The Importance Of Youth Sports Volunteer Coaching

Some years ago, a friend of mine ran a club in another part of the state and also hosted a podcast about youth soccer called “The Soccer Sidelines”. It was a great show. He often made some remarkable observations on the game, and on topics that impacted youth recreational soccer specifically. It’s rare that this happens.

One topic hits home. It applies to every single recreational or development level youth soccer without any exception I am aware of. The role of volunteerism and parent coaching is hugely important, and often overlooked or ignored.

The truth is that volunteer parent coaches are a necessity and a resource that’s commonly undervalued. Parent coaches are a resource that form the basis of the beginnings of ALL SOCCER. Almost every single Pro player, college player, high school player or anywhere else started on the field as a 3 or 4 or 5 year old with their parent or a friend’s parent as the coach. With few exceptions, we all start here.

Recreational soccer sometimes gets a bad name. Here are some all too common thoughts.

Disorganized.      Ignored.      Cash cow for other programs.       Little effort.

Sure, sometimes, it can be like that. But for millions of kids, it’s a great experience put together by caring people who put work into it. It’s the start of an increasingly successful player pathway.

But it’s also more than that. Community soccer (community sports) is a better frame of reference for the activities that bring friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers together to do something for their community and most especially for the local kids the majority of whom are under 12 years old. It’s the children of the town, or region or village who gain because of the time generously given by people who volunteer for no other reason than they want to help and their help is needed.

Parent coaches are the visible part of that. Also they are the irreplaceable part. The truth is, kids would not be able to play without them. That’s a fact. We all know the stories of a parent or two stepping up because there was a team of 8 year olds ready to go but could not do anything without a coach. We’ve heard that joke before that the coach who volunteered was the one who didn’t realize everyone else had backed up leaving themselves upfront.

But it isn’t mostly like that, is it? Not really.  Thousands of times – in each state – year after year – the coaching experience for parent and players is incredibly positive.  Of course, the kids gain because they get to play. They get to participate and get everything positive that team sports brings them.

Fitness.    Teamwork.   Overcoming obstacles.   A work ethic.    A positive outlook.

But parents are not out of this loop. Think about it. A parent of any child has been gaining experience with kids since the day the kids were born. Parents have been coaches too.  Every day kids learn, try, fail, succeed, and stumble, and parents are guiding them through it the whole way. Parents are far more experts at a 7 year old than any college soccer coach can even probably remember, and might not even recognize a 7 year old if they bit him.

The only difference a parent has to deal with is the sport-specific part. It’s not hard, and it’s no longer 50 years ago in the 60’s or 70’s.  People have done this before, and there are resources to help a parent coach learn easily.

Take a moment to listen to this 5 minute episode of The Soccer Sidelines about Moms and Dads who coach.

The Soccer Sidelines: Episode 7

Want to feel even more positive?  Try a mini-lesson (20 minutes) on How to Coach Kids from that was put together by Nike, US Olympic Committee and Aspen Institute. It’s not timed, there’s no test, its free and it has resources for beginning and recently new coaches alike.

Did you ever play sports as a kid?  Soccer? Baseball? Basketball? Football?  Ever take swimming lessons? The coaches helping you were mostly all volunteers. Pay it forward to the young people who need someone just like you!

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