-Wayne Gretzky – Greatest Hockey Player of All Time
Millions of athletes of all ages exist throughout the world that are not naturally gifted in size, speed, and other athletic traits associated with becoming a high-level sport participant. These athletes develop their passion for training and improvement through intentional positive interactions with coaches. If the abilities of the coach do not create a culture of success during the “golden age of learning” (ages 7 through 12), how will the athlete develop an excitement for training and improvement? When the “best” coaches do not work with the athletes until they are of high school or college age, will the passion be developed by the athlete to put extra training time in at a young age to work towards the principle of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice needed to attain mastery?
Traditionally in the American youth sport model, the athletes within the golden age of learning have two types of volunteer coaches. The coach who has participated in the sport at a relatively high level but has limited knowledge of development and the coach who has limited experience with the sport but wants to be involved in the life of their child and friends.
Some young athletes have one of the Mom’s or Dad’s of a player on the team coach their group that has played or coached the sport at a relatively high level. This coach has the opportunity to introduce training activities associated with development but may not be able to design a detailed training program that uses realistic experiences and fun to equal improvement in play. Often times, coaches of children that played at high levels do not understand why the young athlete can not perform the skill because it came so easy to them. The learning process is lost and frustration is felt from the athlete and the coach.
Other young athletes in this age group have a coach with limited knowledge but volunteers to be involved or because nobody else wants to. Hopefully, this individual will perform the necessary research to learn what type of drills and activities to deliver. Gaining the knowledge of the activity is important but this person will not be able to create passion in the participant unless they understand the nuances involved with the exercises, appropriate communication, intentional positive interaction, and leadership skills necessary to make it all come together. These attributes develop over many years of gained coaching experience.
The passion and love of the game could be developed from a volunteer coach in the ideal situation. A higher percentage of passionate, focused players who will train outside of mandatory practice will be developed when the athletes are working with a professional coach throughout the “golden age of learning.”
Becoming a professional coach does not mean you simply played in college or as a professional and want to work with a youth sports team. It is a start for many of us including me but at that time in my life I was far from a coach who could guide youth soccer players to develop a passion for additional soccer training. As this coach grows through coaching courses, observation of experienced coaches, mentorship opportunities, reading, personal experiences and instructional coaching videos, they have the opportunity to become a coaching professional. This does not happen overnight but by continually working towards becoming an expert, the professional coach will be able to create a culture of success and development for the teams and individuals they work with.
Creating a financial possibility for this professional, experienced coach to work with children within the “golden age of learning” does not happen in many communities throughout the United States. These knowledgeable coaches often become college coaches, high school coaches, or work with the older teams at the youth club leaving volunteers or recent college graduates to train children between the ages of 7 and 12. This scenario creates a cycle of players that are 12 years old and will have to play catch-up in order to develop the appropriate skills outside of athleticism in order to be successful. Will they have the passion to put the extra hours in and train on their own to gain a greater level of skill? Most likely not unless they had a coach that developed a passion for development, success and improvement in their life.
If you child between the ages of 7 and 12 is in an environment where they have an experienced, knowledgeable, professional coach you are in the minority and should feel especially unique in the fact that you know the appropriate technical and tactical development is happening through realistic experiences and fun.
The ability for more communities and organizations throughout the United States to create financially appropriate opportunities for professional coaches to work with children between the ages of 7 and 12 will go a long way towards the development of passionate players that are willing to train extra hours on their own to reach their greatest potential. These young athletes could grow into successful expert athletes and professional coaches themselves. This is the cycle of development we want to promote!!!
Thanks for participating in the EducatedCoaches.com blog!!!