MEET IN THE MIDDLE
Salvaging Our Youth Sports Experience
There are bad coaches out there, there are misguided awful parents, there are disrespectful lazy and/or entitled players – but that’s never going to change and they have been around for decades. There’s a long discussion that could happen, and is happening, on the fact that it’s getting worse and what’s causing it. But the bulk of our problem, the one spiraling out of control, lies in the break-down occurring in the coordination of our common goals into a well-executed and communicated plan, between everyone involved in our youth programs.
Remember when coaches, parents and players were all on the same page years ago? Me neither! And it’s only getting worse as we fail to get everyone working together despite the commonality of our goals and desires.
We can’t fix crazy and we can’t remove egos – those aren’t going anywhere. What is within our control is uniting the well-intentioned but poorly executed system that’s currently out there. By labeling all the issues in youth sports as bad people/coaches/players we make the situation a lost cause when, actually, it’s within our reach to make marked improvements. We can salvage our youth sports, we can work around the bad eggs – I have to believe that’s true.
I’ve heard coaches who I know love what they do and are out there for the love of the kids, who still belittle and demean players attempting to motivate and tough love without knowing at all that their coaching method is hurting their team. I’ve seen loving, caring, enthusiastic, helpful parents lose it when they don’t understand what is going on or what the expectations are, and becoming a coach’s
worst nightmare. And I’ve seen players who started out loving the sport become lazy, bored or defiant when they are constantly confused by a broken communication system and a lack of positive leadership. All three parties – going after the same goal, all three missing the mark completely. Consistently failing one another over long periods of time, crumbling our youth sports infrastructure, driving stereotypes and making a lose-lose-lose situation for everyone.
Parents, players and coaches are starting off already defensive as the season starts, unsure of motives, unsure of procedure, unsure of roles, while we microscope each other into misery. We can all nod at each other and say we are in for the kids, but what does this look like? Does it look the same to all of us? Do we really believe the other is genuinely in it for the kids or are we skeptical from day one?
This triangle is your sports program, with the three participating components and a common center goal. When parents, players and coaches express their needs, such as the common ones listed in the graphic above, then a structure can be built that benefits everyone. And when everyone knows what the common goals are, there’s a focus and a destination for the end of the season, as well as a measuring stick to see if you were successful in what really matters the most. Often, we get caught up in winning streaks, Facebook brags and college scholarships as being most important when a quick look at the common goals would remind us otherwise.
Many programs have a triangle where the corners are separated by a large space and no vision of common goals or the needs of each other. By meeting with all three groups and defining each segment of the triangle before the season starts, the gaps close and the unit can function more efficiently. After needs and goals are understood, then the action plan can be built and put into place – the how part of the journey. Programs that offer this structure can appeal to parents seeking a more unified and direct approach to what they are looking for and coaches can make sure they are attracting parents that are supportive of their vision.
Define the goals, put the roles and communication methods in place, define the path to the goal and meeting the middle at the desired destination.
Let’s rebuild how we approach our team and program structure. PLAY ON!