“Winning” Is Not Necessarily a Sign of Good Youth Sports Coaching
Parents: when searching for a coach for your child, don’t just look at a coach’s “winning” record. You need to delve deeper than that.
Winning is not necessarily a sign of good youth sports coaching.
In fact in some cases, extraordinary winning results at a youth sports level may simply indicate that the coach is working that athlete harder and longer than anyone else. Which is unsustainable and often without a long-term vision.
There are some coaches of young athletes who treat the kids like elite athletes – and this is not sustainable.
The goal of kid’s sport is, and should be, different to elite sport. Some coaches fail to adjust to this.
Generally, the goal of elite sport is to win. The goal of kid’s sport is development.
This difference is critical and will affect an entire coaching program.
Focusing on winning causes a coach to think and plan short-term – to the detriment of the kids.
A focus on winning can also lead to coaches using inappropriate training content for the development stage of the athletes. The coach may resort to working their athletes “harder” than anyone else in order to get the “winning” results. In other words, the athletes are doing “too much too soon”. This is bad coaching.
A coach who rates their success on “wins” can potentially be driven by their own ego, pride or “winning” status. It is about them; it is not about the kids.
Some coaches want to follow a long-term development plan but unfortunately feel that they can’t due to external results-driven pressure, often from parents of athletes. They may not want to lose athletes (and possibly income) to other more “successful” coaches who are getting quicker “results”. This is a huge shame.
When I first got into coaching, without realising it, I was very results-driven. I based the success on the short-term performance of the kids. I thought that if the kids were not quickly getting the results on the scoreboard, then I was not a successful coach. I had no long-term vision for the athletes.
I now know that there is so much more to being an effective youth sports coach. I understand that winning can still occur if development is done well. Development and winning are not mutually exclusive. But winning should never be the emphasis of a kid’s sport. A good development coach is not worried if their athletes are not “winning”. They have patience and a plan and know the results will eventually come. They measure their success in different ways and over the long-term.
A long-term development plan is more “kid-focused” and “kid-friendly”.
Winning on its own is not necessarily a sign of good youth sport coaching. The real signs of good youth sports coaching include:
- The kids want to come back.
- Progressive, sustainable improvement of the kids.
- Happy, healthy kids who love to come to practice.
Kids sport is DIFFERENT to elite sport. This should be apparent in a coach’s program.
A youth sport coaching program MUST LOOK DIFFERENT to an elite coaching program. Not just a little bit different, but entirely different.
Any resemblance of a youth sport coaching program to an elite coaching program indicates that it may not be the best place for a young athlete to be.
I encourage all youth sports coaches to put the development of the kids before their own ego or ambition. Stick to your principles and don’t succumb to external, results-driven pressure.
I encourage parents of young athletes to have patience with the development process. Be accepting of slow but sustained progress. Seek out a “development” coach in preference to a “winning-focused” coach. Don’t be driven by short-term results. Keep the big picture in mind.
Let me know what you think!
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.