I know what people are probably thinking. How can you get leadership lessons from coaching 3/4 year olds? I believe you can learn from every situation that you are in. You just have to be willing to look at the complete experience. Or maybe you are thinking, are you going to compare adults to 3/4 years olds? Not really. There are some basics that do apply in every situation. First let me set the stage… I have been coaching youth sports most of my adult life. I love coaching! I have not done any coaching for a few years (hip replacement surgeries). Most of my coaching career has followed the ages of my children. Those children are now adults over 25. Most of the coaching that I had done for the past 10 years has been with high school age hockey players. My daughter sends me a text that she has signed up my grand daughter for soccer and the league is short coaches (she volunteered me if they don’t get another parent volunteer). I was excited to coach my grand daughter’s team. Six full of energy three and four year olds that have never played soccer before. Of course, if you have seen 3/4 year old soccer – you would call it bee hive soccer (everyone going after the ball (honey) together). With mixed emotions, our season is coming to a close. We have two games left…
What are the leadership lessons?
- Plan with flexibility: Since I had not coached that age group in a very long time, I had to spend sometime learning what I should do. With all of my other coaching gigs, I had practice plans that were designed to help teach players how to become better at their craft. Since the players were older, some of the basics were already there. With this age group, you have to definitely have patience and keep a positive outlook when things don’t go well. Planning with flexibility means keep some extra stuff in your pocket for when the item you wanted to work on, is not working. You have to react quickly and in a positive manner.
- Teach, demonstrate, watch and follow-up: When coaching a drill, you have to not only descript what you want them to do, you show them as well. Let them try it… Make the slight modifications to get them close to what you wanted. Praise them! I know that maybe you don’t have to spend much time in the teach and demonstrate side when you are dealing with adults. You do have to monitor and follow-up!
- Patience: Remember why you are there. You are there to have fun and teach them some of the skills to help them with soccer in the future. Mistakes are going to happen, probably more than you think. You just have to be patient and keep encouraging them to success. With my team’s players – they want to please me and their parents. They look for the smiles, thumbs up and high fives – to them that is great stuff. I had to learn that the first practice. Soccer is a game of not using your hands. We talked about it! We corrected the situation when it happened. After the 20th time, I was losing my patience. Next practice, we put something in their hands to keep away from using their hands with the soccer ball.
- Have fun: For me, having fun is in everything that I do. With the 3/4 year olds – they only know to have fun. Being competitive is just starting to happen with some of them. So, you have to watch out for how they react to success and disappointment. Keeping them focused on the fun aspect! The one thing I can count on, is after the game – they move onto the next part – getting their snacks and coming home. No one player is sad. They are all happy! To me, that is some good stuff.
As you can see many of the lessons learned can be applied to every coaching/leadership situation. I have to say it was fun coaching those kids. They are a handful, but it is a fun handful.