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Tips for Coaches

What does quality coaching look like?

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What does quality coaching look like?

Steve Locker Speaks at the  Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS)  convention, November 4th, 2016.

Steve Locker Speaks at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention, November 4th, 2016.

Steve Locker was recently invited to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention to speak about coaching and its importance in the development of children in today’s schools. Continuing our theme, we will give those of you who didn’t have a chance to attend the convention last week some insight into the meaningful discussions regarding childhood development that occurred. Read our last post on what good coaches and teachers have in common, or continue below for a discussion of what quality coaching looks like.

What does quality coaching look like?

In many United States schools, athletics takes a close second to academics, but while teachers are required to complete multiple levels of intensive education and continued development, many coaches are merely volunteers recruited by athletic directors. Both teachers and coaches have an intimate relationship with student and athlete success and development, so how do we address this disparity in experience and preparation?

Good coaches share many traits of good teachers; they support growth of confidence, life skills, hard work, passionate involvement, and most of all, they support creating a culture of improvement and development. The culture a coach creates is a vital component of athletic success.

Athletes must be able to develop:

  • Risk Taking
  • Hard Work Habits
  • Abilities to overcome adversity

Kids must be allowed to take risks within the game and in practice, without fear of negative feedback. Without the chance to take risks and fail, they will not develop the skills to take those same risks and succeed. Further, kids should be rewarded for hard work and effort, encouraging passionate and personal involvement. Finally, kids should be provided with the tools and guidance to overcome adverse situations, whether that be a stronger team, negative situation, or classroom challenges.

Communication with the kids and other parties involved can address issues before they arise. Are your goals in alignment with your players? With the athletic department goals? With the parents? Communicating your expectations, from practice involvement to parental support (or lack thereof) will create an open environment that sets your kids up for a successful development culture.

Finally, is the game an educational opportunity? Or, just an opportunity to win? Respecting the game is an important consideration for coaching kids. Bending the rules, encouraging overly physical play, disrespecting officials, and weighting a win too heavily all hamper a coach’s ability to effectively develop healthy and successful players.

Quality coaching takes forethought and effort, but shares many of the skills and techniques a successful teacher will implement. It is our responsibility to create a culture where players can develop effectively.

Steve Locker pulls upon over 30 years of experience from collegiate coaching, professional playing, and children’s development to apply advanced soccer coaching, educational insight, and coaching education to organizations of any type. Steve can help your organization span the gap between coaching and teaching, or to develop a positive and age appropriate coaching environment.

- Steve Locker

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The Innovation Era: The Convergence of Educational & Athletic Approaches

Can you become an advocate for allowing children to have fun in sports?

Because we have such easy access to information, the Knowledge Economy is no longer relevant when discussing the best way to prepare our children for the world which they will enter. This new era, where we can access information at the tip of our computers (or smartphones), doesn’t require us to learn things like we used to. Times have changed.

Instead of sitting in a classroom and having knowledge crammed into our heads, this new era requires us to be creative problem solvers, collaborators, highly motivated and good communicators. That’s right….if you want to get ahead in our new culture, you need to be an adaptive, team player.

In a recent talk, Tony Wagner (Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute) spoke about the environment that we must put our children into to help prepare them to meet the new challenges that they will face when going out into our “new” world. Tony was talking about our educational system. Interestingly, as I listened to Tony, one thing struck me in a very pointed way; Tony was using the same terminology that we use in athletics when discussing player development.

If you take a look at New Technology High School (Napa, CA) and High Technology High School (Middletown, NJ) you will see an environment where Project-based learning, small class sizes and personal relationships with instructors create an environment in which students are responsible for their own learning.

The key word here is environment. In Tony’s model, there are no scores. It’s about mastery. Working together to learn how to create and solve. Wow, that sounds a lot like how I coach soccer! In fact, Tony pointed out that teachers are a lot like coaches.

If the push is on to create highly adaptive young citizens, what lessons can we take from all of this as it pertains to athletics? Everyone is aware that our youth sports culture is wildly dysfunctional. Too much parental involvement, too much focus on results, the belief that specialization will lead to greater success in one chosen sport.

