9 Tips for 1st-Time Coaches

Posted Jul 25, 2017

Each of the Vikings coaches began his career in a unique way and worked up the profession’s ladder.

Each coach also values the opportunity to bring out the best in every player on the Vikings roster.

In the world of youth sports, leagues and organizations often tap parents – whether experienced in the sport or not – to coach. If you have a child who plays a sport, you are likely to get the opportunity to lead a team at some point.

There are many ways that a youth sports coach can positively affect players even if he or she is new to the coaching game.

Make the most of the opportunity with these tips to help you create a positive, memorable and fun experience for your players, their parents and yourself with these nine tips.   

1. Know – and share – your goal(s) and expectations

Young participants and parents should have a clear idea of your intentions for the season. Share at a preseason parent meeting or kick off your first practice by laying down ground rules and outlining overall objectives like: “We’ll work hard to overcome challenges.” and “You’ll push yourselves both physically and mentally to get stronger and be more effective players.” or “You’ll learn the game and have a ton of fun.”

2. Be patient and positive

You’ll likely be coaching a group with varying skill levels and experience, not to mention all the different personalities you may encounter. Remember that these are children, and whether they are kindergartners or young teens, they need you to be a source of calm guidance. This doesn’t mean you can’t be firm about the kinds of attitudes and effort you expect, just be flexible and understanding when it comes to moods, learning curves and other intangibles like “rough days.”

3. Tap veteran coaches and other resources

Just like they weren’t born knowing how to play, you won’t know it all right off the bat. Talk to those who have been there before. Go online and research how to better structure your practices. Enlist other parents to help out with assistant coaching duties, sending team communications, or even providing snacks or treats after games.

4. Keep expectations appropriate

The younger they are, the lower your performance expectations can and should be. Fundamentals matter, so start with the simple stuff. But make it clear that you hold them accountable to good sportsmanship and consistent effort. And keep in mind that it’s also your job to continually nurture their enjoyment of the game.

5. Foster an equal playing field

Don’t show preferential treatment for your own child if he or she is on the team. And on the flip side, don't call out your child or be harder on them than the rest of the crew. While talent, skill and effort levels will vary, your job is to help everyone improve throughout the season, no matter where they are in the beginning – and no matter who they are!

6. Promote team unity

Camaraderie and spirit are necessary and contagious. Come up with a cheer or two to rally your group when they’re down and capitalize on their excitement when they’re up. Work with other parents to organize team get-togethers outside of practices, competitions or games.

7. Get down and get personal

Go for eye level when speaking, even if you have to take a knee. Greet them all by name at each and every practice and game or competition. Catch them doing something well or affirm their effort on a skill they’ve been working on.

8. End on a positive

At the close of each practice, game or competition, be sure to offer complimentary and constructive words. There will always be a takeaway you can offer that’ll let you wrap up on a good note.

9. Give yourself a break

Coaching isn’t always easy; you’re dealing with different personalities, skill levels, and, well, kids! If you get frustrated or your drill didn’t go as planned, cut yourself some slack and take the same advice that you’re (hopefully) giving them: regroup, learn from what happened, and come back next time ready to go.

Coaching a youth sports team offers many positives and even the potential to impart life lessons. Both you and the players can learn more about leadership and unselfishness, cooperation and coachability, resilience and attitude, how to deal with failure as well as success. And in the end, how to play or perform the sport, progress and become better, and – most of all - have fun!