Probably the most difficult thing about coaching kids is dealing with conflicting goals. On the one hand, most coaches, parents, and kids share a desire to win even if the games are theoretically non-competitive. On the other hand, most parents, coaches and kids also share a desire to have fun, learn the game, support each other, and cohere as a team. If you are very lucky, these goals are not in conflict with one another but, far more often than not, they are. Deciding how to balance these goals, or even when to simply abandon any pretense of winning in favor of higher ideals can be challenging.
Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond his control, a coach will need to lead a team that has very little chance winning even a single contest. Aside from the sting that this can cause her own ego, witnessing the heartbreaking disappointment in the faces of the losing players at the end of every game can be painful. Emphasize small victories and individual achievements through a losing season and you'll take some of the bite out of last place. Tal Alter, in his article, "Success in a One Win Season" emphasizes the invaluable lessons a losing season taught his players about making mistakes and rebounding from them.
Dealing with Parents
Most parents, thankfully, are supportive of coaches, offer to help and want only that their kids have a healthy, enjoyable and educational experience out on the field. Some parents, though, might have stronger feelings about competition than the coach or may want to see that their children spend more time on the field or in a certain position. In the midst of all the stress and difficulty of competition, a parent may take a perceived slighting of his kid as a personal insult. According to "Coaching Kids' Sports," the trick to dealing with parents is to establish good relationships with them early in the season. Learn their names rather than calling them simply "Joe's Dad" or "Nathan's Mom" and inform them about decisions you make. When your players' parents respect and like you, they will help you and will avoid behavior that gets in your way or embarrasses you.
The friendliest instructional leagues do not allow kids to get cut, and will instead add extra seats to the bench or create additional teams to accommodate players of all skill levels. But for some leagues, it just isn't possible to let everyone play. The coach must identify the players able to handle the demands of the league and those who can best contribute to the team. Getting cut is a tough blow to a player who came out onto the field with high hopes. You can soften the blow when you talk to kids and parents by giving kids a list of skills they can work on before the next season, or suggesting leagues more appropriate to their skill level. "A Coaching Life" suggests thorough communication with parents during the tryout process and encourages coaches to start tryouts early and keep them brief to give kids who are cut time to find another team or league.
- Photo Credit fischietto image by Andrea Riva from Fotolia.com
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