Many of us here at Draft Day Suit are not just snarky writers, we’re also parents. We are parents with kids in sports, and some of us coach. So to all you parents/coaches/volunteers out there, here are the things you need to know about coaching younger kids (between the ages of, say, 4-11) that won’t get you the bad review at the end of the season and not chosen to take a team for next year.
- Teach all children equally. These kids need to be taught the fundamentals of the game. “Hit the ball” is not adequate instruction. Repetitive drills are great and with this thing called the internet you can find hundreds of skill-specific drills that are geared toward the age/skill level that you are coaching. When I coached 6 year old boys in soccer I found a drill that they loved: Hit the Coach. The sole goal of the game was to hit me with the ball. They thought it was hilarious and they got practice in ball handling. It quickly became the end-of-practice favorite.
- Play all children equally. Assuming that we’re talking about just-for-fun leagues here, you should be playing all children an equal amount of time, regardless of skill. Take time to make your game plan. Rotate players so that the two kids with two left feet are not playing at the same time. Believe me, it reduces frustration on everyone’s part. Rotation actually teaches a few things: a) each person on a team is valuable, b) even the best players need to sit out once in a while, and c) every player gets a chance to be a hero. By the age of about 8 or 9, the kids who aren’t good at a sport usually know it, but shouldn’t, at this age, be made by the coach to feel like less of a player – or a person – because of it.
- Push all children equally, according to ability. Be appropriately competitive, for the age and level of the team. A cut-throat screamer at a five-year-old beginner’s team? No. A yeller with 11-year-olds who could go to the playoffs if you win this game? Maybe, if you’re also following the next rule…
- Love all children equally. We all know it’s hard to be the coach of your own child, but don’t play favorites on the field, even if your kid is the best player on the team. If you’re being encouraging to all of your players and passing out accolades to all of the children equally, not just the most talented of the bunch, you’ll also be the best loved coach in the league whether you’re winning or not.
Kendra can’t wait for drinking baseball season to start. Two weeks, baby.