Summer leagues are in full swing and that means you’re preparing now for fall and winter sessions.
There are a lot of factors that play into creating a successful league season – from driving registration to securing the right fields – but there’s one person who can make-or-break the experience for your kids: The Coach.
Your coaches are hands-down the most important influencers in your league, and community organizations rely heavily on these volunteers. Not only can they make the experience an unforgettable one for your athletes, but when you hire or select the right people, they’ll make the season better for you, the parents, and the league. Conversely, they can put your program — and your young participants — at risk.
What should you look for in a volunteer coach, besides a willingness to assume the role? How do you quickly get them up to speed for the season? How do you inspire volunteers to be the best coaches for kids?
What to Look for in a Coach
Most volunteers give up their time to create a great experience for your kids because they care. But not everyone is suited to the job, no matter how willing they are to take it on. Coaches are responsible for everything from creating a fun and supportive environment for their team to safety to managing the team roster, so you want to make sure the coaches you select can handle all aspects of the job.
When vetting your volunteer coaches, look for:
- A knowledge of the sport they’re coaching
- Strong boundaries; because coaches spend so much time with the kids, it’s important they follow all league rules and maintain appropriate boundaries at all times
- A sense of fairness and the desire to see every child play, regardless of ability
- The time and energy to devote to the season; it’s important that coaches show up at practices and games and act as an example of commitment and dedication for their players
- The ability to manage challenging players and/or parents
- Excellent leadership skills
Important: All volunteer coaches should also be able to pass a thorough background check and should not have a criminal record.
Once you hire your coaches, give them the tools they need to run a successful season. Besides standard operating procedures, like where practices are held and what to do in case of emergency, equip coaches with your organizations’ policies for a variety of situations that may arise during the season, like:
- Making sure every child gets a fair amount of playing time, regardless of athletic ability
- Fostering a sense of community within the team
- Managing parent or spectator misbehavior at practices or games
- Encouraging participation from less engaged children
- Handling bullying
Create written guidelines that reflect the kind of environment your organization strives to have in the community, and have each coach sign off after training, committing to enforcing those standards.
It can be tempting to overlook small infractions or ignore warning signs due to volunteer shortages, but maintaining your organization’s standards should remain a priority.
How to Inspire the Best from Your Coaches
A coach is obviously responsible for leading their team athletically. But most of us recognize that coaches are so much more than that. A great coach can have a huge impact on a child’s life that lasts long after the season ends.
To create the kind of leadership that kids never forget, inspire coaches by:
- Reminding them why they coach and the opportunity they have to make a real difference in the life of their team
- Giving them the tools and resources they need to be successful
- Being available to discuss any challenges and get them the support they need
- Be respectful of their time
- Express your gratitude for their contribution to your community and organization
The coaches you hire are the DNA of your leagues. Elevate your organization’s reputation — and your kids’ experience — to a whole new level by raising and articulating your expectations of these champions among us.