Creating a Winning Environment for Youth Sports Teams

Boys soccer team lifting trophy.
©matimix via

As a coach, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to create winning teams. Sometimes I can’t help but feel that I fall short in putting my players in positions to succeed.

So what are the keys to creating a winning environment for your youth sports team?

The keys to creating a winning environment for your youth teams are: don’t overthink everything, offer plenty of encouragement, adapt your coaching style to individual players, make every practice count and create a fun environment.

With the right techniques and mindset, anyone can coach a winning team. Read on to understand how the best coaches create winning teams!

Live in the Moment, Not In Your Mind

One piece of advice for coaches that transcends sports – don’t try to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist and you shouldn’t expect it out of yourself or your players. Holding anyone to an impossible to reach standard will only lead to resentment and disappointment.

When faced with adversity we often go toward the worst-case scenario. Maybe you’re thinking that your players couldn’t hit the baseball last game because of your lack of coaching.

Or maybe a player gets down on himself for dropping the touchdown pass that would have won the big game.

In both these situations, you and your players shouldn’t become results-oriented and overthink these situations. We can’t let small sample sizes dictate how we go about living our lives.

You can do everything right in practice and things can go poorly in games. That’s life. The only thing you can do is go back to the practice field and work out the kinks.

As coaches, we shouldn’t fester on decisions that had poor outcomes. Maybe the play we called made a ton of sense but didn’t go our way. If that happens, it’s still a good call.

Any thoughts of “I should have done that…” or “I should have done this…” need to be dismissed right away.

Like I said previously, no one’s perfect. This means that we can get better every day. Getting better could be watching more film, taking more batting practice or asking peers for advice.

Set small achievable goals for yourself and your players. By achieving small milestones, you and your players can increase your confidence and get back into the right mindset.

Encouragement – Pass It On

Young girl and man holding tennis rackets on tennis court.
©g-stockstudio via

It always hurts to see coaches and parents that are incredibly tough on their kids. Kids are quite impressionable and look up to the adult figures in their lives. They take many things at face value.

That’s why coaches and parents need to offer positive reinforcement wherever possible. That doesn’t mean we should throw out generic “good jobs” at every opportunity. It means that we should tailor our comments for specific players and instances.

If Johnny did a good job keeping his eye on the ball during his last at-bat – tell him exactly that!

Encouragement like this lets players know that they’re on the right track to success and that they should keep doing what they’re doing.

You should also keep in mind that some kids may need more positive reinforcement than others. I’ve coached kids who were some of the best players in the league, yet would get down on themselves when they didn’t perform.

In these situations, it’s important to point out the things the players do right to help build their confidence. You can also use someone like Mike Trout as an example.

He’s the best player in Major League Baseball and only gets a hit 30 percent of the time. He doesn’t get down on himself. He heads back to the dugout and thinks about his next at-bat.

Another aspect of positive encouragement is that you can offer it when things go well or poorly. If your soccer player misses the big shot, let him know that at least he was in the right position and that he’ll make the next shot.

If we put ourselves and our players in enough of these positions to succeed, we’re going to achieve success.

Coach the Individual

If you’re coached long enough or at all for that matter, you’ve realized that all players don’t respond in the same way to your coaching. Some kids may thrive under an autocratic coaching style, where the coach is the primary person giving instruction.

Others may excel in a democratic coaching system where kids can voice their opinions and determine the best course of action as a group.

Lastly, kids may prefer a holistic approach that involves the building of relationships between themselves and the coach.

Regardless of your style of coaching, you need to realize that you can’t expect all your players to succeed if you’re not willing to tailor your coaching style to each player.

Some kids are fine with you pushing them and getting on their case when they do something wrong, and then there are kids that don’t respond to it well at all.

Switch up your communication methods and delivery based on each kid and make a note of which players understand directions right away and which need extra guidance.

All of your players have strengths and weaknesses. Try to recognize where players struggle in practices and games and take notes of those things.

Next practice try to incorporate some drills that aim to correct these shortcomings.

No one gets better magically overnight. Make sure that you’re players know this so they don’t feel like you’re picking on them. Along with practice, players could benefit from watching the mechanics of professional players.

This is a great method for visual learners. YouTube is great for this, as there are thousands and thousands of videos regarding sports tips and tricks.

Make Every Practice Count

Youth soccer goalie blocks ball in warmups.

You’re going to have a limited amount of time with your players each week. Make your time together count. This means heading into practice with an idea of what you want to work on and how you’re going to achieve that goal.

DO NOT make up practices as you go. If you’re unwilling to put in the time and effort with practice, your lackadaisical efforts will lead to poor results.

This is important to keep in mind because players primarily get better through repetitions. That means hitting them groundball, after groundball, after groundball or throwing them pitch, after pitch, aft…you get the idea.

Practice is a confidence booster. Players should work on skills that need work, so that they can perform better in games.

To make this a reality the coach needs to set the tone at practices. If practices are treated as a joke, the team will probably look like a joke. I’m not saying coaches should get into kids for not making plays at practice.

I’m saying that effort from you and your players at practice goes a long way toward achieving your team’s goals.

Please bring an open mind to your practices. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Maybe you have a kid who wants to dabble in a new position or a kid who has an idea they want to ask you about.

Make sure you’re a good listener and hear them out. Also, take a proactive approach and don’t wait for kids to come to you. You are the coach after all.

If you think a kid could excel at another position, throw them into that position at practice. You never know what may come of it.

Make Sure You Have Fun!

Safety is the most important aspect of coaching but having fun isn’t far behind. If you or your players aren’t having fun, you’re doing something wrong.

Let your passion shine through in everything that you do as a coach and your players are likely to follow your example. Smile, joke around, show that you’re a real person.

The practices that you conduct should serve as an escape for not only your players but yourself. Make practices stress-relievers and everyone will have more fun. Kids also have more fun when they’re buddies with their teammates.

The more fun kids have, the more wins you’ll produce. While winning is lots of fun, it isn’t everything. You can learn a lot, if not more, about yourself when you lose.

It seems silly but you should teach your players the benefits of losing. Losing builds adversity in players. It’s all about picking yourself up and trying again until you get it right.

We want our teams to win as much as possible but ultimately we want our players to grow as human beings. When it’s all said and done, it’s just a game.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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