By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
As we head into another Spring Season, I think all coaches should consider strongly their original WHY. I have no doubt that it includes FUN, skill development, life skills and sports for life! I am also acutely aware that for many reasons the WHYseems to quickly whittle down to a desire to win at all costs. When the WHY is reduced to how many wins a team gets, the environment becomes toxic. It is this toxicity that leads to unhappy players who quit the game.
One of the most important things a coach can do to create a healthy and transformational environment is build a synergy among player, parent and coach.
I suggest the following steps might be a good process to follow in helping build a transformational culture
1) Have a team meeting with the kids. Ask them what core values, behaviors and goals they want to set for their team.
2) Include in the meeting above a discussion on the behaviors the players hope to see from their parents this season.
3) Have a meeting with coaches and trainer etc. that starts with the question – Whose team is it? Hopefully, the answer will be…it is the kids’ team. After this, share with the coaching staff the findings from your meeting with the kids.
4) Hold a parent/player meeting where the players present to the parents their values/goals and parental expectations for the season. You may need to guide this presentation.
A key takeaway from the parent/player meeting should be that players and teams play for longer and are more successful when there is a strong synergy between player, parent and coach.
5) After each game, have the kids go over and talk to the parents about how the game went and how the parents did with meeting the expected behaviors.
6) If possible, at the end of each game, hold a parent meeting where you talk about how the players did in relation to the skills and tactics they worked on in practice within the last week.
7) At least three times a season, take a white board to the field and ask the kids to write down the things they would like the parents to focus on.
8) Connect with the players as people first and give each one unconditional attention. How well do you know your players? Their likes? Dislikes? Family situation? How is school going? Favorite activities other than soccer? As the saying goes, “They won’t care about how much you care until they know how much you care.”
At each practice, work hard to ensure that every player gets one glow and one grow. You will be amazed how far this individual attention goes.
9) Have a team bonding event at least twice a season. It should be about their growth as people. Perhaps take them to a children’s hospital where they get to play with and entertain other kids. Or, go to a soup kitchen and help prepare the food.
10) Put the ball away. Have a social gathering based around sharing a meal let them connect as people.
10 steps are a lot to follow but I promise you if you stick to the script you will create a truly transformational environment.