Does Your Youth Sports Program Need a Sport-Family Coach?

“A Sport-Family Coach has a nice ring to it, but what exactly does it mean?”

“And how can it help my sports program?”

These are questions that I often get asked and I think it is helpful to understand the “Why” behind the development of this term.

It actually began many years ago. As my wife and I navigated our way through a wide variety of youth sports with our two children, it occurred to us that we were in new territory. In spite of our backgrounds as athletes and coaches, we recognized that being a sport-parent was a unique experience. Many times, I found myself convicted by a feeling that I didn’t exactly know the best way to respond to the everyday issues we faced.

I wanted to be the best – and wisest – dad I could be, but in the absence of good information, I was winging it!

Since there was no one coaching parents on how to effectively play the role of sport-parent, I decided to learn all that I could – and then fill that need.

The more I learned, the more I realized that parents of young athletes are looking for guidance. All of us want to know what works best.

Growing Champions for Life was born out of that need, and the Sport-Family Coach is what we call the individuals we train to help parents, athletes, and coaches to have a positive sports experience.

The Need

I not only saw first-hand in my own life but also in the majority of other sports families that innocent mistakes were made simply because parents didn’t know any better.

Unfortunately, there was also the occasional parent that was blatantly sabotaging the success of his child and the efforts of the coach.

Training for coaches and for athletes is often readily available. However, the third piece of the equation – the parents – is generally neglected. In fact, I later realized that parents tend to be the most under-coached group.

This spells disaster for many programs. Here are a couple of typical patterns that occur:

  • Parents, wanting their child to succeed, put too much pressure on them → which results in the athlete not enjoying the activity → which eventually ends with the child wanting to stop playing.
  • A coach makes a decision → but the parent misinterprets the action → and there is a lack of communication → so parent pulls the child from the program or switches clubs.

The Solution

With the help of a sport-family coach, the approach toward a successful sports experience becomes collaborative.

 This trained individual has the benefit of a larger perspective and can help all of the parties – coach, athlete, and parents – create a healthier environment.

When you consider that 74% of children report they have witnessed an out-of-control adult at their games or, even more alarming, 73% of children who began participating early on in sports, quit by the age of 13, it becomes apparent that the sports climate of many programs needs improvement.

Parents struggling through these very common realities, now have a resource to turn to:

  • “My child doesn’t believe in herself.”
  • “My child doesn’t work hard enough.”
  • “Our coach yells all the time.”
  • “My child is afraid of making mistakes.”
  • “My spouse is obsessed with our child’s performance.”
  • “My child wants to play every sport.”

The Process

So how does this all actually play out and what specific areas do sport-family coaches address?

There are many different venues that they utilize to educate, support and guide families through the sports adventure. Here are several of the options:

  • Educational workshops geared specifically toward athletes, parents or coaches
  • Monthly webinars designed to answer common questions parents may have
  • Weekly blog articles that often address character issues
  • A monthly newsletter to inform, support, and teach
  • A high-level website with positive parent videos tips for learning

Parents navigating the world of youth sports can find themselves facing challenges that require either an unbiased perspective and/or expertise in handling sport-related issues.

The sport-family coach is trained to shed light on these areas:

  • Strategies for parents trying to manage their role more effectively
  • How to positively interpret the common, emotional ups and downs in sport participation
  • How to equip children to face the challenges that organized sports present
  • Recognizing and understanding the life lessons that are learned in the youth sport laboratory

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the sport-family coach is an invaluable resource that empowers families to make the most of a healthy sports experience.

Just their ability to bring together the three points of view – that of the athlete, parents, and coach – is compelling enough for sports programs to include them.

However, even more beneficial is the high level of training and education that they bring to the table. I believe that this alone is key to setting your program, head, and shoulders above the rest.

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