The ABC’s of SBYD for Coaches


"Sports has the power to change the world." Nelson Mandela said it. And with great humility, I would like to modify it:

"Coaches change the world."

No single group of volunteers in this nation have more influence on more young people on a regular basis than their coaches. Next to parents, kids cite coaches as their greatest influences, role models, examples, and, at times, saviors.

Yet we do not train coaches. Can you imagine the impact we could have on the challenges facing the next generation of Americans IF WE DID?

On the last blog, I shared the ABCs of effective sports-based youth development (SBYD) programs. On this blog I'd like to share the ABCs of good SBYD coaching. And heads up--they have nothing to do with sports:

A. Focus on Relationship Building. A team can win a game, support each other in school, even transform a community. But they can't do anything of these things without first becoming a team. A coach needs to be trained on how to create bonds with players and among players. These bonds need to transcend ages, skill levels, backgrounds, sizes, abilities and gender. They need to ensure that everyone feels included and that everyone is respected. They need to encourage risk taking as well as praise. They need to affirm belonging.

B. Determine the Endgame. A coach has the power to drive the team to victory, but only after (s)he determines what victory means for the team in their community. In a community with high rates of violence, the endgame might be that the team supports each other to say no to gangs. In a community with high drop out rates, it might mean supporting one another to stay in school. In a community with high rates of teenage substance abuse, it might mean supporting each other to stay clean and sober.

If coaches determine the endgame, they can design practices where activities and conversations address these issues, to generate codes of conduct among players, and to encourage success. The results will even contribute to a winning season.

C. Have a Plan or Plan(s). A coach cannot accomplish A and B without C! They need to know how to plan practices so they maximize the participation and worth of each player. They also need to plan practices to achieve their endgame. They should consider each component of the practice from the team check-in at the beginning, to the warm up, to the drills, scrimmages, and even the cooling down. Do each of these engage all players? Do they encourage relationship building? Do they inspire leadership? Do they maximize positive communication? Do they encourage risk taking? Do they relate back to the goals of life skills development? Do they reinforce life lessons? Do they encourage youth to affirm their commitment to avoid gangs, drugs, to stay in school?

D. Reflect. Practice shouldn't end when the whistle blows. Being a coach means being the role model for every kid in the team. Coaches should ask themselves, "How did I do?" Did they see the entire team participating? Did they see learning taking place? Do they need more training on how to better design a practice? Do they need more information for addressing a challenge that the team is facing (e.g., violence in their community)? Reflection should not only focus on the practice itself but on the wider community as well. When a coach learns of problems facing youth in the neighborhood (crime, emergencies, natural disasters) does (s)he consider how to address it at the next practice? How to make recovery from it part of the "endgame"? After all, if a coach doesn't address it, chances are no one will. And then each player on the team will lose one powerful ally in helping them navigate through childhood.

Through the Up2Us Center on Sports-Based Youth Development, we are leading a national effort to train coaches on the "ABC"'s, and the "D" of SBYD coaching. Thanks to the support of our funders, we will soon be announcing a second National Coach Training Institute that will be open to all coaches who want to make a greater difference in the lives of their players. We will also be conducting smaller trainings in cities across the country. For information, please email us at

Change the World. Like No Else Can. Coach...SBYD-style.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director