Supporting Multi-Sport Athletes

Supporting Multi-Sport Athletes

My daughter had only played team sports like soccer and rowing when she decided to try a new sport, Nordic Skiing (cross country skiing) in order to play for her high school.  In this sport, she was the newbie who was far from the best. But she and her friends, though novices, brought an infectious team spirit by cheering louds at events like races and awards banquets where support was typically more muted.  

They made a lot of friends by simply inquiring about how other athlete’s races went, and providing emotional support when their new friends were unhappy with their results. It turns out that no one really did that. In return, she appreciated the simplicity of performance evaluation. Ranking based solely on her time was a break from a more subjective evaluation. My daughter still views Nordic Skiing as her “off-season” sport, but the benefits were both emotional and physical.  

Supporting Multi-Sport Athletes

Supporting Multi-Sport Athletes

The statistic that 70% of kids quit organized sports before high school is a staggering one. As a coach, we can affect this number if we focus on getting our players to return to sports each season. One significant way is to supporting them when they are willing to play more than one sport in a season, or want to play a different sport during the off-season.

70% of kids quit organized sports before high school. Continue reading “Supporting Multi-Sport Athletes”

Playing Time

starting time

With my same middle daughter, I’ve experienced two kinds of playing time issues. When she was in kindergarten soccer, she would not play at all if I was near the field. Instead, she would want to sit on my lap. I was banned most of the season in order to get my daughter to play by the coach, my husband. When she was older and playing club soccer, she was very cognizant of playing time. Starting and playing time was a proxy for the social pecking order of the team. It’s the perceived relationship of starting/playing time and social status on the team that coaches should be aware of. Even mixing up the starting line up once a season, signals to the players that everyone is valued, and that there are no “favorites.”

starting time

Playing Time

It’s important for the coach to give a pre-season message about playing and starting philosophy. I believe that for kids U12 and younger, every player should have equal playing starting and playing time. They should also play different positions.

Continue reading “Playing Time”

Social Awareness and Giving Back to Community

Social Awareness and Giving Back to Community

My girls’ club soccer team did an annual soccer charity event where the entire club played soccer for twenty-four hours straight. Each age level was assigned a two-hour block of time where they scrimmaged against the boys’ teams with music pumping in the background. The coaches would jump in and play too, which made it especially fun. Each player raised $400 towards soccer scholarships and Special Olympics. It was a nice way for the kids to channel their love of soccer towards a social cause, and it also gave them a chance to interact with other teams that they usually didn’t ever see on the soccer field.

Social Awareness and Giving Back to Community

Social Awareness and Giving Back to Community

We already have the organization, in the form of our team, to help others.

We have the opportunity as coaches to educate outside the game. For example, we can encourage our players to give back outside the sport. If we do a community service project, our team might have the chance to learn that there are kids in Kenya who play barefoot because they don’t own soccer cleats or that they don’t have running water. It also is a way to improve team chemistry.

Community service also serves to decrease bullying because it teaches kids to be empathetic. Sometimes kids are so busy that if we don’t offer this opportunity, it’s hard for them to do it. Then we can get into this pattern of focusing on player improvement, and that sends a certain message to the team. Continue reading “Social Awareness and Giving Back to Community”

Player Code of Conduct

Player Code of Conduct

My daughters rarely received a formal Player Code of Conduct that they had to read over and sign for the sports teams that they played on. I like a formal players’ contract to put everyone on the same page at the start of a new season. Without a formal list of rules, the players have to figure out by what the coach’s rules of conduct are, and the unspoken rules of behavior can take longer to figure out (e.g. are we here to win or have fun?).

Player Code of Conduct

 Player Code of Conduct

Champions make those around them better.

At the start of the season, go over the player code of conduct and then have each player sign that they understand and commit to this. This is a great opportunity to set the tone of the team: teamwork, having fun, mutual respect.

  • Have fun!
  • Show courtesy and respect to all coaches, players, opponents, officials, parents, and fans.
  • Attend every practice and game that you can, and notify the coach if you can’t make it.
  • Be supportive of teammates.

Continue reading “Player Code of Conduct”

Building Team Chemistry

Building Team Chemistry

My oldest daughter played volleyball, and her team would huddle after every point, win or lose. It looked like a very positive thing, girls huddled up hugging each other. Sometimes it wasn’t though. A player in the huddle might assign blame for a lost point, demoralizing the group. Since the coach is not part of the team huddle, the team culture would reveal itself in these moments, good or bad. While the coach can’t control what happens in the huddle, it’s an extension of the team culture that was created during practices. It’s a little like baking bread; you get all the right ingredients at the right temperature. If you do all the right things and create the right environment, the bread rises on its own.

Building Team Chemistry

One my daughter’s teammates was invited to attend a national training camp. The coach told the players to kick the ball around in small groups before practice started. She approached a group and asked if she could join. A girl asked if she had been to this camp before.

“No, this is my first time,” she replied.

“This group is only for girls who have been to camp multiple times.” Continue reading “Building Team Chemistry”

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

I remember the first time my daughter got cut from the new club soccer team they started in our town when she was in fourth grade. All her friends made the team, but she made alternate, which meant she could practice with team, but wouldn’t play in games. That wasn’t going to work for her; she wouldn’t thrive on a team that made her feel inferior.

It was the first time I saw her heart break and it was hard for me as a parent. Her town coach was also the new club team coach, and when we declined the alternate spot to take a spot on different club soccer team, he called. He was upset to know that my daughter was heartbroken so he offered to talk to her. They talked and she said, “You don’t think I’m a good player.”

 Her brave statement would serve to motivate her in the future and also demonstrate that her self-worth wasn’t affected. She didn’t think she wasn’t good enough to make the team. She thought the coach made a mistake in not picking her.

