1–       Demeaning children: I just read this incredible letter from a coach who is dying of cancer. He reflected on how he speaks to the kids, and how he may be giving his last pregame talk. If we are not OK with our words being the last words a child ever hears from us, then those words should never leave our lips. As Coach Russ Powell concludes in his letter, I simply refuse to make a player feel bad because they’ve missed a penalty, misplaced a pass or lacks natural ability in their game. Now you may read this and dismiss it that’s your choice. The one thing to think about is, you never know when your last team talk will be or the last time you see your child play football. I know that time for me is soon and I want to make it an incredible experience.”

2–       Ignoring Parents: who are we to be so high and mighty that we do not let parents know how their kids are doing, where they stand, and how they can help. We need to engage them, not ignore them.

3–       Disrespecting officials: treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Just because someone gets $20 a game to officiate does not give you the right to berate them and insult them, especially over an inconsequential call. It is a terrible message to your players, disrespects the game you coach, and is currently driving officials out of sports faster than we can replace them. What will you do when there is no one left to referee?

4–       Not letting kids play: there is no game at the youth level that is so important that a player who comes to practices and fulfills the basic commitments of the team should not get meaningful playing time in. None. If you pick them, you play them. The number of emails I get from parents of children who want to quit a sport they once loved because the coach refuses to put them in, or pulls them after a single mistake, are way too high.

5–       Refusing to educate yourself: stop talking about 10,000 hours to mastery as if it is some magical boundary; there is no such thing! Stop isolating skills in blocked practices and then wondering why the players cannot perform them in games and matches Please read the actual peer-reviewed science and the latest evidence on how people learn and how skill is acquired. Stop saying “I have always done it this way” as that is about as unprofessional as it gets.

6–       Joystick coaching: let the intelligence be on the field, not on the sideline. Let them make decisions, let them face desirable difficulties, let them make mistakes, and create an environment of learning. If you move every player where he should be and solve every problem the game presents, what then? When do the players get to learn?

This has been written by John O’Sullivan, owner of www.changingthegameproject.com. The mission of the Changing the Game Project is to ensure that we return youth sports to our children, and put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’  We want to provide the most influential adults in our children’s lives – their parents and coaches – with the information and resources they need to make sports a healthy, positive, and rewarding experience for their children, and their whole family.  Parenting and coaching young athletes is an art, not a science, and the information you find here can help you navigate the maze of youth sports, and put a smile on your young athlete’s face, whether he or she is 6 or 16 years old.

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