It is inevitable that some athletes end up leaving their childhood sports as they get older. Some leave because of school, or disinterest, but more often than ever, it’s because of a bad coaching experience.
Youth sports are becoming more and more competitive, meaning coaching isn’t all fun and games. Coaches continue to take practices and games too seriously, demotivating players, and causing them to dread practices.
As a two sport athlete, playing sports my whole life, I have had countless coaches over the years. When I look back at the different sports I have played, I continue to notice that the years I enjoyed the most weren’t because of how well the team did, it was because of what the coaching was like.
Having fun at practice is such an important thing in keeping kids engaged, even at the high school level, attention spans are short and motivation is low. With coaches taking practices so seriously, attention levels drop and so does morale. Having occasional fun parts of practice or competitions that engages the team helps youth athletes enjoy the sport so much more.
Playing in games is the best and most efficient way to develop as a player, regardless of the level of play. When youth coaches deprive athletes of playing time, it not only demotivates players, but also deprives them of the easiest way to get better. This effectively gives them less and less of an opportunity to play. If a coach is hardly giving a player playing time, they are also not letting the player develop as much as the starters. This makes the coach even less inclined to play them, because they haven’t developed as much as other players.
Youth coaches need to understand not all kids receive criticism the same way, some may take it as motivation to getting better, but others could take it as they aren’t good enough to be playing for the coach. There is a very thin line between motivating athletes to play their best, and making them lose the will to play the game they’ve loved for years.