Prospect Communication's Youth Sports Blog - "Taking You Beyond the Game!", features our own articles and commentaries that deal specifically with youth sports. Browse the site to read any articles that may be of interest to your sports organization. The articles are copyrighted to the authors (Michael Langlois & Mary-Louise Langlois) and they may not be reproduced without permission. To inquire about licensing the right to reproduce any of the site's content please contact us at inquiries@prospectcommunications.com

Prospect has a unique and specialized approach to communications skills and issues management geared towards those involved with youth and minor sports. Michael and Mary-Louise's work in this area is ideal for parents and coaches who want to make the most of children's involvement in sports.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You can’t play youth sports with a piano on your back!

Whenever I have the opportunity to conduct our seminar on how communication can help to build confidence and characters in young athletes, one of the things I stress to the youth coaches on hand is this:  a kid can’t play youth sports with a piano on their back.
I try to reinforce that message—and others—in a recent podcast hosted by Craig Haworth, from “Winning Youth Coach".
Craig launched his program earlier this summer and has been able to attract outstanding coaches to discuss a wide range of topics to assist fellow coaches in preparing to work more effectively with young athletes. I was delighted to be invited to appear as a guest, to discuss my perspective as someone who has been a sometimes coach but more importantly as a longtime communications professional and sports parent for more than 25 years.
Here’s a link to Episode 18 of the Winning Youth Coach podcast: ‪winningyouthcoaching.com/wyc-018/ 
If you visit Craig’s web site, you’ll see a link to all the other episodes. I hope you enjoy the programs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Youth hockey coaches: you can inspire your players and help build confidence through better communication

We have written extensively over the years about a wide range of issues, from building organizational trust and credibility to how leaders can prepare to interact with the media in an engaging, thoughtful and credible manner.

One other area of significant interest for us remains the role of the coach in youth sports. 

The impact a youth coach has is enormous, and with this in mind, we have just released another in our series of eBooks on “Common Sense Communication” in youth sports.  Geared to youth hockey coaches, the book is entitled, You Can Be anInspirational Youth Hockey Coach!”.

The book provides a range of practical tips to assist coaches in recognizing some of the ways they can help build confidence and character in the players they work with. 

To be clear, this is not a book about “x’s” and “o’s”.  There are many great books available that offer hockey coaches that kind of information.

We hope to fill a gap in an area that we believe is crucial for coaches: communicating better with—and inspiring—young athletes.

The book is available on Amazon in Canada and Internationally as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Missing too many late bloomers in youth sports

In observing the youth sports culture over the past almost thirty years as a parent, it has been a relief in recent times to notice what I hope is a permanent shift in attitude.  There is at least a spoken commitment these days (we will have to wait and see if actions follow words) regarding the notion of developing young players for the long term.

That strikes me as a very good thing.

I raise this in part because it has been my experience over the years that, too often, youth sports coaches focused on building winning teams at the expense of helping all the players on their roster get better. This approach tended to include selecting and/or giving the most playing time to the biggest, fastest and oldest (those born early in the calendar year) kids and any youngsters who were really outstanding at the early competitive ages.

On the one hand this is understandable, I suppose.  Coaches naturally gravitate toward young athletes who stand out at those early ages (e.g. ages 9 through 14). They want to create a roster that will win games today if they are involved in competitive leagues.

That “win now” focus may create some short-term team success in terms of winning medals, but often at a much larger cost to kids who deserve better.

If coaches (and parents) step back and reflect, they will recognize that the vast majority of kids play sports for fun and to be with friends. Sure they like to compete, but most aren’t thinking (at least not seriously) of a professional career in athletics.

So what do most youngsters want, when it comes to their experience in youth sports?

They want to play, they want to have fun, and they want to improve their skills so they can enjoy the game even more and compete better.

If a coach is really doing his or her job, then they are also looking to build the skills of all their players.  Even the really good young players may suffer if a coach does not have the ability to really develop players to their potential, because the coach doesn’t help them improve their overall game.  Too often coaches with the “win now” mentality just focus on the things those gifted youngsters do well to help their team win today, when they could also be helping that youngster become an even better player.

And what about the other, supposedly less talented players?

