“What in the world have I got myself involved with?”
My son Solomon wanted to play tee 6 five, was in his first year of school, and his friends Nick, Charlie and Carter were asking him to show his face at the initiation day. Frieda, my wife, was to have taken him while I took my daughter to a school band rehearsal. Instead, I took him, signed him up, and then responded to the head baseball coach’s altar call for parents to be coaches. Like a good sinner I responded first, with my hand raised high, confessing my allegiance to the club and my son’s team – never having played the game before, never having coached five and six year old’s before—and like always with me, when getting involved in something new thinking “what in the world have I got myself involved with?”
This was never going to be about what I could teach the kids. (At first, I thought this.) The first and most important lessons were going to be what the kids teach me: be patient; be calm; don’t take the kids disobedience personally; and understand that I know nothing.
Over the next few months, I was going to dig deep within myself and learn some humbling lessons about coaching and moreover, understanding children.
There was one day at training I had a terrible time. The kids were all arguing and pushing in line and I raised my voice and barked a command. That frightened quite a few of them including the parents watching on the sideline. One of the Dads got upset with me as he went over to comfort his son. And his son is a gentle lad and wasn’t one of the offenders.
“I was quite upset with myself.”
That evening I went home and was quite upset with myself about the way I had handled the ruckus. I was so used to leading my adult soccer team around the park, barking orders from the centre-back-position, that this new world of the sensitivities of children was really a completely new world to me. Frieda, being a primary school teacher, gave me a lot of advice and support to understanding the minds of the young ones. It helped – a lot!
What I Learnt
Here are six lessons I learnt, in no particular order, to how to be a better coach/leader of kids. I hope they may help you and some may even be applied to our everyday life.
1. Enthusiasm and excitement
When I’m with the kids I have to have no personal inhibitions at all. I have to forget about the parents and anyone else who is watching and focus completely in the world of the kids. I must be as much fun and show absolute thrill at everything. It will be contagious.
2. Communicate well with the parents and the children
Keep the parents well informed and prepared with a lot of advance notice. Talk to the kids respectfully. When giving special instruction to the kids go down on one knee (their level) and ask for eye contact.
3. Get involved myself
I have more enjoyment when I’m running, catching, and throwing, with the kids. The kids also love competitions with each other and so I must promote this.
4. Give everything time
Success, enjoyment, players ability, all take time—how long, I don’t know—but persevere and time will work its magic.
5. Recruit other parents to help
I was too proud to do this at first, thinking I could do everything. However, everything works better and is more enjoyable when other parents help keep the kids under control.
6. I CAN NEVER HAVE A BAD DAY
This especially applies to training the kids.
6.1 You can have this one for free. (Nothing to do with coaching kids.)
It is a follow on from the last point and something I used to tell my fellow staff at a bank I worked at many years ago: WE ARE NOT PAID TO HAVE A BAD DAY. If you are interacting with customers, fellow staff, or are a boss to others: We are not paid to have a bad day. We are not paid to be moody (I hate moody leaders—so unpredictable) Get over the moods and whatever else is going on in life and leave that at home.
I’ve been dying to write number 6.1 for many years and I’ve finally got it off my chest. This weeks lesson is from some good old soul searching where I thought I was going to show the kids some razzle-dazzle. But instead, they showed me. The lessons of life are all around us, everyday. They are there. Don’t force them. Reframe and observe the situation from another angle.
– Mark Maguire