If asked to think of an example of a good, well-run youth sports organization, one team probably comes to mind. Now think of a bad youth sports organization. A couple of examples likely come to mind. What’s the difference between the good and the bad teams? What qualities do they share? Can your organization adopt any of the positive traits?
It can be easy for leagues to get caught up in team successes, roster numbers, and overall participation numbers. But focusing on those priorities does not necessarily mean you are developing the quality of your organization. There are certain traits that clubs should have to ensure they are running a good, safe team.
Take a look at five qualities shared by good youth sports organizations.
Safety is a Top Priority
Safety of players should always be the top focus of good sports organizations. When parents sign their children up to play, they are entrusting you to put their child’s health and well-being ahead of everything else. Ensure your club teaches athletes to play in a safe manner and to protect themselves while on the ice, field, or court. Make sure your equipment is up-to-date and meets all safety requirements. Train all coaches and staff on how to respond to a medical crisis. Coaches should also be instructed to defer to medical professionals for determining when an athlete is healthy enough to play.
Uses Independent Evaluators at Tryouts
Leagues need to ensure their rosters are determined fairly. Using a player’s current or former coach or even their parents or friends can skew evaluation results. Eliminate this bias by bringing in evaluators for tryouts who can follow specific criteria for evaluation. Using outside evaluators shows parents and players that athletes will be evaluated fairly without.
Another way to ensure tryouts are fair is to list players by only their tryout number instead of their name. This prevents the risk of an evaluator recognizing a child’s name and scoring them accordingly. Using evaluation software, like TeamGenius’ solution, gives teams the flexibility to hide players’ names and make scores available in real-time. This enables teams to send each player their evaluation following tryouts to show transparency – the players are seeing the same form and scores that coaches and directors are using to form rosters.
Prioritizes Teaching Kids Skills Over Winning
Organizations need to always keep in mind that youth players are kids who are still developing their skills. The priority for youth sports should be to teach the young athletes the rules and skills of the game. Winning and success will come later, but for young athletes, the focus should not be on winning; it should be on developing their understanding of the game and athletic abilities. Coaches inside of good youth sports organizations should run organized drills aimed at developing skills and hold regular practices between games to ensure kids progress throughout the season. Games should be used for teaching players in-game skills and not putting pressure on young athletes to win.
Focuses on Fun and Teamwork
Kids play sports to have fun. They want to meet friends, be social, and learn new skills in the process. Good teams should acknowledge this and create an atmosphere where kids can have fun while learning the game. After all, if kids aren’t enjoying themselves, they are less likely to want to keep playing the sport.
It’s also important to teach teamwork. Kids need to learn how to work as a team and how to work with kids from other teams that don’t know yet. A large part of playing youth sports is learning to play as a team versus an individual. Sports teach life skills, and a big one is learning how to work with others. Teams should teach kids they can trust their teammates and that working together as a team is better than playing as one.
Gives Equal Opportunities to All Athletes
In youth sports, kids are trying to learn the game and determine what skills they excel at and what they need to work on. To accomplish this, all kids need an equal opportunity to learn and improve.
In good organizations, coaches and staff give equal opportunity to all players. Click to Tweet!
While it can be tempting to give the star players more playing time, coaches need to be aware that development is more important than winning for youth athletes. All kids should be given equal playing time, no matter their skill level. This also goes for practice. Players need equal time to enhance their skills, so all athletes should be given the same amount of reps and attention from coaches and staff during practices.