by Coach Diane Boettcher
Having seen T-ball leagues where coaches are on the field during games coaching the players, I ask two questions. First, why don’t more parents play baseball (or soccer) with their kids at home? And where is the element of play in all that control?
A coach who wants to be on the field should step back and realize nobody in youth sport should be judging the coach’s effectiveness by what the players are doing on the field. Soccer coaches sit back and relax during the games for a reason- Soccer is not the kind of game where 90 minutes of perfect play is warranted. The ideas that youth sports are about play and that play involves both randomness and lack of control seem difficult for some to grasp. But, essential to being a coach is respecting the kids’ right to control their play while still enabling their success.
Only Woody Hayes would coach on the field.
Kids are on display during a game. The game is a theater, a site for an event. The event is the finished performance, despite the fact that it may not be the ultimate one. Without that display and performance, it would merely be a training session. While one could argue that youth sport games are all training opportunities, I would concur. And then games would be abolished in favor of activities with less display- perhaps even ones where coaches were on the field.
But, few kids would sign up for that kind of activity. Part of why they want to play organized soccer is to have the kind of games where they get to act in the same theater they see on television. Kids do not prefer the kinds of modifications and adaptations that differ from how their heroes play.
Further, adult involvement is a mixed bag as far as kids are concerned. It is both one of the reasons they play organized sports and that they discontinue playing. Performance anxiety is high for kids when adults merely observe. Increase that anxiety when adults comment and magnify it when adults control.
My prediction is that few kids would want to sign up for leagues with coaches on the field because it would not be the kind of game they want to play.
However, a mixed age league with adults and kids on the field might be fun and a great developmental opportunity for young players. Woody Hayes need not apply- only those who could restrain their play for the benefit of kids.
Diana Boettcher, Soccer Bon Vivant
Is a NSCAA Premier Diploma, USSF “C” licensed