Coaching Youth Sports – A lot more than I ever thought it would be

Posted by Mark Pilkenton

Like most people out there who have coached at the youth level, I did it because my kids were interested in playing a sport with their friends.  I remember being a kid myself and my dad being a part the of coaching staff of my first baseball team or the head coach of my basketball teams.  I loved the fact that he was there, so I definitely wanted to provide that same commitment to my own children.  Although I have helped to coach many sports, soccer was the sport in which I took a team the farthest.  Being a former colligate player I had a great passion and understanding for the sport, so when I saw an opportunity to develop a strong group of young ladies in the game, it was easy for me to go all in.

What started off as a thought of donating my time and talents turned into a decade long adventure that would teach me so many life lessons on managing people and building a team.  It’s an experience that I now draw from almost daily.  Whether it was the teaching of skills, creating a culture of competition with accountability, or tactical game preparation…I’ve realized many years later that these experiences play out in business sales environment all the time.

Patience – When we started the team we had a collection of superior athletes who were faster, stronger and more driven than others; but there was so much that needed to be taught in the way of skills and understanding of “how to play the game”.  It took years of repetition for these kids to master the skills needed and even longer to gain the mental understanding of how to play this very dynamic and free flowing sport.  Needless to say, I lost some hair through the process.

Persistence – In the early years our team was a middle of the pack team on the local level; within the first year we had reached the top division and felt good about our success in getting there.  We quickly learned that we would have to do more if we were going to win at this new level.  It took several years and by the time the girls were U13 we were in our first State Cup Final; 3 years later we final climbed the mountain and won our first of 4 State Titles.  The girls also competed in US National League where they all gained scholarship opportunities.  The fact that we didn’t win right away was a blessing.  Nothing ever came easy for this group, they had to earn everything.  I think we are supposed to have to fight for what we want.  When you are forced to work hard for something it means that much more, and you will ascend to a higher level because of the journey.

Do it the “Right Way”– Throughout the course of the team there was common message of doing everything with a purpose.  There needed to be a purpose behind warm-up, hydration, eating, sleeping, mental preparation, and the list goes on.  And we would do everything a certain way…We would walk on and off the field a certain way.  Most people know the “right way” and the wrong way.  People who choose the right way all the time have a big advantage.  Those who pay attention to the important details on a daily basis and make a habit out of being excellent will become winners.

Compete! Compete! Compete! – We incorporated competition into everything that we did.  People need to know that someone will win and someone will lose.  In fact, you learn so much more from losing, it pushes you to become something that you didn’t think you could be.  We all know that guys like Michael Jordan were cut from their teams while in high school, without the adversity he might not have had the drive to fly like he did.  Character is born from Adversity, and competitive situations will always have some adversity.  Competition will always push people to a higher level.  As soon as you can get comfortable being uncomfortable amazing things can happen.

TEAM –  This is the first word that these girls would hear before any practice or game and the last word they would hear before they got in their cars to go home.  It’s all about the team.  Together you can achieve so much more; and the culture of “Team” is definitely what carried us to all of our achievements.  In this mentality, all are accountable.  And together we will win!

In any sales organization, these pillars stand tall: Patience, Persistence, Competition, Team.  I had no idea that my experience with building a club soccer team would show the roadmap to building a sales culture, but if you stop and think about it all the ingredients are the same.  Managing different personality with different skill sets while leading them to work together and achieve common goals is a difficult task.  However, if you can follow the pillars mentioned above success will be waiting for you.

So for all of you parents out there who jump in to coaching for whatever the reason you never know what you might get out of it.  Don’t be surprised if you go about it the right way that you will end up with an amazing experience.  And you keep your eyes open for the extra knowledge that you may pull from the team’s you coach…I know that I did.

Tony Grasso | CEO

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