Today, nearly every parent must leave their child in the custody and care of another adult during a good part of the workday. During after school hours, this adult is often a coach. Yet, coaches across the country receive very little training, if any at all, on how to work with children. They may know their sport, but do they know how to address teaching sports in the context of a teenager struggling in school, or a girl coping with self-image issues, or a child who's being bullied? Coaches should be equipped with basic tools to use sports to teach teamwork and leadership to every child during their practices. Without this kind of training, many of the life lessons that a coach can impart are lost. And, in some cases, this lack of training can result in coaches who are modeling the wrong behavior. The result: an increasing number of American children drop out of sports because they feel more encouraged by the flashing victory lights of their carefully designed video games than the yelling of their untrained coaches. And that needs to change.
I say we reverse this trend by requiring a minimum training in youth development for every coach in this country. All coaches should undergo basic coursework on child development--emotional, physical and social---and how to maximize the sports experience to impart life skills. This week, Up2Us completed its second National Coach Training Institute this year in New Orleans where coaches became certified in sports-based youth development. The Up2Us Center is conducting four national coach training institutes this year, including upcoming trainings in Boston and Los Angeles. Now just imagine if every one of the estimated 2-3 million coaches in this country, paid and volunteer, were required to attend such an institute or take courses online before taking the field?
Let’s stop imagining and start requiring. Up2Us is leading the nation in developing professional standards around sports-based youth development. We believe the future of youth sports is at stake. Only when we prove the potential of our coaches to contribute to the success of the next generation of Americans will we ensure that schools and communities stop slashing their sports budgets. And most importantly, by requiring this training in youth development, we send a reassuring message to all parents who drop their kids off at practice: the coach who will oversee your child for these next few hours has been trained to help your child succeed in life.