Coaches play a vital role in a child's life. Even though a good coach provides tools and advice that can lead to success, they can sometimes take their role as a leader and mentor too far.
For a child, it can be tough to know what to do. Some advice is better for a child to ignore, even if it comes from a coach. Share these eight common coaching mistakes with parents, coaches and your children to keep your kids safe and happy—no matter what sport they choose.
1. Focus on Winning
Winning may be part of the game, but that doesn't mean it's the most important part of sports. For children, sports are supposed to be about having fun, learning the rules and becoming disciplined. Winning is the icing on the cake; it shouldn't be the main focus.
Instead of concentrating on winning, coaches should focus on practice. The goal is to improve. Winning a competition will naturally evolve as children become better at the activity.
2. Don't Drink Water During Practice
There are coaches who will recommend that players put aside water during practice and games to keep their athletes from cramping. Instead of keeping children from drinking water, which causes dehydration, drink small amounts slowly instead of large amounts all at once. It'll help to keep the body hydrated without causing discomfort during a game.
3. Don't Eat Before Practice
A coach may recommend that children avoid eating a couple of hours before practice, especially if it's a contact sport. While you shouldn't eat 30 minutes before a practice or game to avoid cramps, it's not necessary to avoid food for extended periods of time. Instead, eat a large meal a few hours before and a small snack roughly half an hour to one hour before practice or a game. Food is the fuel that allows children to keep playing and maintain their stamina.
4. Drink Sports Beverages
Advocates of sports beverages argue that running and physical activities deplete electrolytes and salt levels in the blood. The problem is that many sports beverages also have a large amount of sugar, which can cause an upset stomach or nausea, especially when running is involved. Instead of relying on sports drinks, drink water for hydration and eat food after practice to replenish other nutrients.
5. Push Yourself Harder
A coach's job is designed to help children and teenagers to continue to improve their skills. However, coaches may yell at children and teenagers from time to time to keep them working harder at a particular skill or task.
While a coach shouldn't allow athletes to slack off, it's also important to recognize when a child has reached his or her physical limits. If the kids need a break, allow it. If they're in pain or having trouble breathing, they should stop exerting themselves. It's a coach's job to make sure kids get the rest they need.
6. Try to Catch Up
After an illness or an extended time away from practice, a coach may recommend that a child try to catch up by practicing a little longer, a little harder or spending a more time working on technique. While it sounds good in theory, it doesn't actually help. It can even put unnecessary strain on the body. Kids should avoid playing catch-up and focus simply on doing their best.
7. Just Have Fun
Sports should be a balance of competition and fun. A coach shouldn't yell, name-call or otherwise insult players. Children need to be motivated and encouraged to try their best and keep working toward improving their skills. Just make sure the kids are having fun while making those improvements.
8. Don't Measure Skills
It may not be appropriate to measure a child's skills when he or she is very young, and it's right to avoid placing a child into a category. But after they reach a competitive age, coaches may start to measure their players' abilities so that it's possible to create realistic goals. A coach who advises parents and players to avoid measuring their skills is only holding them back.
A great coach does not take teaching to an extreme. Coaching is about balance. He or she must make things tough without removing the fun elements from the sport and keep the health and well-being of players a top priority.
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