There are 53.8 million kids playing sports in the United States and, most of the time, when they talk about sports with their teammates and their parents, they begin with these two words: "Coach said... ."
It's not at all surprising, as research shows that, in the hierarchy of adults, coaches occupy the top spot in the minds and hearts of their players. Understanding this stature places quite a responsibility on youth and high school coaches. What they say, and do, really does matter.
Matter of choice
Because kids pay close attention to what their coaches say and do, coaches hold great power to influence young people, but they have a choice to make: they can either being a transactional coach or a TRANSFORMATIONAL coach.
Transactional coaches are concerned primarily about winning games. The inevitable result is short benches, misplaced priorities, too many games, and other strategies that support winning as the priority. These strategies can be successful in the short run, but they leave kids empty, uninspired, and looking elsewhere for what they need. They also drain the depth out of a program, as fewer kids develop the passion they need to sustain their participation and reach their potential as athletes.
Transformational coaches are concerned about developing the players' minds, body and spirit. Transformational coaches can change the lives of their players in a positive direction and give the players the skills they need to succeed in life, not just in sports.
Signs of transformational coaches
How do you spot transformational youth coaches? By the fact that they:
- Play all players regardless of game situations.
- Treat all players fairly
- Model sportsmanship
- Teach respect for the game, teammates, officials and opponents
- Are patient and take time with every player to help them overcome obstacles and build confidence
- Understand that to be successful a coach needs to teach each individual and the team as a whole.
- Have a strong set of values that guide their interactions with individual players and the team.
There are some people who think that coaches at the high school level can't be transformational because high school sports, in their minds, is all about winning.
Granted, winning is important. But that doesn't mean high school coaches can't also be transformational. Indeed, it may just be that players at the high school level need this type of adult in their lives more, and that high school coaches are in the best position to make the biggest impact on their players' lives. (and often do) With all of the attention and pressure placed on high school athletes these days, it is up to their coaches to help keep them grounded and provide an environment in which they can succeed, regardless of the final score.
Given all the knowledge and resources we have about how to inspire and support our young people in sports, it makes sense that we should strive towards a transformational approach to coaching. It is an approach that can be challenging at times, but it is well worth the effort.
Youth sports are called "Youth Sports" for a reason. It is about the kids.