Sitting down to share personal thoughts with a focus on youth sports and coaching is quite a daunting task. I have worked with student athletes for over a decade now and one thing has become clear, most of the difficulty in coaching does not come directly from the athletes. To be honest, much of the frustration arises from the expectation heaped upon these players by their parents. Not all parents mind you, but enough that the challenge in getting a player to meet personal potential is often times limited by the weight of misguided adoration.
I think before I wander too far into the parent trap it might be first important to share where my own vision of sport came from … both my mother and father are coaches, who both played and coached at the high school and college level. My earliest memory of handling parent expectation was when I was in 3rd grade and had just finished by first year of Pee Wee football, at the end of the season each team member received a certificate and trophy for participation … I was allowed to display the certificate, not quite sure where the trophy ended up (the trash maybe?), the message was clear though, trophies (and by extension praise) was to be earned not handed out like cheap Halloween candy. By the way, before you toss my dad into the overbearing ex-jock category … it was mom who was in charge of the keep sake box and it was mom who played the college ball (my dad was her coach … a little weird, I am aware).
But, this brief glimpse into my past does bring me to the biggest divide in how I perceive effective coaching and what is the current social norm. Our society (and by that I mean the American youth sports movement) has become predicated on the mass production and dispensing of one foot high glittering pieces of crap. Everybody is a superstar, just look at all those monuments to mediocrity doled out at the end of each season. Look, I am not saying that when your team wins its league, its conference, or division, section, area, region, or whatever classification you belong too that every member of that team shouldn’t be given a memento of that achievement. What I am saying is, “What are YOU saying when the ‘Little Sluggers’ go 0-10 and get a plastic baseball figurine?” Look, get ‘em pizza after every game, remind them to play because sports are fun, tell ‘em win or lose you still love them … but, make them earn the trophy because sports are a piece of life and sometimes you have got to go out and earn that little bit of praise.