The Youth Coach: The Good and the Bad

Youth Coach
Daryl Austman

What separates a good youth coach from a bad one?

By Steven Callahan

Youth sports are supposed to be about kids having fun while also developing their athletic skills. Some coaches however don’t always realize that while winning is fun, you can’t push a child too hard without jeopardizing his or her love of the game.

What are some characteristics that separate a good youth coach from a bad youth coach?

A Good Youth Coach Emphasizes Playing the Right Way

A good coach wants his or her kids to win every game that they play. However, a quality coach will ensure that games are won by playing the right way and with respect for the referees and opponents. If a game is out of hand, a good coach will either play the backups or ask to shorten it so as to not embarrass the other team.

Bad Youth Coaches Treat Their Players Like Mini Adults

Poor youth coaches place an emphasis on winning above all else. This may mean that players are pushed harder in practice if they don’t play well, or that certain players will play entire games even if it isn’t safe for their developing bodies. They may also show little respect for opposing players or officials by yelling or swearing at them, despite being in the presence of impressionable children.

A Good Youth Coach Cares about Developing Life & Sports Skills

Only a handful of youth players will ever make it to the professional levels. Regardless, youth sports can benefit everyone who plays them. It teaches players how to be gracious in both victory and defeat, as well as how to work well as part of a team. These are skills that will come in handy throughout their lives—in school, college, and when they go professional either as an athlete or in another industry. Good coaches help their players develop as people as much as they develop as athletes, and that can have a bigger impact on their lives in the long term.

Kids tend to have short memories when it comes to their win-loss records—even the final score of the game that they just played. But they will remember how their coach helped them become a better skater, or let him or her play goalie as a reward for showing up to practice early.

A good coach understands this, and he or she works hard to provide a fun experience for the kids as much as they work hard to help the kids win.

Steve Callahan has been a hockey fanatic since lacing up his first pair of skates at the age of five. After getting banged up in a few too many men’s leagues, he hung up his skates. These days he stays involved in the game by coaching a youth team and blogging about all things hockey for a number of websites. is reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.


  1. I can’t disagree with you at all, Steve. Coaches, in all sports (hockey, figure skating, ringette, speed skating, etc.) all need to understand that kids are kids and not “mini-adults,” as you say. They need guidance, a certain level of discipline and direction, along with a LOT of patience, understanding, caring, and compassion. They need to see that their “sport” is fun first, then when they find the motivation/determination and self-drive they need within themselves, they need all the push and help and support that they can take to reach their goals (not the coaches or the parents).

    BTW: I hope that I am one of the “good” coaches (figure skating and hockey power skating) and that I show a good balance of discipline, care, and fun.

    Thanks for your good article and it was interesting to see my photo up there! 🙂

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