Every competitive youth athletic organization I've spoken with pays very good lip service to athletic development. Few follow even half of what they preach.
Have yet to find one that does it right. I'm not naive. I understand these organization want to make money. And guess what, development doesn't make a lot of money. At least, it doesn't make as much money as winning does. Playing to win what so many organizations do.
Again, don't get me wrong. I LOVE winning, too. Hate losing. However, my definition of winning might be slightly different than most. That definition also changes based on the developmental level of the athletes I'm coaching. There is definitely a time for training to win - mid to late teen years. That when the winning actually matters. More importantly, from a functional age standpoint, that's when the brain and body can handle the rigors it takes to win and lose on the big stage.
If an organization seriously wants to do right by its athletes, it will start with its team of coaches. There are five of them. Not one is more important than the others. But one however will get most of the program's glory and fanfare. That's something the organization needs to be prepared to deal with, too.
We'll delve more into these coaches in a later blog. But for now these are the five coaches any organization - who wants to develop athletes - should have.
THE PATIENT TEACHER
THE FAMILY PSYCHOLOGIST
THE COACHES' COACH
THE MOTIVATOR – This is the rah rah rah coach. The cheerleader. This is the coach who is the monkey see monkey do coach. This coach gets on the ground and crawls with the young athletes. This is the coach who doesn’t mind looking goofy. In fact, if you tell this coach what’s being done is goofy, the coach looks at you strange and questions your motives with the athletes.
This coach can’t be a rookie. The coach must understand and do everything that’s being taught. Because, it’s at this age where the fundamentals are learned: of movement, of the swing, of the kick, of the shot, of the throw, etc. Everything we want them to do as advanced level athletes in our sport starts here.
Attention spans are short at this age. We get three, maybe four words to describe the intricacies of what we want them to do. The programming must be simplified enough first. Then it must be conveyed in a fun and engaging manner.
THE PATIENT TEACHER – This coach must teach athletes everything they need to know about competing as professionals within the sport. But, the coach must teach knowing that the athletes will not be able to do a large percentage of what’s being taught with any consistency because they are simply not strong enough to do them.
But mentally, these athletes can learn – a lot. They’re going through a neuronal explosion, a period of immense learning potential. This is when they can under tons of educational concepts. They can learn languages easier. For us, their ability to understand movement, feel, and touch is phenomenal.
This is when we put them in the most difficult situations physically, and teach them to get out of that spot. Again, they will not have a tremendous amount of success. But it’s not about the success, it’s about the continued attempts, the continued learning.
THE FAMILY PSYCHOLOGIST – This must the team’s most patient coach because, at this point, the athlete is going through puberty. Mother Nature is taking the whole family on a trip and nobody can accurately tell how it’s going to go.
The athlete and the family will need to get comfortable with inconsistency all because growth is inconsistent. The athlete may have had success as a younger junior. But that’s same success stops coming. And it’s not because the athlete is doing wrong. Sometimes, mentally, that’s difficult for the athlete and the parent.
This coach must continue building on the movement patterns of the last coach, but must also help the family navigate the peaks and valleys associated with puberty.
THE FINISHER – This coach is responsible for putting it all together. By the time the athletes get to this coach, they are strong enough, dexterous enough, smart enough and they’re motivated enough to totally screw up everything!
Excessive amounts of testosterone, estrogen and several other hormones have given these athletes new abilities and strengths. The athletes have new man parts and woman parts and feelings and emotions and, yes, even desires.
This coach must manage this hormonal, post-pubertal athlete while simultaneously showing them that they can now do all that stuff they learned when they were 9, 10, 11, 12. Throw in there, too, that this coach must funnel energy because once this athlete knows something is going to work, the athlete can get hamstrung by that one thing.
THE COACHES' COACH – Finally you must have a person who can massage ALL of these egos – not of the athletes, but of the coaches. Every coach plays a role. Within the organization, one role doesn’t have more importance than another. And, that can be difficult to handle, especially when the winning becomes consistent.
Understand, the coach doing all of the winning will be getting A LOT of attention be so many folks equate winning with "best coach." If, however, the program is to have success, it’s going to be because of a team effort.