Coaching youth sports is less about the sport and more about the development of people. If you’ve turned down opportunities to coach a team because you don’t know the sport and feel unqualified, look at it in a different light. You’re leading kids with no life experience down a road that will teach them how to navigate their future in an environment filled with fun and competition. You can learn the skills and the breakdowns of your sport in the myriad of educational sources out there – what you really need to coach – is heart!

1. Kids see things for what they are, we as adults often see things for what they can or might be. While this can be motivating and useful it can also be incredibly stressful since we often see the possible failures more often than possible victories. Kids teach us to live in the moment, to take our eyes off of the outcome and to look right in front of us.

2. Teaching young players how to adapt to pressure reinforces the skills we have learned, or maybe haven’t learned, about keeping what’s most important as our number 1 priority in every situation. Nothing keeps you more accountable to your behavior then a bench full of little eyeballs watching and emulating your every move, and stands full of parents studying you (with iPhone videos posting every other minute).

3. Kids can make anything and everything into something funny. Learning to laugh through challenges kept us sane, lowers blood pressure and gives us perspective. No matter what mood I arrive to practice in, I always leave re-energized and generally with another inside team joke.

4. Kids have a leaky, under-developed filter. They may sometimes guard what they say, but for the most part, they are going to tell it like it is. Was that drill horrible? Did you stick your foot in your mouth and call someone by your dogs name again? Did you demo something wrong or randomly dance to a song when you thought no one was looking? Is your fly down? They noticed, and they’re gonna call you out. Even your best friends may never be so honest.

5. Coaching makes us appreciate taking things down to the simplest layers. Problem solving is all we do. When we coach we know we have to break it down into manageable chunks in order to conquer large tasks, and that carries over when we leave the field as well.

6. Filling the bucket of others actually fills our own. The realization that we hold the key to a person’s self-esteem in the very words we choose is a powerful concept. Ever give a kid a genuine compliment and see their entire posture change? There’s no vitamin that can feed our health like building up the confidence of a child.

7. Kids keep us young. I didn’t say cool, I said young. (they will quickly point out that we aren’t cool, especially if your own kid is on the team and frankly, even if they aren’t our own kid..) They introduce you to snapchat and you will find yourself in your office doing a selfie that turns your face into a tomato or switching faces with your dog. It will happen, and you will love it.

8. Coaching is about bringing people together, and that includes ourselves. Becoming a piece of something that has value, builds, improves, makes memories, and ultimately steals a portion of your heart and your mind every day will change you. Somehow it finds a hole that needed filling and it fills it. If you haven’t coached you won’t understand it and if you have, then you’re likely nodding your head right now.

9. It's like playing a live chess game – building skills, arranging puzzles pieces, finding match-ups. Coaching is a game for adults, except the chess pieces sometimes show up late, get distracted, need 6 bathroom trips, take your only pair of gloves, need four shoelace tying breaks, and forget their equipment. SO it’s more fun, right?

10. Coaches gain more than they give when they give it all. The more a coach loves, serves and gives to their team, the more exponential is the growth on personal return. Basically – not only do you get back what you put into it, but you get more. Youth athletes haven’t been tainted yet by recruiting, stats, power , money, and ego, they just love the game and their friends, and their coaches. Who couldn’t use a little more of that in their life??

Coaching may be stressful, take up a lot of your time, and you may feel overwhelmed, but at the end of the season – you’ll never be the same, you will be a better, more enlightened and more passionate human being. Because once you have been called coach it won’t last for just a season. Once you are called coach – you are one for life.

Kate Leavell is a high school varsity and youth girls' lacrosse coach in Atlanta. A US Lacrosse Coaches Education Program trainer, she is the author of the Coaches Emergency Practice Guide. Read more of her thoughts at kateleavell.com

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