In the hit NBC series Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor was the quintessential coach-mentor: strict and moral, but fair and dedicated, a strong and level-headed mentor figure for his kids, many of whom lacked guidelines. Parents have probably longed for someone like Coach Taylor, someone who wasn’t just a coach, but a teacher, mentor and leader.
The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation partnership with Up2Us, the leading organization promoting and training coaches in sports-based youth development (SBYD), is advancing sports as a tool to address the critical social issues facing our youth. SBYD focuses on using sports as a solution to youth and community problems by providing coaches with the necessary training and support to coach kids not only in sports skill building, but also in character skill building. Coaches learn how to congratulate successes while encouraging constant growth, create safe spaces that teach emotional and physical safety, and foster the social support of a team.
Starting this year, all GrizzFIT coaches will be required to complete SBYD training through Up2Us. The coach’s role is to leverage sports to build strong and meaningful relationships with young people, helping to prepare them for success in college, career and life, and the training will further their commitment and development to mentor effectively. GrizzFIT promotes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle by encouraging people to make nutritious food choices, to exercise regularly and to have fun doing it. Within the GrizzFIT platform lies the TEAM UP Youth Sports Partnership, a coalition of community organizations that use sport as a catalyst for youth development. Fully embodying the coach’s changing role, partnership organizations Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM), Streets Ministries and Grizzlies Prep are a part of a dedicated force committed to making SBYD training mandatory for coaches.
“They (Up2Us) treat character and leadership and resilience and all the different components that go into life and personality as much a skill as they do the sport,” said Joel Katz, manager of the TEAM UP Youth Sports Partnership. “Winning is important, and the training will not say it isn’t, because it is. But it’s understanding how to win, it’s understanding what it takes to win, it’s getting kids to believe in the process.”
Katz sees the required training as a way to redefine the coach’s typical role, and his enthusiasm for the possibilities is infectious. GrizzFIT is deep in many communities, and the training is seen as a way to bridge youth sports and mentoring. Many times, recreational coaches are volunteers and don’t have any formal training or professional development. The SBYD training helps demonstrate how coaches can also be mentors, utilizing the special relationship between coaches and kids to reach past sports skills and into life skills. In a program like GrizzFIT, where many participants may not have access to positive role models, the training helps coaches fill a void.
Coaches often come out of training with a new energy and appreciation of coaching. By learning new coaching techniques that can be directly applied to their teams, they become more confident in their own abilities, a confidence that is then directed to the kids. Sports can be a catalyst for driving leadership development, and with SBYD training, coaches will understand how to draw out, expand and ultimately create future community leaders.
This piece was originally published on the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation blog on 1/29/15 under the title, The Coach's Changing Role: Using sports-based youth development as a vehicle for success.