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Edition #229: Guiding Principles For Coaches & Parents To Ensure A Positive Youth Sport Experience:
Having a blueprint to support the journey is essential towards the most positive experience possible
There is a reason that GPS are so popular in today’s road travel. It takes the guess work out of a trip.
They guide our journey with feedback on quickest (including traffic report) and alternate routes, estimated time of arrival, speed in relation to limit, and even speed enforcement areas monitored by police. This is a far cry from the paper maps and ring bound atlases, which were effective for so many years before technology took over.
All we have to do is punch in the exact destination and the GPS gives us a guide, a route, and real time feedback and adjustments.
There is no GPS in navigating the youth sport journey, but there should be. A map for coaches and parents to efficiently escort the experience would be most valuable.
Too often, we embark on the youth sport voyage without a guide or blueprint.
We begin because our kids want to participate and/or, we think they can benefit somehow from participating, we sign them up and off we go.
While youth sport organizing bodies currently have certifications to assist in skill development, parents don’t have anything to guide them other than our own values and biases on how things should be done.
The guidance through youth sport is often subjective. From a parental and coaching perspective, this gap highlights the need for guiding principles, that can be reinforced, assessed and adjusted.
Some suggestions on developing guiding principles for coaches and parents to ensure a positive youth sport experience:
1. Planning required.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
In business, most fail early on, not because of lack of good intentions and people, but lack of planning.
Similarly, today’s “drive through” culture of immediate gratification often foregoes planning in return for what feels good today.
Planning to allocate accurate time commitment, financial requirements, practice organization, communication strategy, additional coaches /support
Plan for skill development. Many parents jump into the coaching role out of necessity. Planning the teaching of the fundamentals of sport specific skills will dramatically influence enjoyment and ongoing athlete participation.
2. Define a clear destination.
What is the ultimate outcome desired?
Defining that destination as a group, either family or team is a critical guiding principle. No, saying that “winning” is the destination would be missing the mark in youth sport.
3. Reinforcing foundational principles
What will be the foundation for your journey ?
What do you want the experience to stand for?
Benefits of developing an experience around, respect, teamwork, discipline, communication, handing adversity, empathy.
These foundational principles are how leadership skills are developed.
4. Itemizing the steps to the destination
Anticipate challenges, roadblocks, detours required and be flexible.
What are the activities that will reinforce the guiding principles ?
Parents: the family unit need to be on board with the purpose of participation.
Too often one parent takes off with pre-conceived notions on where the is youth sport experience should go, or without any thought of all.
Coaches : your team and community are the family unit and need to be in tune with the destination.
6. Pop up adjustments.
Today’s GPS tells us if a car on side of the road or an object might be in the way of our route. Youth sport also has similar unplanned dangers or distractions. These could be illness or injury, weather interruptions that require re-scheduling. The GPS notifies us so we can make adjustments, this is where coaches and parents can normalize the unplanned.
The GPS gives us instant feedback. Airlines, hotels and car rentals solicit immediate feedback on the customer experience.
Yet, we don’t always solicit feedback from the participants, families and sports organizations during or after the experience.
Feedback loop for coaches solicits experience evaluation from players and families.
Feedback on the parental side could be a simple as checking in to see if our kid is enjoying the experience.
In summary, having, sharing and executing guiding principles navigate the journey so we leave little to chance in making sure our kids have the most positive experience possible.