I was pretty fortunate in my life that I never had any really bad coaches. Sure, I had coaches that weren’t my favorite but I believe they all had my best interest at heart. Most kids aren’t so lucky. If you ask a kid about some of their least favorite coaches, a couple of names usually come to mind.
So, what are some bad coach characteristics?
Some bad coach characteristics are: they consider winning to be everything, play favorites, disrespect their players and take the fun out of the game. When practices and games resemble work more than fun, there could be an issue with the coaching. Keep an eye out for these signs.
Most coaches don’t want to wrong their players. Coaches should be given the benefit of the doubt before anything is brought to their attention or the attention of a league official. If they continue exhibiting these signs and the others I mention in this article, then respectfully addressing the situation could be in order.
One potential indicator of a bad coach is someone who prefers giving negative over positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement isn’t the end of the world but it’s more effective with older players who can take constructive criticism and apply it to themselves.
This type of reinforcement, however, is much less useful with youth players who take most things at face value. For the younger age groups, coaches should build players up instead of breaking them down.
They should highlight what players do correctly and build upon those positives. Be wary of bad coaches who are overly aggressive with young players. After safety, the priority of coaches should be to create an environment where players can excel and have fun.
Kids will continue to improve the more they play the sport. While coaches who employ negative reinforcement are trying to help their players improve, they’re also likely taking the fun out of the game for many of them.
That’s the last thing that you want coaches to do for younger players who are either playing the sport for the first time or simply to have fun.
Negative reinforcement may encourage some players to better themselves, but it’s more likely to have the opposite effect on youth athletes. With all of that said, coaches shouldn’t be afraid to help players improve their abilities by talking with them.
Coaches should do this calmly and avoid yelling at their players. Yelling in and of itself isn’t bad, but it shouldn’t be directed at players.
Coaches should utilize yelling so someone or the entire team can hear them, not to berate players. Berating others can make coaches appear less credible in the eyes of their players and lead to players getting down on themselves.
Winning is Everything
We’ve all come across the coach who has to win at any cost. These bad coaches play only the best players and don’t have any regard for how it affects others. This can mess with the psyche of younger kids and give off the impression that they’re not good enough to be on the team.
These kids will still receive time on the field, but it’ll likely be the minimum and in positions that see less action. Right field in Little League baseball comes to mind.
If coaches are only playing the best players in the games, it’s likely these players are also the focus during the practices. This means the kids who aren’t playing much in the games probably aren’t going to see as many reps in practice either.
Coaches who take this approach either don’t realize what they’re doing to these kids or they don’t care. They rather win by 20 then mix in players who don’t see as much playing time. I believe there’s more leeway for this in playoff games but less-skilled players shouldn’t be tossed completely aside.
Winning isn’t everything. For kids to reach their full potential, they should become accustomed to losing at a young age. Losing offers players and coaches a chance to improve upon themselves that winning doesn’t offer.
If you win a soccer game 5-0, there’s not going to be much room for improvement. But if you lose a game 4-2, there are without a doubt some things your team can work on.
A good coach embraces the opportunities that losing presents and their team becomes better as a result. A bad coach wants to win at all costs and will only play the best players to do so.
They Let Kids Argue
Another indicator of a bad coach is letting players bicker with one another. Teammates who are at each other’s throats lose focus of the task at hand and bring the rest of the team down with them.
Before you know it, an argument between two players has encompassed the whole team. It’s important coaches address these behaviors and the impacts they can have on the team right away. Bad coaches who let these things fester, are in a way encouraging the behavior.
Coaches don’t always need to address banter between teammates but should be able to decipher when players go too far with a joke or comment.
Not addressing these issues can negatively affect the team as a whole and take the fun out of the game. The best youth coaches create inviting and fun environments where kids of all shapes and sizes can come together to achieve a common goal.
One of the best things about youth sports is the fact that it brings kids together who may not have crossed paths otherwise. Coaches should embrace this dynamic and create a space where all players have an opportunity to thrive.
Coaches shouldn’t call players out in front of the rest of the team. While it doesn’t necessarily earn coaches the title of being a bad coach, coaches should try not to embarrass players in front of the rest of the team. Good coaches can get their points across by pulling players aside and talking to them in private.
The rest of the team will understand what’s going on and respect the coach for not making it a public matter. The more coaches show compassion and respect for their players, the more likely they’re to receive it. Watch out for coaches that like to belittle or humiliate their players.
I prefer taking a more relaxed approach to coaching as I believe it offers a better opportunity to bond with players and create fun and inviting environments.
With that said, coaches being too casual is a thing. When coaches start making it a routine to show up late for everything, forget necessary items at home needed for practice or don’t’ even schedule practices for that matter.
