In recent years, the climate of youth sports has become increasingly hostile and competitive. Overzealous parents, convinced that their child is the second coming of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan, hurl expletives from the stands, attacking coaches, referees and players alike. Even young children face ever-increasing pressure to win at any cost.
Dr. Stephen Posner’s easily-digestible 54-page Coaching Leadership Handbook discusses the potential detrimental effects of such a culture.
As the title suggests, the handbook offers a concise and easy-to-understand method for coaches who want to instill a better set of values in their players. Offering insight and anecdotes gained from 25 years of coaching gymnastics at Springfield College, Posner’s method encourages the empowerment of young athletes by building self-confidence, setting goals, and developing character.
“Introductory coaches’ clinics often discuss sport techniques and strategies, but few discuss what we as coaches should be doing to develop kids,” said Posner. “I feel the material in my book should be incorporated in grass roots sports clinics in addition to the sport specific skills and technique training.”
Posner’s fundamental point is that coaches, players and parents should all focus on personal effort and improvement rather than the team’s win-loss record. He also explains that while talent will certainly help a young player succeed in youth sports, only the players who work hard will continue to succeed at higher levels, where they will be competing with other athletes of comparable or superior talent.
Appropriately, the book contains several inspiring stories, all from Posner’s personal experience as a coach, of gymnasts on his teams who were less talented than many of their teammates, but achieved a high level of success by working harder than the more talented individuals.
The book brings a number of new ideas to coaching as well as re-envisioning some of the oldest coaching strategies. Everyone knows that setting goals is important for player development, but Posner explains how to properly choose an effective goal. In his well-crafted way, Posner encourages coaches and players to form goals that focus on a specific skill, method and timeframe, and that are challenging but possible with hard work.
Each chapter of the book concludes with a set of discussion questions about the material presented in it. They might feel like a high school throwback at first, but these questions are actually one of the most useful aspects of the book, particularly for aspiring coaches, or coaches who are looking to improve. The questions ensure that you absorb the ideas in the book by asking you to repeat the key points, and they also help you figure how to implement the ideas in your own coaching by encouraging you to come up with your own examples appropriate to your team and sport.
The Coaching Leadership Handbook offers a concise and thoroughly-researched method of coaching that has seen proven success during Posner’s career at Springfield College. I would recommend this book to any youth sports coach who wants to improve coaching style. In addition, I would also suggest the book to young athletes, who can learn a great deal about how to make the most of their practice time, and to parents of young athletes, who can learn how to best encourage their children without burning them out or putting too much pressure on them.
Posner’s method is exactly what youth sports needs: a focus on players’ improvement as athletes and as people, and an emphasis on young athletes (brace yourself) actually having fun playing sports.
For a copy of the Coaching Leadership Handbook, please contact Stipes Publishing at (217) 356-8391, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Posner is also available to speak personally at lectures or workshops. He can be reached at (413) 748-3357 or e-mailed at email@example.com.
In addition, Posner and a panel of local sports celebrities/experts are scheduled to appear Sunday, September 28, at Holyoke’s Barnes & Noble, hosting a panel discussion of the tenets explained in the book. That event is slated to begin at 3 p.m., with Posner available to sign copies of the book afterwards.
Posner’s busy fall continues in October, when he and the Holyoke Parks and Recreation Department will host a coaching leadership workshop in the Holyoke High School Auditorium. For $25, participants can work alongside Posner and their peers to ensure that they are providing their players with positive experiences both on and off the field of play. To register for the workshop, which will run October 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., contact the Holyoke Rec. Department at (413) 322-5620.