Cheat Sheet

Coaching Kids For Dummies

From Coaching Kids For Dummies by Rick Wolff

As a coach for kid’s sports, you want to get the season off to a great start, so arrange an initial team meeting with both parents and children to cover important information. To connect with the kids and successfully coach, understand the reasons kids decide to play, and sometimes quit, sports teams.

Guidelines for a Coach's First Team Meeting

As a coach, the first team meeting you hold should be mandatory and should include both the parents and the kids. This meeting is important because it sets the tone for the rest of the season. You get to introduce yourself and your coaching philosophy. Make the meeting last no more than 30 minutes, and cover the following topics:

  • Have all the essential information already typed out and ready to hand out. Essential information includes your name and home phone number, as well as the assistant coaches’ names and numbers.

  • Find out who can help you. If you haven’t found a team parent yet (a team parent helps out with making phone calls in case of bad weather, getting travel directions, bringing juice/water to games, and so on), this is the perfect time to ask for a volunteer.

  • Explain the league rules of participation. Let all the parents know if there are any mandatory rules regarding how much of each game every child must play.

  • Explain the rules regarding equipment and safety instructions. This may take a few minutes, but you want to address this important topic in this first meeting.

  • Ask the parents to review with you any medical concerns regarding their children in a private conversation, perhaps even after the meeting. Medical information is just as important as the safety equipment issue! Because many parents would prefer to discuss this personal matter with you in confidence rather than in public, give them that option. Be sure to get information about any lingering or healing injuries that a child on the team may have.

  • Discuss candidly with the moms and dads what you expect from them, especially with regard to their conduct at practices and games. Naturally, you expect them to behave as mature adults and as positive role models in good sportsmanship for the kids.

  • Talk about sportsmanship and how you expect the kids to behave. Using examples, explain to the kids what it means to play in a sportsmanlike manner (shaking hands with opponents after the game, treating the officials with respect, no trash talking or taunting, and so on).

  • Go over team discipline briefly. This tends to be something of a broad topic, and you don’t want to get bogged down here or give the kids a list of disciplinary rules. For the time being, just tell the kids and their parents that you expect them to be on time, come to the practices, and if they can’t make it to a practice or game for any reason, to contact you via telephone — ideally at least 24 hours ahead of time.

  • At the end of the meeting, take a few moments to hand out schedules, directions to away games, and uniforms (make sure that the kids try them on and that they fit before they leave!). In addition, take some time to meet and greet the parents you don’t know. Try to learn each child’s first name and introduce yourself to each one.

Why Kids Want to Play Sports

Being an effective coach and sports parent means thoughtfully evaluating what you want the kids to take away from the sports experience. Keep sports in perspective and understand that first and foremost, kids play sports for the following reasons:

  • To have fun

  • To learn and improve skills

  • To get exercise and stay in shape

  • To do something they’re good at

  • To play as a part of a team

  • For the challenge of competition

  • To win

Remember Safety Rules When Coaching Kids in Sports

Every youth sports league has its own rules regarding safety equipment, so you need to know and enforce these safety rules. For example, in youth soccer, every child must wear league-approved shin guards. The soccer shoes also have to fit well and have the right kind of rubber spikes on the soles. And in most leagues, no jewelry is allowed.

The “no jewelry” rule can pose problems if a child has an earring or two that can’t be removed easily. This is just the kind of question to ask the league commissioner before the season begins.

In many leagues, a child is allowed to play if he or she affixes a bandage over each earring. But some leagues don’t make this exception. If you find out about this rule — and other safety regulations — before the season begins, you can let the parents know how to dress their children safely before the games start.

In most cases, the league can provide you with a written list of safety rules regarding equipment, and before each game, the referee (or official or umpire) will check to make sure that each player is wearing the correct equipment. In most cases, if the child is not wearing the necessary equipment (perhaps a mouth guard, shin guards, protective cup, or whatever), the official will not allow the child to play until he or she dons the correct equipment.

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