I received a call the other day from a parent coach who said he was struggling with his parents doing too much coaching from the sidelines during games. He mentioned having two children walk off the field, crying, and refused to re-enter the game because they were too frustrated with all of the parents yelling instructions.

As I examined the learning environment at New Tech High and witnessed the group projects taking place, I tried to imagine parents coming into the classroom and start telling the kids what to do. It seems so absurd. What would a teacher do if a parent came into the classroom and started giving their child (or other children) instructions on how to complete a task? It’s bad enough that the “Helicopter Parents” have taken flight, but I hope we never see the day when parents show up to school and start coaching their kids in the classroom.

Playing sports is about having fun. If parents feel the need to “joystick” their children through an athletic performance, think about that from the perspective of the child.

When parents are asked what they want for their children through athletic participation, they have lots of good answers. “Make friends”, “learn a skill”, “stay healthy”, all very worthy goals. The parent paradox, however, is anything but healthy. We say one thing, but our behavior completely belies us.

In my ideal coaching environment, we would err on the side of “under coaching”, not “over coaching”. The environment would consist of small numbers, to help ensure that children get lots of repetitions and the opportunity to make lots of decisions. Playing sports is about having fun. If parents feel the need to “joystick” their children through an athletic performance, think about that from the perspective of the child. Do you really think they are enjoying themselves? What exactly are they learning?

As a parent, I must be able to see that my constant direction giving is cheating my child out of the opportunity to learn.

Malcolm Gladwell has the Ten Thousand Hour Rule. He asserts that to truly become proficient at something, you must work at it for 10,000 hours. Makes sense! One question, though….what is it that would make someone work for that many hours on a skill? Malcolm does not address motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the secret. Tony Wagner knows it and I know it. (I spoke about it last year in my TEDx Talk.) Unless an individual is growing passion and love for something, they will not have the intrinsic motivation to work at it and become proficient. This is another area that we parents struggle with. Too often, we want to be the motivators. It doesn’t work that way.

I am an advocate for collaboration, teamwork. I am an advocate for problem solving, risk taking, mistake making. If we don’t make mistakes, we are not learning. I am an advocate for hard work. Can you become an advocate for allowing children to have fun in sports?

- Steve Locker

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What Do Good Teachers and Good Coaches Have in Common?

ISACS Convention Recap - Part 1

I was recently invited to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) convention to speak about coaching and its importance in the development of children in today’s schools. The next two posts of this series will give those of you who didn’t have a chance to attend the convention last week some insight into the meaningful discussions regarding childhood development that occurred. The first talk compares the traits necessary to be a good coach and a good teacher and the second gives you a window into what good coaching should look like.

The theme of the second day of the convention was preparing our children for the Innovation Era. An era where traditional college degrees and information gained is not as important as creative problem solving, entrepreneurship, the ability to work collaboratively and desire or passion necessary to solve today’s challenges (Tony Wagner: Preparing Kids for the Innovation Era).

Those of you that have been following my blog, success at Locker Soccer Academy and my speaking endeavors (Steve’s TEDx Talk: Youth Sports: The Fast Lane to Retirement) will notice a similarity in childhood development philosophies. They are both based on a solid foundation of FUN.

This foundation inspires children to develop an intrinsic passion which in turn will lead to the proper development of traits and skills, like the ability to overcome adversity or resilience. These skills are developed through overcoming failures and are motivated from within rather than from outside forces like those seen in a traditional educational system.

So what do good teachers and good coaches have in common? They create an environment that is conducive to FUN, positive, challenging, honest, caring and strives for excellence. These environments may differ depending on the sport or the age group of children a teacher or a coach is tasked with leading, but the children should take away things such as improved decision-making skills, confidence, empathy, curiosity, and persistence. Great teachers and coaches help empower kids through play, inspiring passion, and developing purpose. These are the environments and traits necessary for our children to discover their real interests, understand the value of depth of knowledge rather than breadth, develop real skills and be able to adapt those skills to any situation.

The Knowledge Economy has come and gone and the Innovation Era, whether we like it or not it is upon us. It is our duty as teachers, coaches and parents to prepare our children to succeed.

- Steve Locker

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Copa America 2016

copa america

USA! USA! USA! USA!

