team chemistry will always suffer if the focus is diverted.
Even if ‘little Johnny’ has never played a sport before, there are some basic things you can work on together at home that will prepare him for any sport that is in season.
- Activity – Coaches will praise your athlete when he shows up to the first day of practice in ‘game shape’. When he is in excellent shape he is more apt and willing to do the reps to make him a better individual and team player. This minimizes the time spent running during practices and gives coaches more time to teach. Coaches are not drill sergeants.
- Player Manners – This is not something that only applies to the classroom. On the playing field it is equally important to listen while your coaches are speaking. I’ve had many occasions where kids aren’t listening during a drill or practice session and then they get hurt even after I’ve asked them repeatedly if they understand what is expected of them. When your player comes to practice, make sure they are prepared to learn. Coaches are not babysitters.
- Parent Manners – When you come to the field with your player, shut your mouth. If you have issues with what is happening in practices or at games, schedule some time to speak with the coach. Do not be a malcontent because it disrupts the flow of practice and it distracts from teams goals. Having outbursts at practices and games diminishes your players respect for his coach. His coach may deserve an earful, but it should never be in front of his players. Coaches are not lobbyists.
- Teach – You may not be the coach on the field, but at home you have a wonderful opportunity to teach your player a new skill. As an added bonus, your teaching moments will strengthen your parental bond with your player as long as those sessions are done with respect and with a desire to nurture and grow. You are a parent-coach.
How do I know all these things? Because I’ve been both a parent and a coach for many years now and I’ve watched my sons grow much faster than other players because teaching them never starts or ends at the field. Give it a shot and let me know if I’m crazy, or if your player is enjoying the season a lot more than when you’re not being a parent-coach.