Coaches, you have a captive audience every season that you decide to take on the challenge of turning a group of individuals into a team. Your players are captive because in order to make the team, and in order to play, they must listen to you and do as you instruct.
As a coach, this could be a huge power trip for you, or it could be seen as a precious opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of young athletes. I’m praying you see it as the latter.
Each day that you have practice and every game that you coach, my child is in your captive audience and that is a big responsibility that I delegate to you. As a parent, here’s what I’d like to see you teach your captive audience of young athletes:
- How to Work With Others. I want you to show my child how to get along with people who are different from him, how to get along with someone he doesn’t necessarily like, and how to work towards a common goal with teammates who all have different skills and personalities. Teamwork is one of the single most important skills that my child needs to learn as he heads off to college, and as he starts to make his way in the work force.
- How to Fight for What They Want. Even if my child is the best athlete on the team, I want her learn to fight for what she wants, whether that’s a win, a personal goal, or a spot on the all-star team. I don’t want you to let her settle for what comes naturally or easy; I want you to look for ways to stretch and challenge her. Kids who have to fight hard for something always come out stronger than those who have it easy.
- That Someone Believes in Them. I’ve seen in my own kids that belief is empowering. Once, when my senior quarterback son had a bad game, the coach pulled him aside and told him three reasons why he wanted him to succeed and why he believed in him. That belief gave him the strength to come back strong the next game. As parents, it’s our job to believe in our kids, but as a coach, it’s your privilege to believe in kids and watch how that belief gives them confidence and motivation.
- That You See Them as a Whole Person, Not Just an Athlete. Are you interested in how your athletes are doing in school? Do you care if a child is having a hard time at home? Are you willing to deal with teammates who can’t get along, or do you just ignore it and hope it goes away? Please see that my child is much more than an athlete and look for opportunities to show interest and help in things that affect him outside of sports. I’m not asking you to be a counselor, but just show you care and are interested.
- How to Win and Lose With Class. Since my child will face both of these the rest of his life in every endeavor he undertakes, I want him to start learning early how to win with integrity and humility and how to lose with dignity. Please model this yourself, and take the time to talk about this as a team.
Coaches, don’t squander this chance you have to make leaders out of your athletes as you hold them “captive” this season. If the kids on your team never play sports again, will they walk away from competition having learned some valuable life lessons, or will they simply remember how many wins and losses they had?