Attributes to look for - and avoid - in a youth sports coach

2014-12-17 13:25:33 by Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine, as posted on the blog.

Flickr/CC by Matt Hollingsworth Flickr/CC by Matt Hollingsworth

As a youth coach myself for 17 years and counting, I want to highlight a few positive attributes that make for a good coach and those negative ones that parents may want to avoid when signing up their children for youth sports.

Today, I had the chance to visit in studio WAKR host Ray Horner and discuss these characteristics. Remember, parents do have options to move their child if a situation arises that they donít want him/her involved in.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

HORNER: Our good friend, Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Childrenís Hospital, with us in studio this morning. You want to talk about coaches, huh?

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, you know, weíve talked about this in the past, Ray, but itís been a couple of years. So, there are a couple of things that I want to talk about.

You and I have been on both sides of this: as a parent trying to find coaches to coach our kids in youth sports ó Iím not talking so much about high school ó and weíve also coached our kids.

I think one of the most instructive things Iíve done as a sports medicine doctor is coaching for 17 years with all of my kids. So, Iíve seen it from both sides.

One of the is trying to find what might be the attributes of a good coach in youth sports and those a not-so-good coach.

a couple of things in a not-so-good coach that you might see. There are kinda three types that we talk about in general terms, just so you get an idea.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

Thereís the drill-sergeant coach who thinks his job is to make your kid a man, and he really drills the kids a lot in youth sports ó may not be ideal for a lot of youth sports.

The other is the entrepreneurial coach ó the money maker. We know that when it comes to the travel teams and the advanced teams and the all-star team programs, a lot of times itís kinda a career for to make money off of this deal.

So, talking to you, you know, seductively about your kid being really good and getting advanced coaching is gonna get them to the next level, or they start talking about scholarships and all those things. That coach may be the entrepreneurial coach or the money-making coach.

And, the third one is kinda described as the loose cannon. They may talk about the attributes that make you a good kid and a good person, but then they donít model it themselves.

Theyíre screaming at officials. Theyíre always going off on things, going off on players and issues like that. You would rather if your coach is going to talk about treating people respectfully that theyíre gonna model that type of behavior, too. So, those would be some coaching things that you might want to avoid that not-so-good coaches.

You can find a positive about every kid that you have on the team. Some coaches do that well. Some coaches have no interest in kids further down the bench as to their goals or about coming up with something positive.

In the meantime, this website talked about 10 attributes and signs of a good youth sports coach that parents might look for. This website is called MomsTeam, by the way, if people want to get more detail.

HORNER: Thatís what I was gonna ask you. Whatís it,

DR. CONGENI: MomsTeam, the trusted source for sports parents.


DR. CONGENI: No. 1 is coaches should have some idea about safety first. They should understand thatís part of why weíre doing the education with concussions, and making sure that they know how to treat first aid and issues like that. They take safety seriously.

No. 2 is that the coach should model respect. If theyíre gonna talk a lot about respecting officials and respecting opponents, the coach should model that, as well.

The third is the coach should have a goal for each kid on the team, not just for the stars on the team, not just for one or two kids. What could every kid on the team get out of it?

No. 4 is some coaches are not gender specific. There are differences, and Iíve learned this for sure, in coaching girls versus boys.

Really, we talk about emphasizing the positive. You and I have talked about maybe the ratio of 10 to 1: coming up with 10 positives for every negative that you give.

Now, donít make up positives and donít say the same positive to every kid. But, you know if youíre coaching a basketball team, you can tell a kid, hey, you really are glueman and we put you in and you play defense.

Or, I really like when you go in the game, you do a really good job concentrating on whatís .

You can find a positive about every kid that you have on the team. Some coaches do that well. Some coaches have no interest in kids further down the bench as to their goals or about coming up with something positive.

I think one really nice thing is team-building opportunities. We tried on the teams that I coached to do something where we go out in the community, you know, or where we go to Stricklandís afterwards. I think team-building things can be beneficial, as well.

Those are just some of the highlights, six or seven of those attributes that probably a really good coach. If you find some of those other attributes I talked about earlier, those may be some attributes of coaches that are not so good.

One more thing: A lot of people love this rule that you and I talked about a long time ago called the 20-minute rule. And, remember, the 20-minute rule is when as a parent, you watch your kid in youth sports and you canít wait for that game to end to tell them about all your great experiences and the things the kid did wrong and all that.

The rule is for 15 or 20 minutes after the game, no talk of the game at all. Then maybe after the heat of the moment has died down, then in the car or when you get home it might be okay for the parent to talk.

Try the 20-minute rule and see if you can talk about something else after the game, instead of immediately ripping into your kid or talking to them about, you know, what they did wrong in the game.

The final thing is, remember, try not to be that parent agent. So many parents these days have the thought that theyíre their kidís agent, rather than really being their parent. Much of the time the kid just needs you to be a parent.

I mean, one of my goals with six kids was to never have to go in and have one of those parent meetings with a coach. I only have one more left and so far, so good. I havenít had to go in on their behalf.

I think kids learn a little bit when they have to deal with that interaction on their own, instead of always having the parent go in.

So, those are just a few of the highlights of looking for a good youth coach and some of the attributes that may a not-so-good coach.

HORNER: You know, as Joe mentioned, all of these coaches donate a lot of time. On the other side, unfortunately, there are some coaches that are in there for different reasons.

There are options for parents. You can go in there and have your kid moved if it becomes a situation that you donít want your kid involved in.

DR. CONGENI: That is an absolutely great point. I mean, these are volunteer coaches giving up their time. These are people that are insurance agents and attorneys. ...

HORNER: Have a little patience.

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, have patience with these people. You canít expect that theyíre going to be sports psychologists or something like that. So have patience with them, as well. Thanks, Ray, thatís a great point.

HORNER: Joe, thanks for coming on in. Weíll see you down at the football field Friday night, I presume.

DR. CONGENI: Thanks, Ray. Have a great week.

HORNER: Okay, you too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Childrenís Hospital.

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