Growth mindset is exactly that: it’s not genetics that makes a good player, it’s hard work. And she this setback motivated her to put in the work over the next few years to improve. She went on to practice seven days a week until she finally made the top team of her club team.  

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

Growth Mindset in sports focuses on development rather than outcomes.

Fixed Mindset versus Growth Mindset

Research on Growth Mindset found that the kind of feedback teachers give results in kids either seeking out challenges or taking the easy way out. Feedback telling kids that they are smart encourages a Fixed Mindset, whereas praising hard work and effort fosters a Growth Mindset. When kids have a Growth Mindset, they take on challenges. This in turn, increases their abilities and achievement.

Applying Growth Mindset is simple; don’t praise ability or talent, praise hard work and effort. This mindset can be easily applied in sports and supports a development philosophy versus one focused on winning. For example, in a post-game meeting, it’s easy to recognize the girl who scored the winning goal. But if this was a lazy goal, praise instead the players who worked hard at practice to move the ball from the back, and demonstrated this skill during the game, thus creating the opportunity for the goal.

It’s easier said than done. As a coach, the mentality has to move from Winning to Development, both at practices and during games. It means that the focus is not on outcomes like game results, but on effort during practice.

Continue reading “Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports”

Player Feedback and Evaluations

Not all coaches give player evaluations I’ve noticed. My middle daughter received formal player evaluations when she played soccer, starting when she was in middle school. Both her town team coach and her club team coach gave written reviews, but with different frequencies. Her town team coach gave weekly performance evaluations after every game. Not her teammates liked getting graded weekly, but I thought it was great. Her club team coach gave written evaluations twice a year at the end of each season, but also did a face-to-face meeting to go over the form. I’ve saved all these forms and it’s fun to look back on them to see what she was working on, and her progress that year. In any format (written or verbal), feedback is helpful for player development. The delivery of the feedback is critical though. Even though my daughter got mostly positive feedback, she worried about her face-to-face assessment. After each evaluation meeting though, she would have a giant smile on her face!

 Player Feedback and Evaluations Player Feedback and Evaluations

For volunteer parent coaches, the first thing to consider when thinking about individual player goals and evaluations is how much time you have to spend on it, and therefore the frequency that you can realistically commit to. It’s not necessary as a parent volunteer coach to do formal written evaluations. The important thing is to have players feel good about themselves.

Positive Verbal Feedback versus Written Evaluation

It’s time consuming, but girls need feedback. Constant positive verbal feedback during practices is sufficient for girls younger than middle school, but if you have the time, a face-to-face evaluation at the end of each season can be a powerful way to let each player know how much you appreciate their efforts. You can also use this time to help them set development goals for next season.

It’s not necessary as a parent volunteer coach to do formal written evaluations. The important thing is to have players feel good about themselves.

Age Appropriateness of Player Evaluations

There’s a few factors to consider when deciding if you want to do written player evaluations:

  • Age of player
  • Your time availability
  • Level of commitment for improving

Continue reading “Player Feedback and Evaluations”

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

I love how this game combines teaches kids in a concrete and physical way how to be a good teammate but also is really fun. It’s essentially a version of freeze tag, and can be modified for any sport, and changed up to make it a technical drill. An added bonus is that it teaches kids to look up and really see the field. By identifying who is in trouble, this game is a defensive drill to teach doubling down. Use it as a fun way to end practice!

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

This game builds teamwork and is hilariously fun. Note that this game is not about winning, and there’s no score!

Count off by 10’s and put the evens on one side and the odds on the other. You want approximately 10 players per side, but it’s easy to modify for a larger or smaller number.

With 10 players per side, you will need three pinnies and 3 balls. You can use any kind of ball. The primary way to play this game is to throw and catch the ball, therefore a nerf ball would work such as a nerf football. You can also use the ball of the sport the athletes play such as a soccer ball, basketball, or lacrosse ball. You can also use a different ball from the sport the team plays as well like a tennis ball.

Give three pinnies to the even number side, and three balls to the odd number side. If you have a ball, you are “safe.” To tag a player which makes them unable to move, touch her with a pinnie that the player holds in her hand. To “unfreeze” a player, throw her a ball. When she catches the ball, she is “unfrozen.” Now, she has the ball and can look around the field to spot a player on her team in trouble (i.e. being chased by an opponent with a pinnie), and throw that player the ball to give her immunity.

Continue reading “How To Be a Good Teammate Game”

Handling a Losing Streak

Handling A Losing Streak

Let’s face it: winning doesn’t suck. That being said though, it’s the coach who determines the team’s focus. When my oldest started club volleyball, her team lost every game the entire season. What was amazing, though, was how her coaches made her feel. Because the focus was on development, their coach made them feel like winners because he could see visible improvement from game to game. He told them how proud of them he was and noted specific instances of how the team improved. It turns out, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how the team performs based on the goals the coach sets for the team. Setting goals around team chemistry and development is a more powerful message, both for sport and in life, for the players. The coach has the ability to transcend winning versus losing statistics into something bigger and more inclusive.

Handling A Losing Streak

Handling a Losing Streak

The first place to begin when creating team culture as a coach is to define team goals. What do we want to get out of our season? For me, team goals do not include win/loss record. Instead, my goals are focused on team chemistry. I believe that if there is team work in the form of good team chemistry, the wins will come.

Typically, a volunteer parent coach isn’t being evaluated on their win/loss record.  If team record isn’t being used to evaluate ourselves, what are the other measurements that we are using? Usually volunteer coaches’ priorities are based on if they are creating a healthy environment, and being positive. Continue reading “Handling a Losing Streak”