Great piece from my good friend Anthony Donskov
I write this article as a Coach, not as a niche strength and conditioning professional, but as a Coach. The word Coach has tremendous meaning and implication regardless of sport or activity, paid or unpaid. We are life changers! We have the ability to instill values, create work ethic, and provide a positive culture for young men and women. Ask any middle aged person and chances are some of the most important and influential people in their lives have been coaches. This is a responsibility, and with great responsibility comes accountability! Regardless if you are a paid professional or a volunteer, you have the ability to change lives! Just because you volunteer doesn’t mean you have any less responsibility!
Most (not all) volunteer coaches have their children actively participating in the respective sport/activity. I’m sure everyone’s heart is in the right place, but consider, youth coaching has a profound impact on overall athletic development. Here’s how:
Motor patterns are groomed
Neuro-muscular patterns are set
Habits (good or bad) are ingrained
EXPERIENCES are remembered! Did the kids have FUN?
I have witnessed youth hockey practices where young children spend 40 minutes of a 50-minute practice standing in line waiting for drills. Is this fun? Is this organized? Are kids developing? Full field youth soccer scrimmages where athletes never touch the ball. I have also seen 90-minute youth football practices where coaches are talking systems without developing any type of skill set (running, catching, throwing, changing direction). It’s great that young Tommy knows the fly right, catch 22 pattern, but he can’t run OR catch the ball so how the hell is he going to get there? Below are three things that need to be considered before you volunteer as a coach.
Make the Choice: I have tremendous respect for anyone who volunteers his/her time. Everyone has a schedule to keep and volunteer coaches are no different. Time is a huge factor. Having a full time job and family make it difficult to plan and organize practice. If your not organized, your players will take notice. Make the choice to be organized! Whether that’s learning from an experienced coach, stealing practice plans (there are great practice resources all over the internet), or going to a few lectures. This IMPACTS the environment and aids in development! Make the choice! You have a responsibility to do so! You’re a COACH!
Keep Moving: When in doubt, keep kids moving. Jumping, running, throwing, catching, skating, stick handling, shooting, passing are all fundamental movements/skills that must be mastered before any system work commences. It’s also FUN! I call this camouflage work. Kids are having so much fun they don’t even know their working.
FUN: Kids want to have fun! Waiting in line isn’t fun, nor is a 2-1-2 fore-check system for a nine year old or playing soccer without touching the ball. Divide the field/ice. Allow kids to play small area games with the ball/puck. This promotes fast decision-making, running, skating, passing, stick handling, teamwork; ball/puck touches and is a ton of FUN!
Being a Coach is an honor and privilege. It holds more validity than we may ever know to the young men and women that we come in contact with. Just because you’re not getting paid doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to you. Make the choice, keep moving and have Fun! In twenty years you may have changed more lives than you possibly could have imagined. This is worth more than money can buy!
Anthony Donskov, MS, CSCS, PES, is a former collegiate and professional hockey player, founder of Donskov Strength and Conditioning Inc., (www.donskovsc.com) and Head Instructor/Director of Off-Ice Strength and Conditioning for Donskov Hockey Development (www.donskovhockey.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .