Developing a Coaching Philosophy
A casual observer of any little league game site will notice the excessive seriousness and tension exhibited by coaches on the sidelines. Coaches and spectating parents get very involved with their children's game. Some fail to realize the deleterious effects of their vocal protests regarding game referee decisions or disapproval of their child's performance. Several soccer leagues that I am familiar with have on record a very appropriate league philosophy statement. These statements emphasize learning, fair play, fun, equal opportunity, etc...over winning. Ironically, the same leagues use "trained" referees and linesmen, for example, to officiate a game between two teams comprised of nine-year-old players. Players are often assigned to positions in which they are most productive or least destructive. And, coaches, parents and players exhibit excessive celebration when a goal is scored (even when the goal resulted from a clumzy goalie error) or when a game is won. Overly formal game control, early specialization, and excessive celebrations seem incompatible with a child-centered league philosophy.
Should the league experience serve best only the most talented and promising individuals at the expense of the less skilled? A typical league reality of "winning first, child second," seems to prevail over the same league's beautifully crafted philosophy statement.
The stress associated with coaching a losing team stems from the distorted view that winning equals good coaching and loosing equals poor coaching. The child that is allowed to play a variety of positions will learn and progress irrespectively of her or his team's winning or loosing record. In the soccer league that I joined as assistant coach during the Fall of 1999, the head coach knew which were the two best teams on the league several weeks before kickoff. Who gets the credit for coaching these kids? Four of the kids on our nine-year-old boys' team never played the game. How are they going to learn and improve if we are not going to allow them to make mistakes? Sticking to a child-centered game plan can get very tricky and involve tough decisions.
Daniel Frankl, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Kinesiology and Nutritional Science