I recently received a phone call from one of my readers. She enjoyed a recent column on memories of the selection process in choosing teams for phys ed.
The content, she said, evoked memories of the same esteem-building challenges she remembers and now works to remedy with her own children as they navigate the demands of highly competitive sports.
She posed to me the question of what a parent should do when coaches, even with the best of intentions, criticize a young athlete about their level of play or a performance skill. For example: “Steven, you’re too slow.”
Her question prompted many thoughts, and ultimately what I consider to be one of the greatest challenges of youth sports. Is it fair to hold the volunteer head coach responsible for having a thorough command of fundamentals?
While I realize I could be opening Pandora’s box on this one, as parents we have all had to deal with the topic at one time or another.
Let’s face it: There is no greater tool to measure apathy than trying to chum for volunteer coaches in a recreational or even high-level club sport.
In a perfect world, parents envision getting a coach who has a burning desire for the game. This new coach will impart all of their knowledge gleaned from high school, college and maybe higher levels to help “Johnny” be the best soccer player he can be.
Frequently, we get a mom or dad who, with the best of intentions, steps up and takes these positions because for them, involvement trumps apathy. Sometimes, the volunteer coach will have learned about coaching from watching their own children play competitively. In many cases, using the Internet to learn the basics is not uncommon prior to a volunteer coach’s first practice.
Ultimately, parents need to gauge their expectation of a coach based on the level of competition in which their children are engaged. To that point, parents should remember that there is a canyon-sized gap within the spectrum of volunteer coaches who keep countless details and practices “organized” (not an easy task), and those who are capable of working at a highly technical level with their players.
Often, at higher levels of competition, including club level, head coaches have the luxury of delegating to team moms, assistants and other parents. To earn the title of “coach,” however, a critique of any athlete’s performance should always be accompanied by educating the athlete on the proper correction to improve performance. For athletes and parents, this criterion should always be helpful in gauging expectations of the leader of any team.
After all has been said and done, there is no doubt that every coach has the ability to become better at his or her craft.
Equally, it is fair to expect at every level of play a coach committed to contributing something to every player that will make them better, either at that time or in the future. In a world where countless parents are “too busy, too tired, too stressed” — and yes, too disinterested — each one should tip his or her hat to all those volunteer coaches who are just as tired, stressed and busy. Technical expectations of every coach, however, should always be in proportion to the level at which your athlete is competing.
Bill Victor owns Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. Reach him at 360-750-0815, firstname.lastname@example.org, theflashpoint.org or victorfitnesssystems.com.