By Ken Reed

What’s the point?” asks Steve Foster, the newly named pitching coach of the Colorado Rockies.

Foster’s question is in reference to youth sports. What’s the fundamental purpose of youth sports?

“What’s the point?” asks Foster again. “What’s the point of a young athlete playing a sport? What’s the point of a coach sacrificing his/her time to teach and equip young minds and bodies? What’s the point of parents paying money, traveling countless miles, and sitting in stands in all kinds of environments and weather?

“The heart of the child is the point.”

Foster believes the win-at-all-costs mindset results in an overemphasis on playing performance and winning in our youth sports leagues.

“In a culture that teaches winning is everything, that skill development is essential, and that only the strong survive, we lose many hearts along the way!,” writes Foster in an article on youth sports.

“I once heard it put like this: a coach can be a stepping-stone by encouraging or stumbling block to a young athlete’s heart. A coach can be a stepping-stone by encouraging, equipping and engaging each individual player as they develop this relationship. A coach can also be a stumbling block to a player by discouraging remarks, demanding fundamental disciplines at a young age, and by disengaging and showing favoritism.”

For Foster, coaching — especially at the youth level — is as much about relationship building as it is about sport knowledge and the ability to teach fundamental skills.

“A coach can mean well and have a vast amount of knowledge in the sport but if information is all it takes in teaching then a coach could just distribute a book and demand for all to read it! A relationship is built on trust. And trust is built in the arena of sport when an athlete sees and believes that the coach loves them more than they do the task.”

As a youth sports parent, Foster believes it’s more important than ever in this youth sports era to make sure you find the right coach for your child.

“In this age of select sports and private instruction many parents are faced with the choice of where to go and what to do with their young athletes. My encouragement to you as a parent is to make sure you know the coaches and instructors that you choose for your children to learn from. If a coach shouts praise along with instruction and criticism then you certainly want to consider sticking with this coach. If the same coach allows freedom of expression and does not make every player do it ‘the right way,’ then you certainly want to consider sticking with this coach.

“Be careful whom you choose to teach your son or daughter. You need someone who helps flame the passion in their heart to be their very best. A won/loss record of a youth coach does not tell our society much about that coach. The fundamental awareness and discipline of his/her players does not tell our society much about that coach. What tells our society much about a coach is whether he/she was a stepping-stone or stumbling block to a young athlete. We measure this by the relationship they have with their players when that player takes off the uniform and walks into the path of life.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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