First of all, congratulations! You’ve been selected to coach the team! Growing up playing sports, we all had plenty of coaches in so many different sports who influenced us — positively or negatively —- and who left lasting impressions on us.
Now, it’s your turn to leave your mark on a new generation of athletes. You may have a son or daughter on the team, or you may not. The team may be comprised of kids (and parents) you already know, or you may be dealing with a whole new group of players to whom you’ll have to prove yourself. This may be your first foray into coaching, or you may be a seasoned veteran.
One way or another, coaching a team is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. But it’s also one of the most challenging. As the coach in charge, you’ll have to make tough decisions and deal with a wide range of skill levels and personalities – and that’s just talking about the players. So whether you’re learning on the job or are just in need of a refresher after the offseason, here are six areas to execute on to kick your season off on the right foot.
Create realistic team goals
What do you want your team to accomplish during the upcoming season? That should depend on the age group and level of your team.
With older and more competitive leagues, the goal may solely be to win. In that case, you’ll want to set the expectation with your players (and parents) that playing time won’t be equal and lineups will be made based on merit.
At younger ages, you may simply be looking to develop your players’ playing skills. In that case, you’ll preach equal playing time, a commitment to improvement, and hard work.
A standard coaching practice would be to host a team meeting at the very beginning of the year with coaches, players, and parents all in attendance. This will be your first chance to address everyone, allow them to get to know you, and set those all-important team goals from the outset.
It will also be helpful later on. After all, if you’ve already communicated to your team that the only goal of the year is to have fun, then you can reinforce that ideology with that certain inevitably angry parent when they complain about their child’s playing time further on down the road.
Create playbook and practice plans
Whether you’ve set a competitive goal or not, it’s important that as a coach, you’re organized with how you’ll be directing your team throughout the year. Each player is on the team for a reason — be it fun, to learn the game, or to improve their athletic skills. And they’ve also probably paid a good sum of money for league fees, ice or field time, and other team expenses.
This means you need to make the most of every opportunity you get to spend with your team. Each practice should be carefully planned ahead of time (and even sent to your players in advance) so that nobody’s time is wasted.
Arrive early to set up necessary equipment and prep your assistant coaches with defined roles so you can run a smooth practice. For games, make sure everyone knows their positions, your game plan, and what’s expected from each player. Use the time before the season starts to practice your playbook with your team so they’re ready to hit the ground running.
Organize gear and equipment
It’s not as exciting as writing lineups or creating game plans, but this is something you need to get out of the way early. You don’t want to show up to your first games of the season without the proper uniforms or having to borrow baseball bats or basketballs from the other team. Make your orders or pickups from the league equipment centre or local sports store as early as you can.
Once you’ve made your final cuts and finalized your roster, invite your players to a uniform pick-up night. (And make sure to devise a fair system for choosing jersey numbers!) If you’re providing team shoes, helmets, or off-field swag, collect sizes as early as you can and get those orders in right away.
Planning some away games or tournaments this season? It’s best to be prepared and make sure that you’ve got everything organized beforehand, especially with all of the equipment that a football team requires to lug around. Additionally, being away from home typically translates into having to stay overnight elsewhere. Here’s your guide to booking a hotel for your sports team.
Compile a contact list
As mentioned earlier in this article, two of your most important tasks as a coach are setting expectations and communicating with your team. Start by collecting contact information for each of your players and/or parents, depending on the age group of your team.
Do you want to communicate with only your players, only the parents, or both? Do you want to send communications via email, by text message, or do you want to employ a team management platform like TeamSnap?
These are important considerations that you should lock in early on in the year. You may want to bring all options to your team meeting, and leave it up to a team vote. Once you have the ability to communicate with your team, it will be important to do so regularly. How often? Well…
Send weekly communications
How often should you be communicating with your team? Your players and parents will want to hear from you, but not so often that it gets overwhelming or annoying.
As long as the game and practice schedule is distributed well in advance, then we suggest a weekly communication plan so you can provide updates on things like team performance, upcoming tournaments or fundraising efforts, and team activities like a Christmas or end-of-year party. A predictable weekly email — say, every Sunday night — will help keep your team in the loop and avoid constant, repeated questions from many different parties.
Organize team transportation
Once your roster is finalized, the jerseys are doled out and the communications are in place, there’s one more thing to take care of that you may not have considered. Thankfully, it’s just about all we think about: transportation! Every sports team has to do a fair bit of travelling, whether to the local field for a practice or game, or to an away tournament for the weekend. Especially for those longer trips, you should consider chartering a bus to keep the whole team together. With a team bus, you can easily transport team equipment, avoid the stress of carpooling and directions, and build team camaraderie and create lifelong memories. Talk about a win-win-win! Be sure to get in contact with a Bus.com booking specialist so that when the question of transportation arises at your team meeting, you’ll be able to answer confidently.
And remember, if you’re travelling with minors, there are a few additional things to take care of before you hit the road. We’ve got all the details covered in this post. Now, it’s time to get out there and plan how you’re going to take home the gold!