Ask ten different people their opinion on the appropriate role of youth sports, and you may get ten different answers….perhaps because few people are committed to a constant reflection on this important question. I think this is particularly true of youth coaches who, ironically, hold the most power to influence the culture of youth sports.
Sadly, we are regularly reminded that selfish motives compromise the integrity of coaches at higher levels, where ego and money have consistently combined to lower our cultural expectations of “amateur” sport.
Should youth coaches be teachers who are primarily motivated by the opportunity to contribute to a child’s development through a positive sports experience…or should they be individuals who are more selfishly motivated to pursue their own aspirations, whatever they may be? The answer to this question would be obvious for most, but such a clear differentiation is sometimes not as easy to see when comparing one youth coach to another. Some are gifted salesmen able to mask selfish motives. But, with active use of eyes and ears, parents can usually determine the true motivation of a youth coach.
Typically, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If you see or hear something that doesn’t look quite right, take note. If a coach doesn’t clearly explain her goals and priorities to both players and parents, ask for them and listen carefully to the response. If your child’s lacrosse experience consists primarily of tournament play and includes little individual and team instruction, find out why. And, if the primary goal of your daughter’s coach appears to be winning games rather than instilling a responsibility of sportsmanship and fair play standards among her players, ask yourself if it’s really the right place for her.
The primary focus of every youth coach should always be what’s best for the positive development of each player on his team, and every youth coach should be expected to model appropriate behavior and represent high levels of personal integrity. The influence and long-term impact a youth coach can have on her players is too great to compromise on this expectation…no matter how great the social pressures may be – among both parents and players – to remain on the team.
These qualities transcend youth sports but should always be the foundation of a positive youth lacrosse experience. Every young lacrosse player deserves a knowledgeable, selfless coach, and it’s up to us parents to exercise the moral courage necessary to make that happen for our children.