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Put Me In, Coach!

If you know much about me, you know I love coaching! The first team I ever coached was a “little guy” basketball team when I was a sophomore at Vallivue High School. I remember how fun it was to watch kids improve, implement the things they had been taught to the best of their ability, and to watch them have even more fun as their skills grew. I was hooked. Since then, I’ve coached dozens of teams for girls and boys of various levels in many different sports. Varsity fast pitch softball, basketball and football; junior high basketball and volleyball, and youth league baseball, softball, and basketball – my coaching resume is diverse, to say the least.

Because the sporting opportunities for adults are so much more limited than they are for kids, coaching is a great way to get involved in something healthy and active yourself, as well as working for the betterment of the next generation. Ex-athletes will naturally be more drawn to this idea because they used to play themselves, but with a little preparation, anyone can be a coach.

It is true that at higher levels, players and parents will demand more knowledge and experience from coaches, so be ready for that if those are your aspirations. But when it comes to younger groups – for example, a soccer team of 5 and 6 year-olds – it’s not always as important that you be a guru at the sport. Educate yourself in the basics, keep practices structured yet fun, make sure each child has opportunities to play at game time, and you will become a hero to your team and their parents.

While the focus of coaching is usually on the kids (and rightly so), there are many benefits for the coach as well:

Exercise! Unless you decide to join your team in line drills, odds are you won’t get as much exercise as the kids. But an hour or two of moving around, demonstrating techniques, throwing batting practice, etc. burns a surprising amount of calories that will add up over the course of a season.
Learn to set a healthy example. When your players are well-conditioned, well-hydrated, and well-fueled on the proper nutrition, you’ll be amazed at how their play will improve. As their coach, you must try to impress upon them the importance of healthy habits, but they will be much more likely to listen if they see that you yourself practice what you preach. I tell my athletes, “Don’t try to put cheap gas in a sports car and expect it to perform its best!”
Education is a natural part of coaching. You learn new techniques, new drills, and new ways of imparting that information. You’ll learn why things are done a certain way, how to prevent injury, how to motivate – if you love learning, coaching is definitely for you!

If I’ve sparked your interest, but you’re not quite ready to commit, there are many educational materials for coaches available online or at the library (my favorites for softball are anything by Mike Candrea). Or go talk to a coach and get their perspective. Trust me, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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