By Oliver J.
Youth programs within recreation and sport are a great way to encourage positive youth development. These programs could not exist without the support and dedication given by coaches in these fields. Hard work and plenty of hours are put into coaching youth, but in recent years, methods of coaching youth have been put under the spotlight. With youth sport programs growing, the role of the coach is becoming more complex and aspects other than winning are putting coaches under immense pressure. Although coaches may feel that they know the best way to coach today’s youth, the main focus should be on supporting and helping to foster positive youth development through sport and this isn’t always the case. I believe that some coaches have forgotten the importance of this through lack of leadership skills and in some cases not being qualified to teach youth.
I participated in sport from a young age and played soccer under a number of different coaches. As a result of this, I was able to see how different coaching styles and approaches could help or hinder a child’s development through sport. Qualitative research which shows that the coach–athlete relationship was a necessary tool of youth sports coaches used to facilitate the development of life skills (Crowe, Oades, & Vella, 2013). From personal experience I would say that coaches who refrain from forming relationships with their athletes are not giving youth the best chance of progressing and developing. Part of this problem are coaches who are stuck in their “old ways” or scared to adjust and adapt to benefit the youth of today. I believe that it is extremely important to develop a positive relationship with your youth. By establishing some form of coach-athlete relationship, it creates a supportive environment where the kids are more comfortable, improve their self-esteem, and other aspects that help with fostering youth development.
As a leader and coach in the sport field, I understand how important it is to help foster youth development. Learning activities in practices and games that develop competence and confidence, as well as connection with others, are paramount to developing self-determined individuals who will enjoy sports (Deci & Ryan, 2000). I find that some coaches will completely focus on “winning at all costs” and this can result in our youth not learning the required developmental social skills needed. Also, on the flip side, coaches who only focus on “the taking part that counts” can have the same results because our youth don’t understand the importance of team and individual success. I believe that coaches that can implement a balance between the two aspects will be the best style of coaching, and this will ultimately lead to the natural occurrence of positive youth development. Sport can be challenging, enjoyable and because of its competitive nature, coaches have the ability to nurture players and teach those valuable skills and morals that will have a lasting impact on youth and our future society. With future coaches forming strong bonds/relationships with their players, they will create a positive environment that empowers and inspires youth outside of sports.