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Youth Sports: Coaching vs Controlling

It was the first tournament game of indoor volleyball for the under 10 year old age group.

I could hear voices of other parents behind me in the stands, “I’m so nervous. I feel like I’m playing.”

I observed the coaches on the sideline.

One coach was silent. Observing, but not barking many instructions.

The other coach was the complete opposite. Every play he was instructing the kids where to move, how to stand, how to move, how to hit or receive the ball. He was not mean about it, he was just instructing every move.

The kids on this second team were very hesitant to do something incorrect. Instead of trying something, they hesitated and held back their actions trying to follow their coach’s instructions.

The silent coach gave instruction on the sideline and then sent the kids out to figure the nuances of the game on their own. Of course there were many mistakes on both sides of the net, but it was clear that the kids playing under the coach that was not trying to control every move were more comfortable attempting to do something that may not have been correct. Consequently, they were making more mistakes, but quickly learning from their mistakes at the same time.

They served the ball into the net, but then the next time they adjusted. Mistakes seemed to push them in the right direction.

The kids on the side where the coach was correcting every move led to the child instead of trying to figure out what they did wrong on their own, instead they turned to the coach to tell them what they did wrong.

To Do: Observe and note. Let kids correct on their own.

There is a time and place to be a coach and a time and place to let the kids try to implement what they have learned. I am a big fan of spending practice time working on hard to engrain proper technique and increase speed and strength, but when it comes time for game time, that is a good time for the kids to try things out on their own.

The coach can observe and take notes, they can even talk to the child on the sideline, but I encourage letting children attempt to figure out ways to improve on their own.

I have seen kids improve quickly when allowed to make mistakes on their own rather than being controlled by the coach’s commands.

To Do: Emphasize growth, not winning.

As a parent, watching your child play a sport can be gut wrenching. Whether it comes from a place of wanting your kids to win at everything, or it stems from your own desire to want to win, stopping yourself from running onto your six year-old’s soccer game and kicking the ball in the goal can sometimes be difficult.

Allow yourself, even prepare yourself as the parent to learn to love failure. Encourage it. Set your mind so that you welcome failure, knowing that it will be an opportunity for growth.

Observe when your kids do not win or miss a shot, don’t criticize, but simply harness the energy towards practice. Deliberate practice. It is hard to expect a child to walk on to a field and be filled with enough experiences to handle the flow of the game.

To Do: Focus on Fun Rather Than Explaining Rules

While kids are young, focus less on training towards following rules. Instead, focus on the getting the children to have fun. You want the kids to be walking off the field happy for what they just did.

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