By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC
We’ve all read the news clips or seen the videos of crazed parents running out of the stands to brawl with their children’s coaches. We’ve all probably heard a friend or acquaintance complain about what a lousy coach their son or daughter has. Is it any wonder that average parents aren’t clamoring for the chance to be a volunteer coach?
I spent eight years on the board of my local Little League. Many of those years I coordinated one of the lower divisions comprised mainly of six or seven year-olds. At those levels, there is no baseball strategy needed, no scores are kept, and, at the most, the time commitment was a couple hours per week. Yet, inevitably, when trying to enlist parents to step up and coach a team, I was met with reluctance and resistance. I heard excuses about not having time because of work, but I knew what was really holding them back: Deep down, they were scared to death. They imagined that they’d get out onto the field at the first practice and all the other parents would be standing off to the side criticizing what a terrible job they were doing. I’ve observed people who were CEO’s of companies, high-powered lawyers and even former professional athletes who turned into insecure, meek pushovers when put into the recreational sports environment. Parents, with whom they’d have supreme confidence interacting in a business setting, intimidate and frighten them on the field.
So what can organizations do to improve the confidence and competence of their volunteer coaches? There is no doubt that clinics or classes play a part. However, it is difficult to demand 100% attendance from volunteers, (you can’t fire them, after all). Even those who do attend can only retain a small percentage of what they saw and heard, and that becomes hazier as the season goes on. And, these days, large, in-person gatherings are problematic.
Another step that organizations can take is to stress a parental code of conduct, and to educate parents about proper behavior and procedure. Coaches also should write pre-season letters to parents spelling out expectations and setting the tone for the weeks ahead. And, of course, I believe the best way to make sure your volunteer coaches have all of the tools they need to be successful is to provide them with a CoachDeck.
We specifically designed our product so that anyone, whether they’ve ever coached before, or for that matter even played the sport, can always run a great practice simply by pulling a few cards out of the deck and following the instructions for each drill. When you give a coach who is “scared to death,” a CoachDeck, now you’ve given them a shot in the arm of confidence because they know everything they’re doing on the field is legitimate and fundamentally sound. When parents observe a well-run, organized practice and see that their kids are learning and having fun, just about all the concerns they may have had fade away.
The ultimate measure of a volunteer-run recreational sports organization is in the quality of its coaches. It is incumbent upon that organization to provide the best experience possible for the kids, by ensuring its coaches are the most prepared and skilled they can be. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of begging for parents to step up and help, you could be selective? The better your coaches are prepared each season and the more tools with which they are provided, the easier it becomes to attract and retain them. The better the quality of the coaching, the more kids come back to play year-over-year, and the fewer parental complaints you’ll field. Investing in the quality of your volunteers pays dividends for years to come and is an investment in the quality of your league.
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 www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org