That is the chant that you have all heard from those "crazed" soccer fans during the FIFA World Cup every four years. Maybe you have even been one of them yourself? Well, the good thing is that if you have been that fan or have ever wondered what the hype was all about you don't have to wait another four years to support your team or your favorite player, because a soccer tournament of nearly the same magnitude is taking over the month of June.

One of the hardest things for coaches to instill in young players is passion for the game. Think back to how you discovered something you are passionate about in your life. Was it because of playing pick-up games in the yard next door? Was it because of a teacher or coach that was so enthusiastic about a subject or sport that it rubbed off on you? Was it watching an iconic moment unfold while cheering on your favorite team? Or was it watching your childhood hero pull off the impossible with seconds left to spare in the game? We all can probably relate to at least one or more of those moments.

As it turns out one of the most prolific soccer tournaments, Copa America, is set to kick-off June 3rd on U.S. soil for the first time ever. Copa America is the perfect event for excitement, drama and passion that usually only a World Cup can provide. Watching these types of events as a group is one of the easiest ways to show young kids why a sport is so magical. It also gives you the time to explain things like sportsmanship and teamwork in a real-time situation that isn't so personal. So grab your team, your kids and your family and be one of those "crazed" fans. Follow your favorite team(s) or player(s) through the tournament and help instill that passion for the game in a young player you know this month.

If that wasn't enough to get you interested even Kobe Bryant is going to be watching and in the video below he tells you why you should be as well. The full T.V. schedule for Copa America is below.

Copa America Schedule:(in Eastern Standard Time)

Fri., 6/3 USA vs. Columbia - Santa Clara, CA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/4 Costa Rica vs. Paraguay - Orlando, FL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
               Haiti vs. Peru - Seattle, WA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
               Brazil vs. Ecuador - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sun., 6/5 Jamaica vs. Venezuela - Chicago, IL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
                Mexico vs. Uruguay - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/6 Panama vs. Bolivia - Orlando, FL - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Chile - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/7 USA vs. Costa Rica - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Colombia vs. Paraguay - Pasadena, CA - 10:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/8 Brazil vs. Haiti - Orlando, FL- 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Ecuador vs. Peru - Glendale, AZ - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Thu., 6/9 Uruguay vs. Venezuela - Philadelphia, PA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Mexico vs. Jamaica - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/10 Chile vs. Bolivia - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FOX
                Argentina vs. Panama - Chicago, IL - 9:30 p.m. FOX

Sat., 6/11 USA vs. Paraguay - Philadelphia, PA - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
               Colombia vs. Costa Rica - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Sun., 6/12 Ecuador vs. Haiti - East Rutherford, NJ - 6:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
                 Brazil vs. Peru - Foxborough, MA - 8:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/13 Mexico vs. Venezuela - Houston, TX - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                  Uruguay vs. Jamaica - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/14 Chile vs. Panama - Philadelphia, PA - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Bolivia - Seattle, WA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Thu., 6/16 Copa America 1A vs. 2B - Seattle, WA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/17 Copa America 1B vs. 2A - East Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/18 Copa America 1D vs. 2C - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FX
                Copa America 1C vs. 2D - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FX

Tue., 6/21 Copa America W25 vs. W27 - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/22 Copa America W26 vs. W28 - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/25 Copa America L29 vs. L30 - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26 Copa America final East - Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Viva la Copa America Centenario

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports

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Where Have All of the Good Times Gone?

fun

Last week we talked about injuries and why it is important to allow our athletes the proper amount of time to heal before they resume play. Another very important reason to make sure your kids have healed properly is prevent injuries that are related to overuse. Overuse injuries happen most frequently when a child has been rushed back to play before properly healing and have become one of the leading factors in kids quitting sports in their transitional years. But, injuries are not the only reason our children are choosing to quit sports at an alarming rate (as high as 78%) at the age of 13. The leading cause is that they are simply not having fun playing their particular sport anymore.

This can stem from a number of reasons. The number one reason is negative child-coach interactions. At the club level it can be the pressure felt by the coach to win-at-all-costs that limits playing time for all but the best players. Another reason is that the kids themselves start to view the sport they once loved as more of a job than a fun activity. Second Nature Sports and I believe in a philosophy that empowers coaches and mentors to adopt a proven sports philosophy that nurtures childhood development by keeping soccer fun. Our number one goal is to keep kids playing longer and we believe that by providing coaches with simple, yet robust educational tools they will be able to interact with their team with confidence. Proper education and confidence will give them the tools necessary ensure their kids have fun and love coming to practice.

