We like to share articles, research, anecdotes, and other stories talking about the need to make youth sports fun again, well how about some actual tips on doing just that.
It can be easy to get swept up in the professionalization of youth sports. We all want our best for our kids and the players we are coaching so why not teach them the things we see professionals do to excel in their sport? Well if you are reading this you know why, and if not perhaps check out our Facebook feed for more information on why youth sports needs to be fun!
A few weeks back we posted up about physical literacy and having themed practices, this week we have 3 new items.
Play a different sport for warm up
As I moved along in my basketball career, from high school to college, warm ups were essentially the same. Sure each coach may have their own versions or twists, but it was usually some combination of lay ups, three-man weave, up-and-down dribbling, team shooting, and defensive slides. If a 6 year old can get tired of a drill after a year or two, imagine after 15 years?
You know what warm ups I remember? When the coach opened the equipment room and pulled out the hockey gear. Or when we played soccer or ultimate to warm up. Why? For me I can remember two key reasons. One, it was a simple break from the monotony. Two, in my college years I was a support player, but when we played other sports, I was always one of the best players, so I got my time to shine. If you have players like that, it can be a great way of reminding all players that yes you may be better at this sport, but these support players may be better than you at others, so don’t look down your nose at them.
And side note, why was I always one of the best? Because my physical literacy levels were very high. And why, because I spent every moment as a kid playing whatever sport was in that day/week/month with my brothers or classmates. I did not become a single-sport athlete until college.
Have a “Captain of the Week”
Let’s face it, how many youth sports team give their captains real responsibility and then mentor them throughout the season? I was team captain on various teams in various sports at various levels and never once was I given a clue what that meant other than taking a coin toss and eventually being the communication conduit from player to coach.
And what makes it so tough for youth players when they are given the “C”? Well, all of a sudden they are elevated above their peers. With no training or support that is incredibly difficult. In the business world they are libraries full of books trying to help people who move from staff to management, and are now in charge of people they used to be colleague with.
How can we help that? With a fun easy one. Have a captain of the week with defined responsibilities (age appropriate of course). The captain may get to lead the team on the field for practices, warm ups and games. They could 10 minutes after one practice to speak with the coach on how they thing it went for them and their fellow players. Or how about a fun one, they get to lead a drill of their choosing, with no limitations (but I suggest they run it by the coach first). If it is a rotating thing, then every player gets the benefit, they can help each other as it goes along, and they can start building the confidence needed to be a leader in whatever they end up doing.
Be a kid yourself
The last one is so simple but so easy to forget.
Be a kid!
Remember what it was like when you were playing youth sports.
If you have fun, then your players will have fun. Get involved sometimes. Get the other parents involved. Play silly games. Have music blasting for warm up. Have a joke of the day. Yes you still need rules and structure, but fun does not equal chaos. If kids have fun, they will want to come back next time. If they come back next time happy and wanting to be there, they will learn more
Be a kid!