Many young athletes develop later than others their age.  Physically or emotionally they may not “find their game” until they are older.  These youngsters often may be extremely coachable, have big hearts, work hard and do all the right things.  But maybe they may lack the technical skills, speed or size to compete at a high level when they are very young.

Over time, however, if their level of dedication remains high, they improve by leaps and bounds and become very good players.  By then, however, the system has often passed them by, and there is little or no chance to get noticed for opportunities to compete at the more elite levels.

Of course, really good players can sometimes find their way through that system later than others, thankfully.  But my concern is for those youngsters who may lack the confidence early on to continue on in their sport.  How many kids do we lose because they are deemed “not good enough” in various sports when they are only 12 or 13?

Hopefully the current focus on long-term player development in sports will have a carry-over effect that ensures youth coaches (and scouts for higher-level teams at the provincial/state and/or national levels) always keep an eye out for that player who may emerge later in life than some of the early obvious standouts.

Those coaches just have to know what to look for.

Sometimes the late-bloomer can win the race—if given a chance.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Confidence and young athletes

Maintaining confidence can be an elusive thing for the very best professional athletes.  So it’s no wonder that many young athletes need support when it comes to their own development in this area.
Even highly paid professional athletes go through times when their confidence is quite fragile.  A “goal scorer” who doesn't score for a few games, a baseball player who goes a few games without a hit and suddenly, they start questioning what they’re doing, even wondering if they’ve “lost it”. And these are the best of the best, proven over many years as absolutely outstanding in their field.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?”: our new eBook now available…

We’ve written here over the years about ways that youth coaches can better connect (or connect even better, in the case of those who already do a great job) with their players.

It’s always easy to give advice—much more difficult when you are the individual with the responsibility of working with, teaching and leading young people.  But because the task is indeed so important, almost everyone who cares about being their best can look in the mirror and find ways to do a better job of instructing, motivating and inspiring young athletes.

And it’s worth making the effort to do just that.

That is why we have developed, “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach? ”.  In this new eBook, we bring together a number of the original articles that we have developed over the years—articles that provide youth coaches with tips and ideas for building better relationships with their players. 

In the seminars that we conduct on building confidence and character in young players, I often remind coaches in the audience that, if nothing else, the one thing they must never do is to kill the love a young person has for their sport.

That’s a minimum.

And as important as that is, I think coaches can do a lot more than that.

If you’re interested in checking out “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?”, here is the link to the Amazon book preview page in Canada.

Acknowledging there is room for personal growth and improvement is a good start. So whether coaches are looking to be better when it comes to issues management, want to improve their overall communication skills or recognize that they simply want to connect better with youngsters, this book can be one more tool at their fingertips. (There are also a number of articles in the book geared toward parents that will assist them in navigating the youth sports experience and help them to help their own youngsters.)

Really good youth coaches are always looking to inspire their players to be their best on and off the field of play. We hope “Are You an Inspirational Youth Sports Coach?” will help you—and your players.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Finding the right youth sports coach for your child: 10 things to look for

Those of us who have been through the youth sports “system” over the years (close to 30 years as a sports “parent” in my case) know one thing: whether your child loves—or hates—the experience will have a lot to do with the coach.

There’s no question that we, as parents, also contribute significantly to either the joy or misery that our kids will experience in youth sports. That’s a subject that I’ve written about before as well.  But it’s important to keep in mind that how youth coaches behave around and interact with their players is something youngsters remember for a long, long time.

While most parents likely feel they have little option but to accept whatever coach (volunteer or paid) is put in charge of their youngster’s team by their local Club, I would suggest there are some things to think about before you commit fully to a particular youth sports program.

Here are some questions you may want to reflect on as you begin to observe the environment you are walking into:  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Five tips for youth sports parents before New Year’s resolutions are forgotten

A new year inevitably brings talk of personal “resolutions”—things that we want to do better or differently going forward.  Sometimes individuals are very good at staying with their new plan, but it can be a challenge not to fall off course.
We have written a lot here at our “Taking you Beyond the Game” site over the years about what we believe are important values to uphold when it comes to the world of youth sports.  Whether as a coach, parent, volunteer or Club administrator, there are certain principles that should matter.
From a parent’s perspective, here are five simple thoughts that might be worth trying to use as a guide throughout the coming year—especially when emotion gets in the way: