Coaches make or break a child’s enthusiasm for sports. It’s important to have trained coaches who see potential in everyone and effectively motivate kids.
Challenge //   Well-meaning but untrained volunteers
Train all coaches.
Coaches are the delivery mechanism for quality sport programming. They determine how much exercise occurs during practice. Research aggregated by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition shows that good coaches also lower kids’ anxiety levels and lift their self-esteem.(46) They help boys and girls enjoy the sport. They can make an athlete for life—or wreck enthusiasm for sport altogether.
Trained coaches do best. One study found that only 5 percent of kids who played for trained coaches quit the sport the next year; the attrition rate was 26 percent otherwise.(47) But since grade schools got out of organized youth sports in the 1930s, recreational youth sports have relied on volunteers—few of whom have or receive the training that a Project Play roundtable of coaching experts identified as essential to delivering an early positive experience. Of the 6.5 million youth coaches, fewer than 1 in 5 are trained in effective motivational technique—how to communicate well with kids—and only 1 in 3 say they have been trained in sport skills or tactics.(48)
A GOOD COACH SEES THE POTENTIAL IN EVERY CHILD
Parents want better coaching for their children. In a nationally representative espnW/Aspen Institute Project Play survey, more than 60 percent of parents of children ages 18 and under identified the “quality or behavior” of coaches as a “big concern.” This underscores the need to create a national plan around coaching, with a special focus on girls and children from low-income families. A top official for the YMCA of the USA echoed this, saying his organization’s most pressing need is more trained coaches.(49)
Other countries recognize the value of trained coaches in growing participation. In the United Kingdom, the youth-coaching culture has been transformed through the introduction of a training framework. Canadian sport bodies now embrace a sport-for-life curriculum for coaches. In the United States, coaching leaders worry that requiring training will chase off volunteers. But just the opposite has happened with USA Hockey. The key, experts tell Project Play, is easy-to-use training tools, like online video demonstrations of techniques.(50)
Whether by mandates or incentives, the time has come to greatly increase the number of credentialed coaches in the United States. The minimum ask: training in 1) coaching philosophy on how to work with kids, 2) best practices in the areas of physical literacy and sport skills, and 3) basic safety.(51)
What Kids Want From A Coach
The answers they gave researchers
PROJECT PLAY SUMMIT: Leaders explore how to Train All Coaches
“There are lots of volunteers who want to do this. It’s not like we have to convince them. The bad news is they don’t have access to the information they need, to be able to coach in a positive and age-appropriate manner.”
Janet Carter, Executive Director, Coaching Corps
Only 25 percent of youth coaches in the United States are women.(52) But at Coaching Corps in California, it’s 47 percent—women are seen as critical agents in mentoring and as role models for girls, especially those in immigrant communities. To recruit women, Coaching Corps forges partnerships with universities, some of which provide students with college credit for participating in leadership training and volunteering as coaches.