Several news stories over the past couple of months have once again brought the role of the coach to the forefront of youth sports — in these cases for all the wrong reasons. This has prompted me to look at the positive role of the youth coach.
To the athlete between six and 16, the coach is the most influential person in their lives. Now, I know there are those of you reading this that are ready to jump; so was I at first. One would think the parents are the most influential, but let me assure you that statistics show the coach is the person who makes the biggest impression on the young athlete.
Parents who have, or had children who have been under the influence of a coach know only too well what I am talking about. This applies to team sports as well as individual activities like figure skating, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, etc. If the coach wants your son or daughter to be at a certain place at a certain time, for a practice, game or event, there is very little you can do about it, other than forbidding them to go, which in the end just builds up resentment between parent and child. Naturally, I am referring to the right coach and the right conditions. I am not suggesting that a parent allow their boy or girl to come and go at the whim of an athletic coach, nor do I think that parents would do that, nor should they without checking things out first.
I suggest to you that some things in life are hard to take, and growing up in today’s world is one of them. Proper coaching in athletics can, and will help greatly. Participation in sport is great and should be encouraged, but with the right coaching, the activity becomes much more enjoyable and worthwhile, coupled with learning experiences that will last for life.
“I say to all coaches, the first and most important thing you have to do is gain the respect of those young lives you are coaching.” -
Just writing this column makes me realize the awesome responsibility placed upon coaches, and the effect, good or bad, that their coaching will have on the lives of the young people placed under their care. I can only hope that coaches too will realize this tremendous responsibility.
I say to all coaches, the first and most important thing you have to do is gain the respect of those young lives you are coaching. This doesn’t come easy. To gain it you have to earn it. Once this has been accomplished, the remainder will fall in place a lot easier. I draw upon my own experiences for that wee bit of wisdom. Should there be any coaches, or aspiring coaches, that might need assistance in this regard, let me know and I shall either get the info to you, or put you in touch with an individual/group who could help.
To better explain the role of the coach, let me add that I truly believe one of the most important attributes youth sports can teach is sportsmanship. This is the ability of the athlete to shift from being a selfish competitor to becoming a useful member of society. That being the case, then the sportsmanship of tennis great Arthur Ashe is unequalled. While he passed away many years ago, his own words enable us to see the type of athlete we have lost.
“There are only two alternatives: If enough human beings do not advance the common good, we cannot go on; we shall move from suffering a chain of sustainable losses to suffering extinction. But if enough do, if enough coaches find the grace to hold the grief stricken athlete who just lost and tell him it’s just a game, that he has nothing to be ashamed of, then I will always be on cloud nine.” There it is, coaches — your role.