What do I know about teaching basketball? I’ve never coached before, will these kids listen to me? Are the other coaches going to judge me? These were the thoughts running through my head as I prepared to volunteer for Little Dribblers last year. After the first day of Little Dribblers any anxiety or nervousness was long gone. I realized that the challenge and rewards of coaching would not lie in drawing up plays or going undefeated, but it would be in connecting with the different kids and creating a positive, inclusive, and high energy environment that would empower them to push themselves further.
After attending the Youth Coaching Summit I came away excited and energized to learn strategies and skills to take that approach to the next level. Some of the things were very simple and many coaches do some form of them without realizing it. Having the techniques that may be intuition or a gut feeling translated into actual concepts that can be repeatable and applied in different ways was eye opening. We broke down the “why” for all of the strategies.
The “whys’ I walked away with:
Celebrate!! High fives or words of encouragement go a long way. Try to be specific with what you are celebrating, “Solid jump stop Sara!”. We want to reinforce specific traits and behaviors we see from the kids so they know they did the right thing and their teammates have a specific example. Really encourage the kids to cheer each other on. This gets them to pay attention and stay engaged when waiting their turn.
Our goal is to remove as many barriers as possible for kids to participate with Little Dribblers. We want to make it accessible, inclusive, and something for all ability levels. For many kids, Little Dribblers may be their first experience playing any sport or receiving any coaching or instruction. It is so important that we as coaches use this opportunity to be a positive example and make it a fun and engaging experience.
Little Dribblers is only possible due to all of the volunteers. If you’re a potential first time volunteer like I was, don’t worry if you didn’t grow up playing organized sports or have any experience coaching. A passion for seeing kids learn, gain confidence, and have fun is all that is needed.
After Little Dribblers is over, none of the kids will remember that your jump shot looks as bad as Lonzo Ball’s, but they will remember that coach that connected with them and made them excited to get to the gym at 8:00 am on a Saturday!