Thinking back to my youth, when we used to show up to practice on our bikes and parents were no where to be seen, coaches were treated with great respect and rarely ever questioned about their methods and decisions. Nowadays, the complete opposite is true. Parents arrive at every practice with their folding chairs, park themselves on the sidelines, and critique the coaches every move. Frighteningly, much of the criticism happens on the drive home, completely undermining the coaches authority, and we wonder why children aren’t learning the wonderful lessons that sports have to teach.

As our adult-centric youth sports world continues to spiral out ofcontrol, the youth sports coaching model has changed immensely. Parent coaches with great attitudes and age appropriate philosophies no longer want to be involved. They don’t want to deal with parents calling them out after games about playing time, why my kid was forced to play a certain position, and a whole host of other issues that demand the coach’s immediate attention. Then there’s the phone calls at night, invading the privacy of the coach and his/her family.

This shift has caused many parents NOT to volunteer, and the side effects are quite drastic. It has led towards a “pay-to-play” model and with more “professional” coaches getting involved, and the fees keep getting higher and higher. Has anyone stepped back from this scenario and asked, what the heck is going on?

In looking at our professional coaches, it’s important to note that the term professional refers to the fact that they receive pay for their efforts. (Please note that this is not an indictment on all professional coaches...there are many good ones out there.) In most cases, these newbies have not yet gained the confidence and the security to teach much needed skills and focus on development, as they feel a huge amount of pressure to justify their income, and that generally shifts the focus towards winning. Without evolving this topic very far, it’s easy to see where it is going. Nowhere positive.

Coaching, if done well, can have an incredible, long-term impact on the lives of our young people. They can learn accountability, responsibility, how to fight through adversity, all kinds of wonderful things; qualities that will serve them well in their adult lives. We desperately need parent coaches with these characteristics in the lives of our children.

As Americans, we place a huge priority on our sports, yet we seem reluctant to place a premium on the training and education of our most important coaches....the parents. With a little effort and planning, we have the opportunity to impact significant change that will lead to more kids staying in sports longer.

-Steve Locker