Posts Tagged ‘coaches’

© Billyfoto | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Billyfoto | Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

When I asked Dr. Nicole Lavoi , Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports, what aspect of youth sports she would immediately address, she told me, “Mandate equal playing time up to age 14 for all levels of sports. Both at the recreational and competitive levels.”

I thought that was a curious response until I realized that too few youth sports teams implement this policy.

I am continually amazed that the directive to allow equal playing time for EVERY athlete up until age 14 is such a hotly contested idea. Abiding by this policy, and I mean REALLY ABIDING by this policy would solve a number of problems that plague youth sports teams.

“But everyone knows a coach can keep a team from winning by putting in a lesser athlete. Everyone wants to win. Why can’t a coach try to win an important game? The kids all want to win too.” This quote is from a woman who attended a sports class I taught, and at first blush, I agree with her. Coaches should have the right to try to win tough, important games. It is part of the aligning expectations that makes this conversation so difficult for some people.

Parents have expectations, athletes have expectations and coaches have expectations. Until we align the varied perspectives we will continue to see frustration, bitterness and anger associated with youth sports.Because the one common denominator for the three groups is winning, decisions to keep lesser athletes on the bench seems justified. After all, everyone who has gathered has come with the hope of winning the game.

Coaches deserve a chance to coach a team to a big victory, and that should be one of the things they want. It’s part of what the parents want too. They want their children to experience the high of winning, they want their children to have success, and they want their children to be treated fairly. Athletes want to win too. More than that though, and echoed over and over in conversations I had in living rooms across this country, kids want to play.

We need to seek wins, but we need to seek wins without sacrificing kids along the way.

During one of my research huddles, Tony said something that has stuck with me. “The best coaches get the most out of their worst players. Anyone can coach the best kids–only a good coach can improve the worst kid too.”

Why do we need to care about the lesser athletes? What do they have to offer the team in the final minutes of a game? They have their own lessons to learn right?: “Tough love is better.” “Life is tough.””Not everyone is a winner. They will learn the harsh realities of the world eventually, why not now?”

The harsh lessons learned are inevitable, but let the game be the teacher. Let them learn lessons because they made the bad play and lost the game. Let them learn the lesson that they need to pick up a teammate who has made a mistake and learn to encourage someone who is down. Those are the lessons we need to be teaching children. The last lesson we need to teach them is that they are not worthy.

The damage that is done to children under the age of 14 who find themselves sitting on the bench is not worth one more win on the stat sheet.

The cognitive development of children needs to be a part of coaching decisions. Period.

Before adolescence, children are primarily concrete thinkers. For children, the world is more black and white than grey and fuscia. They cannot conceptualize the world in abstract thinking, and they are working to develop a sense of self at the same time.

Without telling a child on the bench they are a less-than, they immediately know they are a less-than. They know it to their core, and it becomes a part of who they are. They don’t understand the abstract concepts of “sacrificing for the team” or “it’s the role you have to play right now.” Too many kids internalize this message and make a decision right then and there about who they are going to be. Or even more tragically, who they will never be. “I am not good enough.” “I am a bad athlete.” “I don’t measure up.”

This fixed mindset is more detrimental than a win is beneficial.    ****read that last sentence again**** A fixed mindset is more detrimental than a win is beneficial.

One could argue, “The non-athletes need to figure out early enough that they are non-athletes and move on to something that better suits them.”

WHAT?!? No one is a fixed athlete, and to do anything that might convince a child, ANY child, that he/she is a non-athlete before their bodies have even grown any real muscle is deplorable.

We need to decide that  youth sports is about teaching. Coaches can take control of how lessons are taught, but the best teachers are the ones who worry about whether every kid in their class learned something worth carrying with them.

What do you think? Should youth teams have bench players?

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Copyright 2013  Meagan Frank                                      Choosing to Grow

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I wish I weren’t reeling from a mid-season parent/coach meeting I attended last night… but I am. I wish I didn’t feel like I have a responsibility to write about it this morning… but I do.

