Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Youth Sports Coaches Can Learn from Legendary Coach John Wooden

I know what you are thinking, "Youth sports coaches can
learn tons of things from the greatest coach of all." That
is, of course, so true. But the one thing that sticks out
in my mind is not the most obvious one. Coach John Wooden
often said that he felt like he became closer to his bench
players than he did to the players who received most of the
playing time. This is not a situation that occurs very
often in youth sports. More often than not the reverse is
true - players, who do not play very much, despise their

If youth sports coaches could learn coach Wooden's methods,
there would be many less confrontational situations in
youth sports. Most negative incidents happen because
players and/or their parents do not feel like the kids are
being treated with respect. Parents feel like their kids
are not getting any positive esteem building from being a
member of the team and so often, they are right.
Unfortunately, by the very nature of sport, this situation
can never be solved completely. However, if youth coaches
learned how to deal with the less talented players in a
healthy manor, those kids would still benefit with
increased self-esteem, which should be the goal of youth
coaches after all.

Coach Wooden's bench players gained self-esteem and felt
as if they were important parts of the team, despite the
fact that they did not play often. How did he accomplish
this? Coach Wooden accomplished this by explaining to his
team that a team is like a smooth running car. He informed
his team that even the minor components of the car must
operate correctly for the car (team) to work. His
explanation went on to say that all the parts (members) of
the car (team) were necessary and not just the engine (star
players). He points out that without all parts of the team
working together, the star players and team will never
function properly. In this manner, Coach Wooden convinced
all his players of their importance and thereby build up
their self-esteem.

Based on my experiences with some outstanding coaches in my
professional career, here are some suggestions for youth
sport coaches to help treat players who do not play as
often as others:

1. Greet each player by name before practices and games,
whenever possible.

2. Delegate equal time to all team members in practice.

3. Look for signs of improvement in all players, no
matter how small, and point it out to individual, team and
player's parents.

4. Express the importance of each player's contribution to
the team's success.

5. Allow players to play their favorite positions in
practice even though they may not play those in

6. Communicate each player's importance to the team and how
important it is to stay prepared to play at all times
during games and the season.

7. Always look for opportunities to put players into games.
Games that are out of hand score wise and exhibition games
are good examples of this.

8. Look for situations where players have a good chance of
succeeding in games as opposed to situations where
less-skilled players may be over matched.

9. Constantly teach sport strategy knowledge in games,
especially to players who are sitting on the bench.

10. Recognize the different God given physical talent of
players and show patience with less talented players.

11. Reward and encourage payers who display effort,
dedication and attention.

12. Give all players a pat on the back and a smile at the
end of games, win or lose.

Of course, many recreational sports leagues have mandatory
playing rules, which is good. Coaches should always strive
to give bench sitting players confidence and a sense of
importance with their coaching attention. As mentioned,
building and maintaining youth players' self-esteem is the
number one goal of youth coaches. Coaches, who make a point
of paying extra attention to kids who do not play as much,
become positive role models to all players.

"Playing major league baseball - cool; helping kids -
Jack Perconte helps kids and their parents get through the
complicated world of youth sports. He shares his playing,
coaching and parenting experiences in his books, The Making
of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete: How to Instill
Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport. Learn
more at http://positiveparentinginsports.com/

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