The main concept behind coaching is to train or tutor to stimulate improvement. This applies to many facets of life including: academics, social issues, personal issues, or sporting activities. Coaching sports for children is the focus of this article, as I find intriguing the role a coach can play in an individual or team’s success. There can be many settings for coaching sports; all require the correct environment for the activity being carried out and the correct opportunities for pupils to learn from. Commonly, this occurs in the area in which the sport is played: a football field for coaching football, or simply an area which allows the coach to practice specific things he or she wants to communicate to the children.
Principles of Coaching
There are often many instruments required to coach young children and all vary depending on which sport is to be coach. Some coaching aids, however, are somewhat universal and are used by almost every coach. Plastic markers, for example, are used to mark boundaries or checkpoints and colored cotton jerseys are used to identify players on opposite teams. Other than these items, each sport has its own essential tools required to coach that particular sport. However, in many instances, coaching young children can be done with basic mediums as concepts are likely to be made as simple as possible for the children to understand.
Coaching children will only be successful if there is a successful separation between the coach and his or her players. The coach is the authoritative figure and the children are sponges, “soaking up” knowledge to achieve success. This distinction between player and coach is the basis of coaching, as the coach must tutor the children who must learn from his or her teachings. It is important that these groups adhere to their roles in order for coaching to be a successful practice. To fulfill the role of a player, a child must respect their coach, listen to instructions, ideas, constructive criticisms, and be able to apply what they are being instructed. Each coach will have their own set of rules or instructions which set out how they plan to coach, but universally speaking, young children who are being coached should do these particular things out of common politeness, good manners, and the motivation to improve. Simultaneously, the coach must adopt his or her role by acting responsibly in front of children, being a positive role model, and helping guide young players to enjoy their sport as much as possible.
Coaching children can be negatively affected by interference, which can come from either the coach or the children. It can be interrupted and adversely affected by the actions of those involved. The personal lives of children at a young age can be very hectic, with a large number of commitments and interests in a variety of things. There can also be times in which there are distractions to a child and his or her family. Usually, these problems are solved by the parents of the child, whose responsibility it is to organize their child’s daily activities. While these might not seem like damaging interferences in the long run, they present small problems that may interfere with coaching as a process. Coaches may have similar problems, being that their personal lives may be the interfering acts that affect coaching. There may be a variety of outside distractions that contribute to a lack of concentration or motivation while coaching. Although this is a very manageable issue, it is one which presents the most problems to both the coach and the children participating.
Many of the juridic controls that are enforced on coaches of children are the same as those taken on by teachers of children. These laws may vary from state to state, but they all follow the same principles and ideals which are fundamentally important and should be strictly followed. According to these laws, a coach may not knowingly or intentionally misrepresent evaluations of a player, sexually harass or engage in sexual relations with a player, or knowingly or intentionally withhold evidence from the authorities about violations of obligations to themselves or their colleagues. When applying to work with children, a coach will have to complete a background check, which will examine any previous felonies or convictions, particularly concerning children. A person who has been convicted of any crime involving children will not be allowed to work in a school setting, or as a coach. With these rules come many common-knowledge codes and standards that all coaches must adhere to. Some examples include: never physically striking or harming a child, never mistreating a child in any way including racist or sexist behavior, and not upholding their responsibilities according to their qualifications, such as CPR and first aid training.
The qualifications of a coach must never be overlooked. In today’s society all coaches must hold the proper qualifications necessary to apply for a coaching job. With the adherence to these qualifications come the responsibilities necessary to exercise effective coaching strategy. The controls faced by coaches are made known through the many coaching manuals and books which are made available to coaches and parents, which can be learned by taking part in coaching classes and educational seminars for specific sports. Children, along with their parents, are expected to be treated respectfully like any members of society. They will show up for their chosen sport expecting their coach to treat them as their teacher treats them every day at school, in a positive manner that promotes mental stimulation and learning.
The load that all coaches must deal with is one that does not impose large restrictions on their daily work. Many of the laws and rules they must abide by would be acted out by any normal, rational and kind person every day. That being said, there will always be instances where a coach will become frustrated with a player or a number of players on a team, specifically among young children with wandering attentions. In these cases, the rules which coaches will follow limit and restrict his or her actions, as they will face consequences if they do not adhere to such regulations. For example, if a young boy on a football team is constantly talking and misbehaving during practice by distracting and encouraging others, a coach would not be able to physically harm the boy to get him to stop. If he or she were to harm the child, they would be punished according to the stipulations in their employment contract, and mostly likely would lose their coaching license or face legal action from the child’s parents. While there are specific laws in place, many of them do not play an integral part in a coach’s daily job, for often the environment in which coaches’ work does not promote the same “punishment for doing wrong” attitude that a school environment does. And so coaches are likely to have more ways of dealing with situations and dealing with their frustrations, than teachers do. I will conclude that the only reason a coach would break the laws or rules which he or she adheres to is from frustration aimed at someone or something. Because of this, I think it is important to recognize the alternative ways a coach can “vent” their frustration, so they may not feel too much of a burden from these rules.
There are not very many possible alternatives coaches could seek to free themselves from the controls associated with coaching children. If controls were not in place, children would not be safe from harm or unjust treatment. Coaches, who may not be qualified to coach, would be allowed to do as they pleased with the children they were with. The safety of the children is the primary concern behind the rules placed in front of coaches. If these rules were not followed, unethical people would have the opportunity to become coaches and there would be a great number of crimes and tragedies with children as the victims. It would also imply that any form of behavior while coaching children is acceptable, and will not be followed by punishment, which is a message that should not be promoted in under any circumstance. There is no room for dispute here, as the laws we all follow have so much at stake.
Revised, Fall 2008 C. Heinaman