I am Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It, and I can only do that legitimately if I am willing to face… head on… the issues as they come. I look for lessons in everything. I work to see the teachable moment in all the things I do, and last night was no exception. I am on the front lines of the youth sports battlefield, and I figured out last night, I am not armed well enough.

The thing is, I’m not exactly sure whether I need more protective gear or a more high-tech weapon.

After the neary two-hour conversation, I feel like issues were addressed, communication lines were made more open, and opinions were generally expressed. Small steps in the right direction.

What I personally learned, however:  If it is a sports conversation, I barely have anything to offer…if the topic is about hockey, I can offer even less…and comments I make are only legitimized if my college-hockey-coaching husband stands up to defend my point.

It’s not fair to assume that every time I offer my opinion about sports I’ll feel as shunned as I did for most of last night. I approach every situation as an independent experience. I felt somewhat legitimized by the end of the meeting…but it didn’t start out that way.

I’m not surprised the coach came out swinging.  He didn’t know that my suggestion about a team meeting was so that the parents and coaches could be put on the same page. So that all of us could be going in the same direction and so the expectations and philosophies could be clearly explained. We hadn’t had a full parent-coach meeting yet, and too many assumptions, frustrations and miscommunications were building. I have acquired a number of coaching and communication tools over the years, and I was truly attempting to facilitate a platform for dialogue. I was thinking a meeting might help the coaches…so that the parents could help by aligning with them.

He assumed otherwise.

He told us he thought we had come with torches and pitchforks, and having witnessed, and experienced, such parent-directed meetings, I was not surprised he wanted to lay authoritative groundwork right away.  I respect that…I really do.

The thing is, I tried to waylay his concerns with an early comment about the intention of the meeting, and he sternly instructed me to follow his ground rules and let him run “his” meeting.

I spoke up, respectfully, a number of other times, but I was increasingly convinced that my opinion was of little consequence to him. He softened his posture, after my husband weighed in, and addressed our comments as a couple, but it really felt like I hadn’t mattered before that.

If I am going to describe how that feels…deflating.

This is not the way I have been trained in discourse. My husband and I went to Colorado College, where every class is a debate/discussion that includes respectful banter where all ideas were respected and contemplated. The professors are part of the conversation and simply encourage the direction. Through countless hours of discussion, I never felt as though my opinion didn’t count as much because I am a woman.

I felt a little bit like that last night.

It’s actually something that has been gnawing at me quite a bit lately. For more reasons than the recent conversation, I am noting a subtle, yet persistent, discrimination when it comes to women and sports.  As much as things have changed in the sporting world…there is quite a bit that is exactly the way it has always been.

Title IX is practically forty years old, and girls have more opportunity to play than ever before. The next phase in progress will be when women can have a voice, and take a confident stand, in that other male-dominated room…the coach’s. It is telling that in the last ten years there have been multi-million dollar sex-discrimination lawsuits by women in the college coaching ranks. Fresno State’s debacle is one of the most drastic examples. 

The male-dominated sports culture still exists, but I would like to take this opportunity to express that times are changing. The shift in the youth sports wind smells an awful lot like women’s perfume. There are more and more girls, who have benefitted from Title IX, who are the moms on the teams men coach, and more and more women are willing AND ABLE, to coach with and against them. Things will change… but change is never easy.

Besides my own sporting experience, I have been working really hard on this project, researching the smartest sports psychologists, interviewing and meeting with some of the best minds in the business of youth sports, and I know I am gaining knowledge and insight about communication, team building, teaching and coaching. What I learned last night:

My sports opinion doesn’t really matter… yet.

Right now, my expected role is similar to what these women do (or don’t do) in the Responsible Sports example of how to run a hockey parent meeting. I won’t apologize that I am uncomfortable sitting quietly, and I am open to be influenced by what happened yesterday… but not deterred.

So, my skin is a little thicker and I am eyeing those protective shields. At the same time, I am manufacturing a different weapon. My weapon is one of strategy, negotiation and cooperation.  I am fighting for my kids and for kids in general.

I may not battle the way men do, but I can fight, and I am not afraid to get into the fray.

To learn more about Meagan or her current book project, you can find her at www.meaganfrank.com