Your Guide to Becoming a Volunteer Youth Sports Coach

Believe it or not, having a kid does not automatically qualify you to become a youth sports coach.  That may be shocking for some people, I know, but coaching isn’t just for anyone with a pulse and a kid.  You may be saying to yourself, “But Joe, I’m not getting paid, I’m just going to be volunteering, don’t most town leagues just take anyone who’s willing to sit through a 4 hour 9 year old girls softball game that ends in a 20-20 tie because it got too dark and  there’s no lights at the field?”  The answer to that question is still no; just because leagues are looking for coaches, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should volunteer.

anonymous soccer player on field during match

No matter what the sport is, there is a reason why most leagues don’t just have an unlimited amount of coaches for each team.  So if you’re interested in volunteering for your son’s or daughter’s, niece’s or nephew’s, etc. etc., sports teach, pull up a chair take a seat, and read this guide to becoming a volunteer youth sports close very closely before you decide to dust off your baseball cleats from 1981.

Not Every Parent or Guardian Is Coach Material

I’ll start by saying “Congrats!”  Having a child and raising a child is hard work so congratulations for taking that route in life (whether on purpose or by accident).  That being said, just because you are a parent or guardian it doesn’t give you the right to be a coach.  Now what do I mean by this?  I’ll say it bluntly…coaching other children is something that needs to be done by someone who is capable of doing it.  I know plenty of great parents and plenty of not so great parents.  When these not so great parents get involved coaching other kids, it usually winds up being not so great.  Now by all means, I am certainly not the judge and jury of what makes a parent great and what makes a parent not so great.  I know what great parents are because I have them and not surprisingly they wound up being great coaches.  (That’s not just me being biased if you really want player testimonials and stats I can give them to you).  Anyway what the point is, is that we want great parents or parents who at least attempt to be great being coaches.  Now a majority of parents think they’re great so how do you figure out the ones that should actually be coaching.  Well don’t worry, keep reading and maybe it will help you decide if you should be coaching.  (Also, if you’re keeping track, I’ve used the word great 129 times so far in this blog).


How Well Do You Know the Sport You Want to Coach

If my son decided that he wanted to play lacrosse (which I hope he doesn’t because I’d probably rather watch any other sport including fishing and rodeo), I would most likely not coach that sport..  Even if all of his coaches died (wow that got morbid) and there was no one left to coach, I’d find him a different league before even considering trying to coach.  The reason being is I literally have no clue of what the rules are, the techniques or skills that are required to play.  From my current understanding you basically run around with a fishing net looking thing and bash people over the head with it until they drop the ball.  Now I’m not saying you need to be Bill Cower or Tony LaRussa In order to coach your kid’s team, but if you’re going to be coaching other children, you need to have an understanding of how the game works.  There’s obvious various levels of the sport too.  I could coach my son’s 5 year old soccer team and I’m nowhere near Pele, but once there’s a little more strategy involved, I’m out.  It makes me cringe when I hear coaches teaching kids fundamentally wrong techniques in sports.  If you’re going to coach you better know at least a little bit of what you’re talking about.

toddler playing soccer

Do You Possess Coaching Attributes

Coaching attributes?  Big words Joe.  Remember how I said not everyone is a coach.  Well that’s what I mean by coaching attributes.  If you are someone who is introverted, doesn’t like motivating people, and doesn’t like children, those are some attributes that should disqualify you from coaching youth sports.  You may even have great high school coaching attributes but make a lousy youth sports coach.  Phil Jackson coached my favorite Laker teams in the late 90’s early 2000’s and did most of his coaching sitting on the bench during the games and watching Shaq dominate.  That wouldn’t work if you’re coaching 6 year olds.  Try sitting down and not saying anything for a quarter.  I’d say your team might have run off the court and grabbed some ice cream at the snack stand.  Being a coach for kids takes a lot of patience, guidance and communication.  You may be coaching kids who are playing a sport for the first time.  It’s kind of important to be able to coach them if you’re the coach.  A lot of parents sign up to coach because they’re son or daughter is good at the sport and they want to make sure they get the spotlight.  This is an awful philosophy and hurts the rest of the kids on the team.  Not to brag, but I was arguably the best or second best player on my basketball team in 8th grade and my dad (who was also the coach) would sit me on the bench for sometimes a whole quarter to let other kids get a chance.  Even though I wanted to play the whole game, I understood that it was important to let everyone play, especially in rec sports.

allen iverson of sixers graffiti wall

What Is Your Motivation

I’ve been around sports for a very long time and I have never, ever heard of a little league baseball coach being hired to coach a Major League Baseball team because their Vinny’s Pizza Baseball team went undefeated and won the championship.  (If you’ve heard of this happening, please let me know and I will stand corrected.)  The reason I mention this is because there are some men and women who take up coaching for personal reasons and because maybe their sports career didn’t pan out like they wanted it to.  This would fall under the category of reasons NOT to become a coach.  Most of the time people want to coach because their kid is going to be playing, I get that.  Your motivation for wanting to coach though is to teach other kids the sport and show them the right way to play and to foster an environment of fun.  Now I’m not saying you should let them pick daisies in left field because they think that’s fun, no, it’s also fun when they play the right way and actually win.  But, remember, your sports days are over, it’s time to let the kids be the focus.  You are there to teach.

allen iverson of sixers graffiti wall

Being a volunteer youth sports coach is an extremely important opportunity for a parent and should be taken seriously.  Your goal should be to act as a role model for your team and shouldn’t embarrass yourself or your team by screaming at other coaches, fans, umpires etc.  By following this guide, it should help you to decide if coaching is right for you. 

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