Over the past several weeks, I have observed numerous youth sporting events in soccer, baseball and swimming. During both of my sons youth and high school sporting experiences I saw countless games, meets, events and competitions in several sports.
As I speak with more and more individuals every week at my office or on my radio show
(Sunday mornings from 7-8AM on 810whb.com, or listen to the podcasts) I am continuing to notice an issue that is becoming more and more disturbing to me. That issue is how important a coach’s ego is at these athletic events. And it is becoming more obvious that too many of these coaches are getting so emotionally involved that the competitions are becoming more about them than about the kids. If you have attended a youth sporting event, I am sure you have heard or noticed a coach yelling or screaming at officials, competitors or even the parents on their team. Often, they make such a spectacle of themselves that it becomes embarrassing for the players and their parents. And, maybe most importantly, most people don’t know what to do.
Last week I observed a soccer game at a tournament in California. At one of the games, an official approached the sideline and told the coach he was being asked to leave the field for using abusive language. The coach denied that he had said anything inappropriate, but left the field. After the game, he returned and in an emotional tirade, told the team, athletes and parents, that he was quitting because he had taken enough abuse and was never going to coach or attend another soccer game. He also stated that even though the following day would be his son’s last soccer game, he would not be there because he was emotionally worn out.
What is the purpose of youth sports? AYSO has six philosophies about participation. They are: Everyone Plays, Balanced Teams, Open Registration, Positive Coaching,
Good Sportsmanship and Player Development. I think these philosophies make tremendous sense if they are followed and I believe more sports organizations should use these as a guideline for their teams. However, the problem with youth sports today is that it has become a business. Leagues and teams are being formed for boys and girls all the way down to age four. Tournaments are planned both locally and nationally.
Trophies are handed out to with winners. Team uniforms and t-shirts are made,with the players and coaches names on them, articles are written in local newspapers and on the internet. And what happens? Peoples EGOS get in the way, especially for the adults.
All too often, I have observed coaches talking to their teams and continually referencing themselves in their discussions. They will constantly use the word I. They will refer to how they feel, how much time they put in to coach the team and how disappointed they are when the players don’t perform properly or to their potential, at least as the coach sees it. I am hearing about more and more situations where coaches are being penalized or ejected from games. Not just at the professional or collegiate ranks, but at youth competitions for kids under age 10! Why? Because the coach has gotten so emotionally involved, that he/she loses perspective. They begin to get to the point where they believe the game is more about them than about the kids. They get so emotionally wrapped up in the game, they forget it is about the kids, about development, learning skills and most importantly having fun. I recently interviewed former Major League second baseman, Frank White on my radio show. Frank knows a little bit about success. He played 18 Major League seasons, was an eight time gold glove winner, a five time All-Star and a World Series hero in 1985. I asked Frank when should winning really matter. He said not until high school or college, not before. I think he knows a little about that.
So what can we do as parents, as coaches and as people who love sports as a way to find out who you are? I think every team should have a game plan for coaches behavior.
It doesn’t have to be too complicated. First, I believe that the philosophy of having coaches “Check their ego at the door” can be a start. Whether it is the door to the gym, the gate to the field or the opening into the pool, remember that the game, the practice, the event is not about you, it is about the kids who are playing. The moment when you start to make an issue about an official’s call or a bad play by one of your players, the focus goes to you. Have an assistant coach or a parent who you trust who can remind you if you are going to far with your behavior. Have a cue they can use to remind you to step back. And most importantly, have a preseason meeting with the athletes and parents where you discuss this issue. Too often, when this behavior occurs, people don’t know what to do and most typically want to avoid any confrontations. Have a game plan for behavior as well as a game plan for your game. And remember to “Check Your Ego At The Door”. As always your thoughts…