In this week's blog we turn yet again to Dr. Joseph Donahue and our friends at PCA as they go over some of the reasons why so many kids are leaving sports at such an early age.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


Dr. Joseph Donahue is an orthopedic surgeon at SOAR Clinic in Redwood City and has served as team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University as well as an orthopedic consultant for the San Francisco Giants. He is the team physician for Santa Clara University.

In this clip, Dr. Donahue lists the reasons for attrition in youth sports and why kids drop out or quit. Among those: injury, often stemming from overuse, due to early sport specialization. Also, pressure to excel on the scoreboard can limit opportunities for players to continue developing as they get caught up in win-at-all-cost environments and may miss out on playing time. In turn, that makes sports less fun, which is the most often-cited reason for kids quitting sports.

A link to the original post can be found here.

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Your child has just suffered an injury...what happens next?

injury

Injuries unfortunately are a part of sport and seem to happen at the most inopportune time. As parents and coaches we often find ourselves in what can feel like a high pressure situation just following a players injury. Can our team win the next big game without being at full strength? Is that player going to miss out on a scholarship or opportunity to play at the next level due to missed time on the field? The player may also feel as if they are letting their team down or missing out on the fun. All of these things can lead to rushing a child back onto the field before he/she is ready.

As coaches we must realize that our teams best moments can come from a team pulling together to achieve goals even when the odds are against them. As parents we have to realize that scholarship opportunities aren't won or lost overnight. If the child is ready for the next level of play the scholarship opportunities will be there after the child has healed. Our children are resilient and missing the appropriate amount of time to heal is alright. Missing a month or two to recover is better than having lifelong health issues from pushing a child back into competition before they have healed.

In this week's blog our friends at PCA give us a brief overview of why it is critical to take enough time to properly heal from an injury rather than succumb to the pressure of returning to play too early.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


Dr. Joseph Donahue is an orthopedic surgeon at SOAR Clinic in Redwood City and has served as team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University as well as an orthopedic consultant for the San Francisco Giants. He is the team physician for Santa Clara University.

In this clip, Dr. Donahue emphasizes the importance of full recovery from injury. Too often, in pursuit of wins or scholarships, coaches and parents can rush a child back to competition prematurely. Youth athletes themselves may just sense the pressure or have the innate drive to hurry back to the fun and to avoid feeling like they let their teammates down. But a rush to return can have lifelong negative consequences.

A link to the original post can be found here.

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Is Your League Following A Good Development Model?

youthcamp

As a parent or a coach you have seen the the practice sessions where coaches run out of ideas after about 30 minutes, so they instinctively turn to playing a one ball scrimmage. In many recreational leagues parents let it slide and think to themselves, "well they have to play a game at some point, so getting some experience in that type of setting is probably a good thing." But, there are real reasons why coaches shouldn't resort to playing a one ball scrimmage at practices. Are your league directors and coaches following a proven development model? If not Second Nature Sports can help. Our training plans give coaches 8-weeks of full practice plans that will guide them through each and every practice in a developmentally focused manner.

In this week's blog our friends at PCA give us a brief overview of why children under the age of 12 shouldn't be playing your traditional 11v11 one ball games, especially in practice.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


PCA National Advisory Board Member Jay Coakley (@SiSCoakley) is Professor Emeritus of sociology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He has done 40 years of research on connections between sports, culture and society, much of that focused on the play, games and sport participation of young people. His Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies(11th edition) is the world's most widely used sports sociology text.

In this video, Coakley describes why youth sports needs to be simplified for children under 12 years of age. He states that, “prior to the age of 12, kids are not socially and cognitively ready to play complex team games.” Research shows that children under the age of 8 can only take on one role at a time. So for sports like soccer, where there are 10 teammates, a soccer ball, and coaches, it is difficult for children to understand all of these roles simultaneously.

Since we cannot expect children under the age of 12 to truly understand these complex concepts, Coakley recommends that instead of putting children in a complex game they do not understand, we should:

  • Simplify game models
  • Change the dimensions of the fields to fit the size of the children playing
  • Cut the size of teams so that all children can get more touches, opportunities to pass, and opportunities to score

A link to the original post can be found here.

