According to recent studies, about 35 million children between the ages of 5-18 participate in organized sports. While playing sports is beneficial for children in terms of physical activity and learning new skills, one great benefit of participation is having a dedicated coach available that is invested in the positive development of children, both on and off the field. Coaches wear many hats, and teaching the sport is just part of holding that title. For many participants a coach will serve as an advisor, mentor, lifeline, or simply as a person to lend an ear and listen.
Any sport participant will have at least one story about a coach who made an impact on her life. The role that a coach can have on a player’s life is significant in youth development. The sports field offers a place to develop both as an athlete and individual, and lessons learned on that field will be carried throughout life. At the youth level, a coach’s role is critical as players rely on them for structure and guidance. When we say “it takes a village” to raise a child, if that child is involved in sports, coaches are by default a part of that village. Like parents or teachers, coaches can be hugely influential in helping kids learn about themselves, build relationships with others and overcome obstacles.
I’ve participated in sports all of my life, starting at age six, and I remember the coaches for whom I’ve played. The bond goes beyond the lines of competition and lasts longer than a single season. Whether I’ve agreed or disagreed with a coaching decision made, I have always taken something away from the experience. Moreover, the relationships between my parents and my coaches have served as an example of how to communicate effectively as well as showcase the importance of personal responsibility.
With so many children participating in sports, the valuable role of the coach cannot be ignored. The best way to engage and motivate a child with sports is to show her how to enjoy it and to just let her play. If I thought about everything I needed to do to become a professional soccer player when I was 8 years old, I don’t know if it actually would have happened. The reason I played soccer and sports in general, was because I had fun and enjoyed them. And the reason that I continued to play for over 25 years was because I had the coaches to help me discover the joy in the game.
From the grassroots level to the professional level, the positive impact a coach can have on a child is undeniable. It’s more than wins and losses; it’s about developing a child into a healthy, self-confident adult through the wonderful medium of sport. Thank you to all coaches that dedicate their time to positively impact the youth of today. You are appreciated.