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Remembering Our Purpose: An Open Letter to Youth Coaches

By Matt Belson, US Lacrosse, 04/17/19, 12:00PM CDT

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Find the fun in fundamentals or be prepared for a long season. Reward creativity. Dish out praise. Build confidence levels. Find your inner kid.

Dear Coaches:

In roughly a month’s time, the opportunity of a lifetime will present itself to you, bringing with it a treasure trove of exhilaration, inspiration, and gratification. This unheralded adventure will last merely a few months, but it will carry the potential to leave an indelible impact on many people.The promise of passing out high quality trophies to the players, some of which are your own, will motivate achievement and feel extraordinary. All of these joyful outcomes are included when you sign up to be a youth sports coach.

As you embark on your journey to achieve success, please remember that winning is merely a result and NOT our purpose for coaching youth sports. Winning is one facet of the journey that typically is often overemphasized at the expense of valuable goals. There are no number of wins, trophies, or accolades that can ever exceed the sense of fulfillment you will feel when you hear that your coaching left a positive impact on your players. Trust me, happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it, and in this case, the WHY is not winning. Winning is a result. Rather, the WHY must be about inspiring results in kids, encouraging them to be better players, teammates, and individuals both on and off the field.  Each practice and game presents a real opportunity to have a positive effect on young minds who are eager to learn but often afraid to ask for guidance. The ability to understand and connect with each player will invariably result in a form of influence that extend well beyond the field of play and to the extent we may never know.  For when you  build up confidence levels, you are laying the foundation for future success.

Everything we do has a result. Winning is a result. Participation is result. Sportsmanship is a result. Without any real meaning these are just common sports themes our society tends to popularize. Individually, these are all commendable goals, but the real opportunity is to create fulfillment through inspired coaching.

Next month, when you arrive at the first practice, I hope you will remember that winning is not everything, only a result.  My experience has taught me that the best result comes when a team is inspired to learn, seek challenges and have fun. Here are a few learnings I’ve found to be beneficial that I hope you will consider:

  • Come prepared and ready to inspire like no other.
  • Create a playbook filled with lively player/coach challenges.
  • Lead with accountability and always end with optimism.
  • Encourage selflessness where passing ranks equal or higher to scoring.
  • When players’ behavior gets a bit unruly, instead of criticism, dare to be more understanding.
  • Before you get coaching, let the kids start off by playing freely each practice.
  • During gameplay, focus on observing more than directing. It goes without saying but shouting from the sidelines are only slowing down the players decision making.
  • Transparency is king in the land of parents thus inform parents at the onset what opinions of theirs matter to you (their kids experience) and conversely what opinions of theirs you're not remotely interested in (playing time, sentiments other players).

A few more…

Find the fun in fundamentals or be prepared for a long season. Reward creativity. Dish out praise. Build confidence levels. Find your inner kid.

Above all, make it fun and just let the kids play.

Wishing you your most fulfilled season yet.

Respectfully yours,

- Coach, Parent, and avid fan of the sport across levels

Coach Bels  

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US Lacrosse is the sport's national governing body and provides national leadership, structure and resources to fuel the sport's growth and enrich the experience of participants. For more information on US Lacrosse, check out the links below.