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Positive Partnerships

Today's blog is an announcement of Second Nature Sports partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance. A few weeks ago Steve was asked to become a certified coach and possibly even a trainer. He is currently in the process of meeting the necessary requirements for certification and beginning the mutually beneficial partnership. Steve, wholeheartedly believes in positive coaching and strives to maintain philosophy similar to what PCA believes in. Stay tuned for future updates on this relationship and Steve's progress. In this week's blog we feature an article from a great free resource provided by PCA, known as the PCA Development Zone, titled Running As Punishment For Poor Performance.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


positive coaching

Running As Punishment For Poor Performance

"My daughter's high school coach punishes the team for poor performance by having them run laps and do push-ups. What do coaches and parents think about that technique?"

PCA Response By David Jacobson, PCA Trainer & Senior Marketing Communications and Content Manager

One of the ultimate ironies of sports occurs when coaches discipline "lazy" players by making them run. Why is that ironic? Because it is lazy coaching.

If your players need conditioning, help them get it. If your players need discipline, help them get that. But don't fall back on running as discipline.

There at least two reasons:

  1. Your players will come to despise running and other forms of conditioning because it feels like punishment. You want them to love running so that they will want to run and become the best-conditioned athletes possible.
  2. You are abandoning an opportunity to teach life lessons about discipline, which is best done by talking about the subject and setting an example by exercising the discipline necessary to coach well.

For example, let's say that in an intra-squad scrimmage your players have trouble passing or receiving on the run. Don't default to punishing them with extra running. Instead, recognize the problem as one of conditioning and/or insufficient practice at these skills.

Address both issues at once by interrupting the scrimmage and instead of ordering laps in the name of "discipline" conduct a drill that demands running, passing and receiving. This way, their skills and conditioning both improve.

Your drill could include a competitive element, such as splitting the team in half and seeing who can complete the most passes on the run in a given time period. That helps avoid resentment that comes from mindless, endless laps and makes the practice fun so that players will want to continue acquiring the skills and conditioning they need. And you demonstrate creativity and discipline in your problem solving.

You then can explain to your players after the drill that instead of knee-jerk reactions, creativity and true discipline are better approaches to problem solving in sports and in life.

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Psychology and the Game of Soccer

emotion

Quite often when I am coaching youth players I notice many of them with very vivid reactions to mistakes. Whether it’s their use of words, facial expressions, or the frozen stance some seem to take on from dwelling on their “imperfections.”

What are the causes these reactions? Why do we all do it? (Yes, I am absolutely sure I did this as a player too) As an athlete I learned somewhere along the line to let things go. Quite honestly, I can’t recall an exact moment that influenced me but most likely a series of events, coaches, or teammates that led me down that path. And those of you, who knew me as a player, know this wasn’t easy nor was it ever complete.

If you coach young players I encourage you to take notice of this and to create an environment where “mistakes” are accepted and in fact encouraged. College coaches are constantly asked what they look for when they are recruiting a player and I can guarantee most coaches keep a keen eye on players’ responses to mistakes. I know I do. We all want the player who keeps going and works through issues on the field.

The fact of the matter is to become truly great at anything you are going to fail more times than you succeed. We’ve all heard the millions of quotes out there. When I work with attacking players I’m constantly talking to them about letting go of missed shots and opportunities. Move on to the next and do it quickly. As a goal scorer you must be relentless. There’s no other way to play. Soccer is a game of mistakes, many of them.

My point is this applies not only in sport but even more so in life. Can we build persistence at an early age on the field through encouragement and acceptance of mistakes? Can we instill in athletes that failure is going to happen and its okay?

A great way to look at this is having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. When your athletes/children react by saying they “can’t” do something, I encourage you to take that opportunity as a teachable moment. Having a growth mindset opens doors for not only our own personal development but with our relationships with others as well.

- Christie Welsh

Additional Resources for parents and coaches is a book called Mindset by Carl S. Dweck, Ph.D.


Christie Welsh'sBio:
Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies. Christie is also, a former Hermann Trophy winner and former professional soccer player for multiple teams.

