A Simple Philosophy

However, in some communities, such a commitment is not possible due to other responsibilities. In this situation, the director needs to properly inform the coaches of the leagues of the goals of the program. He or she would also need to be as hands-on as possible, and quickly address any situations that might be detrimental to the children’s development.

Instructional Team Play (Ages 5-7)

This is where children fine-tune the fundamentals they learned in the enrichment program. Games are actually played; however, keeping score is optional, and standings should not be recorded. Rules that are somewhat lenient encourage progressive development.

Whether the administrator (preferred) or volunteers coach this stage, it is extremely important to schedule a meeting with all participants and parents regarding the program’s goals as well as any other pertinent information.

The director should be prepared to explain rule interpretations and answer general program questions, as this is the level where the majority of children begin to play sports.

Tweener (Ages 8-9)

Competition starts to creep into most sports at this age. It is important to stress that competitive sports are not bad; however, coaches who put winning over skill development are detrimental to growth.

All coaches should be certified and observed closely. This level typically has higher participation numbers than the previous levels, and players are more dependent on volunteer coaches. If the models of the first two levels were followed, then there should be plenty of parents who witnessed positive coaching.

The administrator at this level needs to stress the program goals and enforce them, all the while maintaining an amiable demeanor! If a volunteer coach begins to exhibit negative qualities, the administrator needs to act swiftly. This discipline should be conducted away from the children.

Pro (Ages 10-17)

This is where coaching becomes serious! As children grow older, competition naturally increases, which usually leads to more instances of coaching neglect in the form of unsportsmanlike conduct. Again–competition is not bad, but children should be encouraged to give their best and understand that reasonable behavior is expected.

Every parent and participant needs to understand the importance of sportsmanship and fair play, and if either is compromised, there will be consequences. These consequences should be spelled out in the rules and distributed and reviewed well before the season starts.

Veteran (Ages 18+)

Some parks and recreation directors will spend 15 years or more with certain families in the community, and just when you think you’ve seen the last of them, they are eligible to register for adult sports!

Obviously, this league is the most competitive, and unsportsmanlike incidents are unfortunately common. And many times participants have children who are beginning to participate in a sports program.

Stress that the rules are just as important at this level, and model the behavior volunteer coaches are expected to display, even in stressful situations. And there will definitely be plenty of stressful situations at this level! As the administrator, remain calm and always be nice!

The impact made in this profession is tremendous, and the commitment should be taken seriously. You are not merely forming teams, supplying uniforms, and handing out trophies at the end of the year. You have the potential to change the lives of numerous children and parents in an extremely positive way, simply by running a seemingly insignificant T-ball program.

So, when instituting a sports program in your community, be sure to start with the basics, and be nice!

Jim Henegar, CPRP, CYSA, is the Athletic Supervisor for the city of Boca Raton Parks and Recreation Department in Florida. He can be reached via e-mail at jhenegar@myboca.us.

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One comment on “A Simple Philosophy

  1. Cristi on said:

    The coaches (especially Coach Jim) are by far wonderful coaches and leaders for our children. I am so thankful that our family has had the pleasure of being coached by these wonderful people and look forward to continuing sports with them. You all go above and beyond and for that my family and I are grateful! Thanks.

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