Watch and Learn

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Those of you who read my columns know I'm not a big proponent of having kids stay inside and watch screens. There is no question in my and most experts' minds that the increased amount of time kids of this era are exposed to phones, tablets, games, computers and televisions has a detrimental effect on their physical and mental well-being. However, there is one type of screen activity I do recommend.

When is the last time you sat down with your young athlete and watched a game on TV? And I don't mean just have it on in the house while you do your thing and they do theirs. I mean pay attention. Talk about it. Interact.

Some of my favorite memories with my kids are watching sports on television – usually after a full day of playing sports with them. The boys all played baseball, football and basketball and it was a blast turning them into fans of my favorite teams.

But beyond that, it was a little like film study. As their coach in most sports, this gave me an opportunity to go beyond watching as a fan and teach them about the games. We'd try to guess what play would be called next. We'd analyze why a player made a decision he did.

And just watching the incredible plays made by the top athletes in the world was inspiring. I'd later see my little kids emulating a diving catch by jumping onto the couch. I'd see them pretend to fake out a defender, make a crazy lay-up. I'm sure you can understand the benefit of this when they were in real action on the field.

I admit I didn't watch as much soccer with my daughter because a) back then it wasn't easy to find on television and b) I didn't really understand the game. Now, we watch together whenever we get the chance. And I realize you don't have to be a coach breaking down every play for them to gain knowledge. Just observing the best in the game do what they do will educate through osmosis. There is more imagination required in sports than most people realize. Do you know how the vast majority of great writers are able to imagine what they want to put on paper? They get the nourishment they need by reading, usually voraciously. It's called input/output.

It is the same with young players. The more (within reason) they can absorb the feats of skill, the structure, the nuances of the pros, the better they will be able to emulate them in real life. And how is this for a dichotomy? My experience was always that watching sports made them want to immediately go outside and play them.

So go ahead. You have my permission to be a bit of a coach potato. It takes no skill, doesn't cost any extra money, and you and your kids will have a great time. Make and appointment to watch a game or two with them this week. Have it be a regular event. And even if they don't turn out to be pros, you'll look back someday and cherish the memories.

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at He can be reached at


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