We should be thankful for all of those who volunteer to coach, but those who do volunteer need to realize the time commitment they’re agreeing to.
Coaching shouldn’t be something you volunteer for just to say you did it. In a sense, it should be treated as a part-time job. That’s because there are going to be 1 or 2 games a week as well as a practice or two.
Coaches need to realize the time commitment involved with coaching and have a general game plan for practices and games. Just winging it isn’t a viable option and could lead to others thinking of you as a bad coach.
They Make Promises
A bad coach makes promises they can’t keep. It doesn’t look good and it hurts their credibility with players. If a coach tells a player he’s going to start or play a certain position in the upcoming game, he needs to keep his word and utilize the player like he said he would.
Not doing so will lead to a disappointed player who’s likely going to think he did something wrong or that the coach’s word doesn’t account for much.
Try to think about it from the player’s perspective. They were looking forward to playing more or playing a certain position. To have that pulled away from them at the last moment can be tough.
From time-to-time, there might be a legitimate reason for coaches to make a last-minute audible but they should talk with the player(s) in question. Coaches should explain their decision and what they plan on doing to rectify the situation going forward.
All of this and more applies to club teams. Don’t believe everything a prospective club coach has to say. Promising playing time is one thing but promising that a player is going to earn a scholarship as a result of their coaching is a whole different ballgame.
If a player is going to earn a scholarship, they’re going to earn it in high school, not earlier in life.
Make Kids Specialize
If you ever come across a youth coach that requires players to only play the sport they’re coaching, run for the hills. With that line of thinking, It’s very unlikely they have the best interest of their players at heart.
Kids need to have the opportunity to play different sports so they can figure out for themselves which one(s) they prefer. This isn’t something they’re going to find out by watching YouTube videos or television, this is something they need to find out by playing different youth sports.
One thing coaches who want kids to specialize in a certain sport won’t mention is the increased chance of injury. By playing one sport full-time or year-round, certain body parts are going to be under high amounts of stress due to overuse.
This could be wearing out your arm as a pitcher in travel baseball or subjecting your body to punishment by playing football year-round. The chances that your players will be ahead of the competition in is more likely, but players and parents need to ask themselves if it’s worth it.
Kids who specialize in one sport in the form of travel teams are going to have less free time than their peers. Before kids enter high school, I believe kids should worry about being kids.
This will be the best period of their lives and should be cherished. And what’s the main reasoning behind only playing one sport? That you make it to the pros one day?
That’s a pretty big gamble. It’s also quite a commitment considering that many of the best professional players were multi-sport athletes growing up.
Not to mention that specializing in one sport can take a lot of fun out of the game and lead to burnout. These kids put a lot of pressure on themselves by playing only one sport.
When they don’t perform to their or someone else’s expectations, this pressure can boil over and lead to players no longer wanting to play the sport. A bad coach is one who is more concerned with his best interests than those of his players.
Drill Sergeant Mentality
An indicator of a bad coach is one with a drill sergeant mentality. These coaches are easy to recognize as they like to shout out orders and demand everything done their way.
Situations such as this put a lot of pressure on players and make them afraid to make mistakes. This is counterproductive though, as kids need to make mistakes to get better in any facet of life.
Working through the adversity that comes with losing a big game is what makes players better. Not winning a game by a million runs against a less-skilled team.
These types of bad coaches are less receptive to advice or constructive criticism than your average coach. The reasoning behind this is that they believe they already have all the answers.
This could manifest itself in the coach messing with player mechanics or giving poor instruction. After the season comes to an end, you may find that the coach did more harm than good.
Good coaches prepare kids the best they can for games but realize that they can’t help their players become perfect in all aspects of the game. This is the approach you should look for in coaches.
These coaches believe players should have fun and naturally get better throughout the season, while not holding players to impossible to reach standards.
Kids Play in the Same Position
For the younger kids, it’s important everyone gets a chance to try the positions they would like to play. Let players fulfill new roles and find out what resonates with them.
The only way to do this is through trial and error. If you stick Johnny behind the plate in baseball and he ends up hating it, at least he now knows that he doesn’t like playing catcher.
Any nagging feeling involved with not having the opportunity to play the position will vanish. Kids should have the opportunity to play all the positions in youth sports. While many coaches give players this opportunity, a bad coach may only play their best players, when development should be the main concern.
Players Go Home Unhappy
Lastly, you might have a bad coach on your hands if your child comes home in bad moods. It’s possible that they just had a rough practice or game, but if it starts to become a routine there’s likely something bigger at play.
Some answers could be that they don’t enjoy playing a particular sport, they aren’t performing well in the sport or they don’t enjoy the atmosphere of practices and games. If it’s the last of these options, you might have a bad coach on your hands.