Children learn from internal realization not external force. These words when applied to either youth sports or education seem to have lost some of their critical importance to our children’s long term mental and athletic growth.
Children have certain skill sets that are age appropriate and no amount of pushing, yelling, and “coaching” will change that fact. To teach (which is why teachers have masters degrees) and to coach, practically no training except a huge amount of TV or sideline watching.
Last night I was listening to two football coaches talk about how they were going to coach their team going forward. Forget for a minute it was July 20, these kids needed, just like the pros, to “get with program.” They needed more practice, not less. They needed more plays and diagrams instead of allowing them to play and learn at their own pace.
As I listened to their reasoning and implementation of their own self importance on this team, I was struck by the fact that neither coach talked about any age appropriate activities for these children.
What they did want to talk about, and did for a great extent of the time I was listening, was the children’s inability to understand what they were trying to “coach,” that’s right “coach” not teach these children.
Not once in their meeting did they talk about how to teach the kids sportsmanship, togetherness, sharing, or simply to teach the children how to have more fun playing football, not once.
They had cards written out and figured out how to go over and over the mistakes the kids were making with these cards and to “coach” them to get it right.
They had complex defenses figured out to “adjust” for their kids’ inability to grasp their defensive schemes and to make up for the children’s lack of understanding.
As I studied these guys it occurred to me that neither one had the athletic frame or “gate” to make me think that they had ever played football or even been high school varsity athletes. I am all for parents helping out and coaching. With all the kids playing youth sports today there is certainly a shortage of qualified coaches out there. Only 20% of all youth coaches have formal training.
Furthermore, both guys were “parroting” statements and ideas I had seen promulgated on NFL and DI pregame and post game football shows. “Let’s go with this defense if they don’t get what we want.” one said. “They have to be able to play this defense. We need to keep going over it until they do it right.” “We will show them the cards with the plays we have written out for them.”
Let me make this clear: only 1% of ALL kids who go to college play at the DI level, and only half of that group play for free. So why on earth would any one coach these kids the same way that the colleges and pros do and not realize that it is extremely difficult for children to understand and play under those conditions.
Let the kids have fun. Give them equal play under the age of 13 so they can get better in a positive atmosphere and learn life skills, athletic development, and the benefits of fair competition and positive stress without having to worry about pleasing adults egos.