Coaches, do you want a smooth, successful and productive start to your upcoming youth sports season? The key lies in your organization BEFORE the season begins. For more than 15 years I have been coaching basketball, baseball, soccer, track, and volleyball for children from preschool to junior high and I have found these simple tips to be helpful every season.
STEP 1: Create Team Goals
Before the season begins take a moment to outline what you would like to accomplish as a coach. What do you want your players to be able to do by the end of the season? In what ways do you want parents to help? What is your overall philosophy in coaching youth sports (sportsmanship, teamwork, equal playing time, hustle, respect for opponents and officials, and so on …)? What do you expect your players to bring with them to each practice (protective equipment, own ball, water bottle, …)?
STEP 2: Communicate with Parents
This leads right into my second point, COMMUNICATION. Parents want to know who their coach is, what the schedule is for practices and games, and how they can help. I always begin the season by communicating to my parents in the following way.
- I email a letter introducing myself as the coach. In the letter I share a bit of my personal background (work, experience in this sport, family) and I also mention some things about my philosophy of coaching and my contact information (phone numbers, email addresses).
- Included in this email is an attachment with the team roster (this is usually provided by the league) so that families have contact information for one another.
- If the league has already provided a practice schedule then I make sure to attach that information and include in my email a reminder of our first practice day/time/location. At the first practice I like to have a Parent Meeting so I make sure to include this in the email so that each player has a parent represented.
- I conclude my first email by asking parents to provide me with additional email addresses that they would like included in my distribution list since I will do most of my communication via email throughout the season.
STEP 3: Hold a Quick Parent Meeting
Next, put together a simple outline of what you want to communicate during your Parent Meeting (this can easily be held before or after the first practice). Parents need a basic understanding of the league rules, your philosophy of coaching, equipment needed to participate (shin guards, mouth piece, athletic cup, ball, …), how playing time will work, weather line number to find out if a practice/game is cancelled, and how you want parents to help. If you have not already done so, make sure you recruit other parents to assist with practices (it is usually required by the league that your volunteers complete a background check) and find someone who is willing to be the Team Parent (this person can help organize a snack list, plan a season-ending party, handle information for team pictures, and anything else to ease your burden).
STEP 4: Create a Practice Plan
If you want your practices to be productive and run smoothly you MUST HAVE A PLAN. Do NOT show up to practice without a handwritten plan that includes time frames for the different stations you plan to use. Think about what you want to accomplish by building on what your players learned during the last practice/game or based on deficiencies you noticed during the last practice/game. Save your practice plan in a Word document so that you can use it again for the next season. Besides being organized with a practice plan, the most important thing during practice is to maximize touches. There is nothing that frustrates me more than to see players waiting in lines. Player improvement/development happens during practices. Since practices are so few you must maximize that time. Use your parent volunteers to run stations for the players to rotate through so that they are actively engaged and not standing around.
STEP 5: Send BRIEF Weekly Communications
I will end with a final idea for communication. At the start of each week I send out a SHORT email reminder to the parents of the schedule for the upcoming week. This is especially important if you are coaching an outdoor sport because some games are cancelled due to weather and parents need to know when the game is being rescheduled.
Feel free to print the Coach’s Checklist and Contact Information Sheets below to keep you organized! The links are below.
This was a guest post by David Greiwe. David is a 4th grade teacher at Cumberland Elementary School in Fishers, Indiana. He and his wife, Sonja have 4 kids ranging in age from 10-18, all of whom keep them busy with sports of all sorts! David has coached all of his kids in numerous different sports over the last 15 years.