Coaching youth sports is not only a rewarding experience, it can teach you a thing or two about yourself.
This past summer we signed my daughter up to play baseball and I signed up to help coach the team. Since this was my first foray into coaching I signed up to be an assistant coach. That lasted all the way up until the second practice. The head coach moved up to the older age group with his child. The second assistant coach ended up only being able to make a couple of the practices or games. So here I was left coaching a bunch of 3 and 4 year old kids and having no prior experience coaching. Baseball is second favorite sport behind football so I thought baseball would be a fun sport to coach. But then I did not consider there is a lot of standing around waiting for things to occur in baseball. Idle time for 3 and 4 year old kids can be a challenge to say the least! I think at times more sand got thrown then balls. Combine that with the fact I was always wondering if I was doing the right things or not and it made for an interesting time. In the end I think we all had fun and might have even learned a thing or two. All the parents had kind words after the last game. I choose to believe they meant it and weren’t just being nice but that could be wishful thinking.
After baseball, I coached a soccer team for the fall season. This time I decided I would go ahead and be the head coach. What did it matter that I never played the game and knew little about it. I went to the library and got the book Coaching Soccer for Dummies. It allowed me to feel like I was prepared and knew somewhat of what I was doing. In soccer there was less time of standing around waiting for something to happen. This made it so the kids stayed more active and into the game. Amazing how much easier it is to keep their attention span when there is something for them to do! With the baseball experience I felt I was always spending time trying to keep the short attention span kids involved in the game, with the soccer experience I actually felt like I was able to spend time teaching them something about the game. We all had a blast.
The last month and a half I have been coaching two different basketball teams. One being my daughters 3-4 year old team, the second being my nephews 7-9 year old team. After coaching the 3-4 year old teams in baseball and soccer I thought it would be fun to be able to coach older kids. 3-4 year old children are out there for learning the fundamentals and sometimes it’s hard for them to pick up on a concept and be able to complete it as you are trying to show them. With the older kids I thought it would be nice to be able to explain something to them and see that they are able to actually follow through on that. I was looking forward to the strategy part of coaching. With the 3-4 year old team we are doing basics like learning to dribble and shoot the ball. They are out there having fun and get so excited when they make a basket. 7-9 year old team already know a lot of the basics. They don’t get quite as excited at simply making a basket. It’s a totally different experience between the two, and both have their benefits.
So, two things I have learned with the coaching experiences. First, soccer is not a horrible game. I would say of the three sports I have coached, the soccer team I coached was probably the one I had the most fun with. I would of never guessed that to be possible. I never played soccer or considered it a “real” sport. I always considered it a sport for players who were not good enough to play other sports. I enjoyed the experience of all three sports and never had a moment where I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Well, other than the moment I realized at the second baseball practice that I was all alone out there, but that was brief. And second, while it is true that older kids do comprehend and understand more of what you are trying to get them to do, there is something special about teaching the basics to kids who are in the sport for the very first time. To see the happiness they get from making a single basket, even if it has taken them 6 tries to make it, is a very fun and wonderful moment! So, I would not say that coaching one or the other is more fun, they both are extremely fun and enjoyable for different reasons.