We hear the reports and see the video all too often: youth coaches and officials assaulted, fights breaking out at youth sporting events, and parents and coaches losing control over what should be a child's game. It doesn't have to be that way. What we don't see are the thousands of youth football coaches who do it the right way: teaching the game and the ethos of the game to children who love to play.
Coaching youth football can be one of the most exciting, exhilarating, and rewarding experiences. It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, and an ability to communicate with other coaches, players, and parents, but there are few things to compare with watching young people compete and win, or learn lessons that will help them for a lifetime. Teaching the game of football goes far beyond the white lines, beyond the techniques of blocking and tackling. Along with learning the fundamentals of the game, young people learn teamwork, sportsmanship, responsible leadership, and the need to work hard and prepare to reach goals.
To avoid being one of those trapped in a nightmare, a youth coach must master the ability to relate to both players and parents. Above all, a coach must communicate. It is important that parents trust the coach. After all, parents are submitting their child to a game that is, by its very nature, physically brutal. Parents need to trust that the coach will have the best interests of the team, and their child, in mind at all times. When those interests collide, parents need to know why a coach makes certain decisions, and how that will affect their child.
Along with communicating with adults, youth football coaches must be experts in understanding and relating to children. Youth football players have very little concept of the actual fundamentals of the game. They see a college or professional game on television and see long passes, break away runs, or big hits and the thousands of people who cheer while players celebrate. This is far from the reality of the game. Coaches must be able to demonstrate and teach fundamentals. Big plays come out of the ability to be fundamentally sound, and being fundamentally sound takes hour upon hour of watching, listening, and practicing. Coaches have to make those hours exciting and engaging so that players can learn how to play the game safely and successfully.
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