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How to Treat Volunteer Coaches

It's that time of year. Kids are about to get outside and start spring sports. If you're like me, you would pay thousands of dollars to get them out of the house running off some energy. But recreational sports don't cost that much and you know why? Because of a beautiful thing called volunteer coaches.

I've only coached one rather unsuccessful season of soccer, but my husband is the volunteer coach extraordinaire. If my kids have played it, he's coached it. He'd lead my daughter's dance class if he could pirouette. I love his willingness to serve our kids in this way. I have such fond memories of my dad coaching my soccer team and I know my kids will too.

I can say with certainty, volunteer coaching is no small task. There are nights when I'm heading to bed and Ryan's still up making up games to teach skills or responding to emails. Last season he had a boy with special needs on his team and he spent hours talking to people about how to make this the best experience for him and the rest of the team. Ryan's awesome, but his dedication to volunteer coaching isn't unique. And those coaches can get pretty burnt out after a while. There are a couple of things that can lead to some pretty significant burn out. You'd think it's having to explain off-sides to the kids for the hundredth time or dealing with field conditions. But if you polled a bunch of volunteer coaches, they'd say the hardest part is dealing with parents.

Sorry. But we're the problem in a lot of cases. We are causing our kids' volunteer coaches to feel burnt out sometimes to the point of them throwing in the towel at the end of the season. I believe there are a few things we as parents can do to make the volunteer gig easier for coaches:

1. Do your due-diligence before the question email.

Coaches spend a lot of time responding to email questions that have already been answered. It's fine to have questions, but before you hit send, do a quick email search of your coaches name and make sure an earlier email didn't already give the answer. Or make sure the emails aren't just going to your spouse. I've had that happen before.

2. Don't complain to other parents.

Nothing causes division like complaining about whoever's in charge. It's not good for the kids or the program. If you have a real problem, give it about 24 hours and then tell the person who needs to know. The 24 hour rule will help you see things more rationally so you can present your problem with facts and not just emotions. Don't go over the coach's head to complain if it's not necessary. Go straight to him or her and talk about your concerns. There may be a legit reason, or he or she may have just made a mistake.

3. Don't treat it as a their job.

Remember. These people are volunteering. If they were professional coaches, it would be much more expensive. Treat what they're doing as you'd treat something you do in your spare time. Have grace with them if they don't get back to you right away. Don't expect them to be experts on every aspect of the sport. Be patient with the things they are still learning.

4. If you really don't like what's going on, start helping.

It's easy to be a critic, but keep in mind, these were the people willing to step up. In the teams my husband has coached, the ones that were most successful were those where the parents got out of their chairs and helped run drills or kept time during scrimmages. Times when he's trying to reign in 12 energetic kids while the parents are sitting on the sidelines looking at their phones haven't been so successful.

5. Thank them.

Thank them often. Point out things they're doing well. Thank their spouses. At the end of the season, grab a gift card so they can go to dinner as a family. As a coaches wife, I never forget the families who appreciate all my husband is doing for the kids and let's be honest, everyone likes a free dinner.

Volunteer coaches do what they do because they love working with kids or because they love the sport and want to pass that love onto others. But we have a responsibility to partner with them to make it a good experience. Our kids are always watching us. So, let's lead the charge in honoring our volunteers. We want them coming back next year.



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