For Jackie Bledsoe, Jr., success is coaching youth sports is not about whether you win the game.
My son’s flag football team is nearing the end of the season. We’re a below .500 team and it’s going to be a stretch for us to compete in for the Super Bowl Championship in a couple weeks. I typically help coach his teams, and I’m one of his team’s coaches.
Over the summer, another youth team I coached played in a couple basketball leagues and didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs in either. My son’s teams haven’t won a championship since the first baseball league tourney he played in a few years ago.
It’s been a long drought.
If I were a professional coach, my job might be at stake, because I’d be viewed as unsuccessful. But what makes a successful youth football or youth sports coach?
Measuring success for youth coaches
We are now about halfway through basketball season. We’ll have four more games, we’ll play in the playoffs, then it’ll end. We’ll then take a week off then start a new league for another eight weeks and playoffs. During the course of all that, we’ll find some standalone tourneys and play in them as well. By the time the winter comes, our team will have played a lot of games.
If we win them all or win a majority of them, will I be successful as a youth coach?
What if we lose them all or lose a majority, will I be unsuccessful?
My answer is “no” to both questions.
Being a successful youth coach doesn’t depend on your win-loss record or even how many of your players make it to the elite levels. Being a successful youth coach depends on three things:
1. Making youth sports about the kids. Youth sports is about the kids, not about you, the parents, the sponsors or anything else. You can be a successful youth coach, but first you have to make sure you are 100 percent about the kids.
2. Focusing on their overall development. Your job is to teach the game, but you are also a mentor, a teacher, even to some a father or mother figure. When you sign up to coach, you accept the responsibility that while those kids are with you, under your coaching, you are responsible for helping them to develop not only as athletes, but as people.
3. Creating an environment they can thrive in. As the coach, you are responsible for the environment. This includes attitude, making it safe to make mistakes, creating an environment where they can have fun and where they can learn the game that you’ve all signed up to play and coach.
My youth coach win-loss record may not be great, and during the past three years, our teams have only won one championship. But that doesn’t define my success.
No matter how many games or championships you win or lose, if the players you coach are the #1 priority, they develop in a healthy way, and they have the proper environment then you can hold your head high and feel like your job is well done.
What is one thing you’d add to the list of what it means to be a successful youth sports coach?
◊♦◊A version of this article originally appeared on USAFootball.com.