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Parents Can Be The Solution

parents can be the solution

In my recent TED Talk, I jokingly referred to parents as “idiots”. It was a bit of a reference to a movie trailer that I had seen called, Dealing With Idiots. I’m not sure if the movie ever made it to the big screen, but it was a movie about parents and their exploits in youth sports. Over the years, I have heard plenty of our “professional” coaches berate parents, mainly because the mindset within the coaching ranks is this: “we coaches know what we are doing, and how dare some idiot parent try to tell us otherwise.” Arrogance at its best.

Certainly, having coached collegiately for 19 years, and having spent the past twelve years deeply involved with the development of young children (over 15,000), I have seen my share of parents who do act like idiots. However, I think it is a total misrepresentation to group all parents into such a category.

As I pointed out in my TED Talk, I believe that parents are well-intentioned, but starved for information. Parents want help and direction, they just don’t know where to go to get that creditable information. Having immersed myself in the world of youth sports, I get the impression that parents are often the scapegoats for all that is wrong in children’s athletics. In my opinion, this is simply not true.

This dynamic that we call youth sports is so complex, that there is plenty of room for blame to go around. Anyone with a point of view is able to express their thoughts, and while some of these ideas may sound plausible, we really need to stick to the research and the experience of those who have spent the most time working with children, parents, and coaches.

Having worked with so many families in this realm, it has become clear to me that fear is one of the biggest factors in parental decision-making. Fear that if they do not keep up with every other kid in the neighborhood, then their child is going to fall behind in the race to higher levels of competition. Overcoming this fear is one of our biggest challenges in our effort to return sports to the children who want to enjoy it.

Another factor controlling parental decision-making is the parent who “thinks” they know what is best. This is merely my hypothesis, but I see a lot of parents who have played sports, and this playing experiences seems to provide them with a false sense of confidence that may be more dangerous than helpful.

While chatting over lunch a few months ago with a friend of mine who is a surgeon. We were having a discussion about parental involvement in the lives of children and I pointed out that in my profession, I get parents all the time who think they understand coaching and children just as well as I do. This, despite my 40 years in the coaching profession, and my work with so many thousands of children. I pointed out that parents are very comfortable offering me advice on how I should coach.

When I said that at least you don’t have to deal with this advice giving in the medical profession, my friend quickly stopped me and indicated how wrong I was. She began telling me about a patient who quizzed her on her intended surgery methods and insisted on certain procedures for stopping blood flow during the surgery. This patient had read something about cauterization and insisted that the doctor not use it to stop blood flow. The patient seemed to think that the flow of blood would stop automatically. The other doctor at the table said, “oh yeah, it’ll stop automatically, once she bleeds out.”

And here I thought that only in the area of coaching was everyone an expert!

Getting back to parental fear, I’m wondering if there is a strategy that we can employ to help parents overcome this fear? One of my goals as an educator is to create the right environment for children to overcome fear of failure in their sporting efforts. One method that I employ is to force kids into situations that are uncomfortable, and to insure that every child is included in this struggle. As children begin to see that others are failing as well, it helps to reassure them that failure is not necessarily so bad. Another term for this is risk-taking. To complement this, we as coaches (and parents) must never berate a child when they try something and fail. We should cheer the effort and encourage them to keep trying.

Parents need examples of situations where others have been patient, and where this patience has paid off. Because I have experimented so much with this, I have seen it work and I have the confidence (through my research) to continue in this patient manor.

One of the most important steps in fixing a problem is to first be able to admit that there is a problem. Because the repercussions in youth sports are not immediate, there is no sense of urgency to fix anything. Remember, no parent believes that their child will be part of the 75% who quit by the age of 13. Until we can convince parents that it can happen to their kid, our challenge remains rather daunting.

My hope is that more and more parents are willing to see the eventual problems and become willing to make the needed changes. We know the problems are monumental, and the stories of dysfunction becoming more prevalent; it appears that some parents are starting to pay attention. As we teach our children to be more willing to take risks, are we able to achieve the same thing with parents? It’s not easy. We only get to do this once with each child and we don’t want to mess up.

We need a ground swell of parents who are willing to say enough is enough. Are you willing to take this calculated risk and return sports to the children? If not, how can we help you move in that direction?

- Steve Locker

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