Coaches in Youth Sports

  • Teens love their coaches—who are in a unique, powerful position to influence youth.  
  • Coaches, who truly care about their youth, can talk to youth about any behavior which is a concern. 

  • A coach is first and foremost a teacher.  It is their responsibility to not only improve their players' athletic skills, but also to help them become better people.  Teaching values is more important, will be remembered longer, and will have a greater impact for good, than games won. 


What Coaches Can Do
  • Be a good coach.   One coach can destroy a kid for a lifetime.  The most powerful mentors kids have are coaches.  Coaches don’t even realize the extent of their influence.  
  • Abuse of sports officials.  Urge lawmakers to make it a crime to assault a sports official, with that behavior resulting in a $3,000 fine and a year in jail—then, widely publicize this law.  
  • Teach kids not to cheat to win.  They will feel ashamed if they cheat.  Showing  a lack of integrity will destroy their reputation, as well as destroy the credibility of their sport.  
  • Teach kids to be open and honest about how they feel after a head injury.  Learn and teach kids about the danger of concussions.  More than 3.5 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States.  (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Brain Injury Association of Washington)
  • Coaches need to have a better philosophy…
“Today’s athletes are like our society’s warriors.  Athletes usually learn concepts which override common sense, such that, “If you are good enough, you…”  Instead, athletes should be learning that they can achieve their goals through hard work and competition; and mistakes are OK if they are giving their best; and win or lose, a good-will tunnel should be formed that says “We are proud of you.”  John Sagar, BYU Sports Psychologist
  • Lower Defensive Behavior.  BYU’s Coach LaVell Edwards said that he tried to create an atmosphere which lowers defensive behavior.  As a coach, he gives the following advice:
    • Truly care about each player personally.
    • Ask the team members about their family and grades, and what is happening off the field.
    • Don’t forget to give praise as well as criticism.
    • Keep the game in perspective.
    • Allow the players to make mistakes.
    • When a player is defensive, find out why— Are they embarrassed?  Do they not understand?  Do they lack self-image?
  • To help lower and deal with defensive behavior
    • Respect the individual
    • Give positive affirmation
    • Be patient when mistakes are made.  
  • Coaches and parents need to:
    • Encourage healthy participation, fitness, skills, social aspect, leadership abilities, development of self-esteem and confidence.
    • Focus on performance and fun, not winning.
    • Play all players—not just the best players and focusing on winning.
    • Allow all kids to participate, and include all kids.
  • The attention of most coaches in the last quarter/inning shifts to winning, which sends a message to kids.
  • Teach boys how to be men.  Learn about a man who is called the most important coach in America: 
What it means to be a man.  Former NFL star, Coach Joe Ehrmann, coaches winning high school football teams—based not on a tough-guy ideal, but on a different way of defining what manhood means.  Joe Ehrmann is a model for other coaches, redefining what it means to be a man.  

Joe believes that our society does a horrible job of teaching boys how to be men, and that virtually every problem we face can somehow be traced back to this failure.  He developed a program called Building Men for Others.   He tears down the standard criteria—athletic ability, sexual conquest and economic success—that are constantly held up in our culture as measurements of manhood, producing ‘false masculinity.’  

“The problem is that it sets men up for tremendous failures in our lives.  Because it gives us this concept that what we need to do as men is compare what we have and compete with others for what they have.  As a young boy, I’m going to compare my athletic ability to yours and compete for whatever attention that brings.  When I get older, I’m going to compare my girlfriend to yours and compete for whatever status I can acquire by being with the prettiest or the coolest or the best girl I can get.  Ultimately, as adults, we compare bank accounts and job titles, houses and cars, and we compete for the amount of security and power that those represent.  We compare, we compete.  That’s all we ever do.  It leaves most men feeling isolated and alone.  And it destroys any concept of community.”

Ehrmann offers a simple but powerful solution…which he calls “strategic masculinity,” based on only two things:  relationships and having a cause beyond yourself.  

“Masculinity, first and foremost, ought to be defined in terms of relationships.  It ought to be taught in terms of the capacity to love and to be loved.  It comes down to this:  What kind of coach or teammate are you?  What kind of son are you?  What kind of friend are you?  Success comes in terms of relationships.

“And then, all of us ought to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in our lives that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams, wants and desires.  At the end of our life, we ought to be able to look back over it from our deathbed and know that somehow the world is a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered, other-focused.”

Ehrmann stresses that it is all about living in a community.  It is about fostering relationships.  It is about learning the importance of serving others.  While coaches elsewhere scream endlessly about being tough, Ehrmann teaches concepts such as empathy, inclusion and integrity…accepting responsibility, leading, and courageously enacting justice on behalf of others.  

Again, Ehrmann teaches how to be a better man:

Recognize the “three lies of false masculinity.”  Athletic ability, sexual conquest, and economic success are not the best measurements of manhood.

Allow yourself to love and be loved.  Build and value relationships.

Accept responsibility, lead courageously, and enact justice on behalf of others.  Practice the concepts of empathy, inclusion and integrity.

Learn the importance of serving others.  Base your thoughts and actions on “What can I do for you?”

Develop a cause beyond yourself.  Try to leave the world a better place because you were here.

No boy is cut from this team based on athletic ability.  Winning is only a byproduct of everything else we do—and it’s certainly not the way we evaluate ourselves.  Coaches must always teach by building up instead of tearing down.  “Let us be mindful never to shame a boy, but to correct him in an uplifting and loving way.”  

View Coach Joe Ehrmann’s story at http://www.buildingmenandwomen.org,
or read a book about Joe Ehrmann, “Season of Life,” by Jeffrey Marx,
or download the Parade August 29, 2004 article “Why We Believe He is the Most Important Coach in America” at http://coachforamerica.com

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