Both in my capacity at US Lacrosse and as the parent of two young lacrosse players (who also play soccer and basketball), I’m often asked what I think is the most important aspect of a quality youth sports experience. For me, it’s all about a coach who inspires my child, teaches correct fundamentals, and values players safety and fun above all else.
Just as a student doesn’t necessarily make the best teacher, a former player doesn’t necessarily make the best coach…especially if he/she doesn’t understand that children of different age levels learn differently because they are at different stages of cognitive and physical development. Coaches also set the culture of a team, and players and their parents feed off that culture. I don’t want my child’s coach to exhibit anything but respectful and sportsmanlike behavior at all times…no matter the circumstances.
Coaches, at every level of play, have the opportunity to make a deep and lasting impression on children, and that is an incredible responsibility. A great youth coach also realizes that adult values should never be projected on young athletes. So, as the season evolves, expect and look for these qualities in your child’s coaches, recognize them when you see them, and don’t be afraid to contact the director of your youth program if you have concerns relating to coach behavior. Ask if your child’s coach has received US Lacrosse certification, which means that they have completed game-specific training according to the national standards established by US Lacrosse, taken the Positive Coaching Alliance Double Goal Coach workshop, and undergone a national criminal background check. You can learn more about the US Lacrosse Coaching Certification Program here.
A positive youth sports experience for every child, regardless of ability or age, is a goal most likely achieved when parents look for and appropriately recognize the qualities of a great program and coach…and take appropriate action when these qualities are missing.