Aug 24, 2021 • 5 min read
Skilled coaches are the backbone of many youth sports clubs. Without coaches, who would help players hone their skills, win games while also organize team rosters, schedules and communicate with parents? It’s no secret that coaches have a lot on their plates between managing their team(s), day-to-day life, and for those volunteer coaches, regular jobs. Given all they might be juggling on any given day, coach burnout is a very real thing.
So what can you do to get ahead of coach burnout, retain your coaches and create an environment your coaches and players thrive in?
This might seem like an obvious one but it is often overlooked. Your coaches work hard every day to ensure athletes are getting the most out of their practices and games. Beyond just coaching, there are also the administrative lifts that come with running a team. Whether your coaches are volunteers or paid, asking a person to spend their free time coaching youth athletes is no small commitment. Many coaches have full-time jobs, families, or other hobbies in their life so adding in a full team of kids or teenagers is kind of a big deal. Going out of your way to say thank you and acknowledge your coach’s hard work regularly can mean a lot to your coaches. Build a rapport with them, ask about their personal lives. Even a small gesture or gift as a token of appreciation can go a long way to making your coaches feel valued.
Learning is essential to growth in any profession or hobby. This is true in coaching especially, where new skills and coaching techniques are constantly evolving. Invest in your coach’s growth through continued education. There are lots of online courses, workshops, and in-person training your coaches can take that can help them uplevel their skills and grow professionally. Research has also consistently shown that kids who play for trained coaches have a better experience in their sports program:
According to Aspen Institute, one study found that only 5 percent of kids who played for trained coaches quit the sport the next year; the attrition rate was 26 percent otherwise (Barnett, Smoll & Smith, 1992). Of the 6.5 million youth coaches, fewer than 1 in 5 are trained in effective motivational techniques – how to communicate well with kids – and only 1 in 3 say they have been trained in sport skills or tactics (SGMA, 2012).
The bottom line? Investing in your coaches’ education and training is an investment in your players and overall member experience.
If there is something one of your coaches is particularly good at or passionate about, give them the space and freedom to run with that. Recognizing your coaches’ strengths is a great way to make them feel valued, but also keep them engaged as most people enjoy participating in things they enjoy or are good at. On the other end of the spectrum, if there are areas you feel a coach could improve on, give them room to grow there without fear of failure. Help them set goals for themselves and their teams. Continuously finding ways to keep your coaches involved drives engagement in your organization.
A great way to lose coaching talent at your club is to hold your coaches accountable to expectations or directions you haven’t shared with them. Share your club’s values, mission and long-term vision, and anything else they should. Make sure your coaches are well versed in exactly what you want them to achieve in their first 90 days and long term at your club. It’s not fair to expect coaches to stick around if you don’t provide them with all the tools they need to succeed in their role.
Open communication and clearly defined communication channels are just as important as clearly defined expectations. By creating an environment of trust and respect, your coaches will feel comfortable expressing their needs and make recommendations on improvements for the club. Similarly, club and league administrators should be well versed in providing constructive feedback to coaches if something isn’t working as hoped. Open communication channels foster an environment of growth and will in turn be a place your coaches want to stay.
Make sure your coaches also know what communication channels they have available to club admins, parents, and players. No coach will want to stay somewhere where they have to manage tons of email chains, multiple group texts, or communication tools. That’s sure to have your coaches running for the hills. Instead, use a single communication app designed specifically for clubs and leagues like yours. Look for one that lets you send messages to specific groups, such as just coaches. This cuts down on clutter and prevents important information from getting lost among not-so-important information.