8 Tips to Motivate and Inspire Your Coaches
By Melissa Wickes
July 27, 2022
Creating a winning youth sports environment where young athletes have the opportunity to thrive and have fun takes a lot of work—but one of the most important parts is having great staff. Hiring the right coaches in the first half of the battle, but like any demanding role, motivation and drive can fade as the years pass. After all, coaching a youth sports team is not easy. And as Faith Raster, former manager of the youth sports at Camp Pendelton (and current LeagueApps Customer Support Specialist) puts it, it’s always a struggle to keep coaches motivated.
Are you noticing the coaches you once revered for their love of the game are starting to lose sight of the end goal? Are they focusing too much on scores or championships and putting the kids’ experience on the back burner? This is a universal experience for youth sports organizations, and you may be wondering how you can motivate coaches to continue to create amazing youth sports experiences for kids.
It’s a tricky question, but luckily at LeagueApps, we have many current and former youth sports coaches and other staff that offer advice for motivating youth sports coaches. Here are the 8 tips youth sports leaders can follow to motivate their coaches to continue to positively impact their athletes—even on the hard days.
Include Coaches in Program Design
Your coaches know the game and they know what will resonate with players. By asking your coaches to help you design your programs, you’re not only gaining insight from the experts who will be leading these programs, but you’re giving those coaches a larger stake in the program. If they were part of organizing it, they’ll be more motivated to want it to succeed. Ask your coaches for feedback each season and find out what they think will make the programs of future seasons better, suggests Faith.
Remember: Kids Won’t Remember the Wins, They’ll Remember the Feeling
Dan Grossberg, youth hockey and basketball coach and Director of Revenue Operations at LeagueApps, constantly reminds himself that the young athletes on his team aren’t going to remember the wins or how many baskets they make—they’re going to remember how they felt. Even on the days when kids get under his skin—which, let’s be real, it happens to all coaches—he focuses on making amazing memories and sharing laughs with them.
“I remember one kid on the hockey team last fall lying underneath the players’ bench because he was going through some stuff at home,” Dan explains. “Getting him out on the court, I could see he was able to forget about whatever was troubling him and just focus on the sport, on the game. It’s those moments that I believe have an imprint in his life. I was there to be that coach, to push him to do the things he never thought he could do, to celebrate the small wins in picking up a new sport.”
Remember: Think Back on Your Own Youth Sports Experience
Push coaches to put themselves in the shoes of the kids to put everything in perspective.
“There were certain coaching moments that stood out in my life, some when I was performing poorly or not giving enough effort. Others where the team as a whole was not performing up to standards,” says Kevin Gotelli, former lacrosse and football coach in the Bay Area and LeagueApps Mid Market Manager. “How did I respond to this type of coaching? Did it help my performance? Did it increase the enjoyment I got while playing?”
Remember: Commitment Goes Both Ways
Zach Zannino—a 10+ year youth hockey coach and Senior Product Manager at LeagueApps—says, “As we expect commitment from our players, the players deserve the same commitment out of us. So even if I have had a long day or don’t feel like getting on the ice when it’s single-digit temperatures outside, holding onto that perspective is my motivation.”
Balance Coach Expectations
Winning is important for enjoyment and the progression of players, Craig McGinn, former soccer organizer and Director of Events at LeagueApps reminds us. But, it has to be balanced with expectations. Helping coaches set attainable goals around individual performance and team success will help coaches focus on what matters.
Similarly, coaches should be reminded to check in on their own performance—did they speak to each player 1-1 that day, did they praise players with specific direction (rather than, way to go!), did they instruct players with ways to improve? Striving to do more to affect each player’s individual performance as well as team outcomes will help coaches see improvement in not only their team but themselves, which will lead to increased coach motivation.
Help Them Focus on Their Legacy
To this day, when I’m out with my dad—who was a CYO basketball coach in my community for 15+ years—we run into former players who can’t wait to shake his hand, give him a hug, and update him on their life. Reminding coaches that this is the legacy they will leave behind in their community is something that will motivate them each day to be the best coach they can.
“The reward for youth coaching is intangible,” says Brian Yeun, youth baseball/basketball organizer and coach and LeagueApps Senior Backend Software Engineer. “When you see your child and their teammates at the playground, supermarket, or school event, you’ll feel an unexplainable pride that you helped influence that child’s life in a positive manner.”
When Brian Veitch, youth baseball coach and LeagueApps QA Engineer, is looking within for coaching motivation, he also focuses on his legacy in hopes that every player he coaches will take the lessons he teaches and apply them to their lives as they grow.
Dan always gets excited when he sees a player from his team around town.
Model Good Behavior
If you’re present at practice and notice a coach is not leading with the values your organization believes in, feel free to step in and model what good coaching looks like to you. Katie Ringel—former youth sports coach and Pro League Manager, MLB at LeagueApps—says when she witnessed a coach berating a player for a mistake, she would be sure to compliment the player for their grit or determination to learn in the view of the coach. Praise the effort, not the outcome.
Incentivize with Accolades
Unfortunately, words of encouragement don’t always do the trick. Faith’s youth sports organization implemented an incentive program—where coaches were awarded with gift cards, coach of the season awards, etc. for great coaching performance. While this isn’t the only answer, some people respond best to being recognized and rewarded and this can be done in conjunction with other motivational practices.
Streamline Your Operations with LeagueApps
Keeping your coaches on task and ensuring everyone involved in your organization is thriving is a full time job. Save time on back-end tasks—like registration, payments, reporting, and communication—by relying on LeagueApps to simplify operations so you can spend time doing what you love. Learn more about how!