How a Coach can Unlock the Full Potential of a Youth Athlete

Coaches of youth sports teams have an interesting and difficult challenge. Not only do they want to see their players succeed and improve, but they have to manage the often sensitive emotions of children. Children don’t respond well to failure, and they don’t always respond well to victory either, which can make them arrogant. Youth coaches must coach both the game and the players as well. They must remember that the game is supposed to be fun and exciting, but it also is about teaching character building. What methods do they use?

Defining Full Potential

It’s difficult to define “full potential” in a way that doesn’t do more harm than good. “Full potential” seems to indicate a maximum bar that cannot be exceeded. The idea of unlocking a youth athlete’s “full potential” may sound positive on the surface but it can also sound intimidating and discourage children in a way that good coaches do everything in their power to avoid.

“Full potential” should be defined by the player and their willingness to commit to the game. As someone who has engaged in competitive sports myself and coached as well, I’ve never been satisfied with my current level of excellence. My goal was not to be better than other players who were at a higher level than myself, but to improve every day and every year. There was never any sense to having reached “full potential” or believing that perfection could be achieved or was worth attempting to achieve. The key was always steady improvement.

As with most things in life, improvement happens naturally, through hard work, through commitment, and through desire.

Identifying Areas for Improvement

A coach’s job is made that much more difficult by the fact that kids have a difficult time listening to and accepting criticism. They don’t have a problem with results, however, and they do want to get better. The coach’s job is to instill not only the desire to improve but an unwillingness to settle for anything less than trying their best.

Teaching Patience

While patience may not be a virtue of professional league coaches whose jobs are related to their immediate and consistent success, it has to be a trait of youth coaches. Youth coaches can also teach their players to be patient with themselves, something that most young people have a difficult time doing.

The Toughest Opponent

The cliché goes that “the toughest opponent you will ever face is yourself”. The lesson to in this saying is that children must consider successes in terms of their personal progression and growth. That means steady improvement, and raising the bar after an achievement. Youth sports are about personal growth and character. If we teach kids anything, it should be how to grow and persevere in the face of a challenge.

For more information on youth sports leagues, please visit our webpage at League Network.

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