Ready for a Teen Bench Party? - Being a great gameday coach Part 3 of 8

Published: Fri, 01/22/16

Yes!! You're one of the elite parents and coaches who is making winning the right way a habit!
Being a great gameday coach
Part 3 - Have the funnest bench in your league

Have you ever watched an NCAA basketball tournament game where all the players arms are hooked together and they are going nuts when their team makes great plays? Or even better - have you ever watched competitive girls' softball teams and the chants and cheers they do continuously throughout the game? Their is an energy that exudes from these teams that raises the whole teams' performance level, and it allows all the kids, whether they are playing or on the bench, to have fun and build memories that will last forever.

A study by Amanda Visek at George Washington University broke the reasons kids play sports into 81 'Fun factors' - and the #1 reason kids play sports - is to have fun.  Winning wasn't in the top 50. Yet if you go watch youth sporting events around the country today - how many of the kids on the bench look like they're having fun? Many coaches spend all of their attention on the 1/3 of their kids who are on the field and forget about the other 2/3 on the bench. This is a killer to team morale - I took a class with Jim Tressel the former Ohio State football coach- and he said:

'The best way to evaluate the comradery on a team is to ask the last guy on the bench how he likes being on the team.'

​So don't forget about the bench! Here are a couple of ideas to help you have the funnest bench in your league:

  1. You need to truly believe that every player on your team has an equally important role. It is then your job to make each individual feel like they are critically important to your team's success, even if it sometimes from the bench.
  2. I recently saw a youth basketball coach have the players on his bench repeat all instructions he gave to his team. So if he was switching to a 2-3 defense, the coach would yell '2-3', then he would turn to his bench and say '2-3' - and they would all yell '2-3.' It was a really effective way of keeping all of the kids on the bench engaged with the coach and engaged in the game.
  3. Offer rewards in practice for a non-starting player to get to start the next game. The player with the most rebounds in a drill, or the one who wins your sprints, or the one who wins any type of competition you introduce.  But make it a tangible competition so everyone knows that player earned it. Then start them - and even if you just play the player for a few minutes, you'd be surprised at how much that can mean to a player and that player's family. Mix up the criteria so players with all different skill levels have opportunities to earn that starting role.
Being on a team can be a life-changing experience where kids build friendships and memories that last a lifetime. Create a team environment where they can do just that.

Next week we'll look at a do this, not that list for gameday play books.
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Make winning the right way your habit starting today,
Craig Haworth is the founder of Winning Youth Coaching, a site dedicated to helping coaches and parents make youth sports an awesome experience for the youth and the parents.  He interviews coaches from around the world and posts them on his podcast, which currently has over 65 interviews and has been downloaded over 50,000 times. He writes a weekly note to coaches and parents. He is married to his high-school sweetheart and they share the blessing of 3 children and live in Franklin, TN. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @craighaworth1, or visit his website
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
- Frederick Douglass