Remember last spring, when you volunteered to coach your kid’s soccer team this fall?
Well, this fall is a few weeks away.
First, good on ya for volunteering. Athletic participation for kids ages 6 through 12 is down almost 8 percent over the last decade, according to the Washington Post. Citing a report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute, the Post reported that almost 45% of children ages 6 to 12 played a team sport regularly in 2008. Now only about 37% of children do.
Volunteer parent-coaches like you can help the next generation get a start toward an active, healthy lifestyle.
But with the fall season about to start, you’re wondering what can you, a marketing professional or small business owner, teach anyone about soccer?
A lot more than you might think. In fact, if you’ve ever managed a project or worked with a team at your job, you have plenty to offer.
Here are 5 project management tips that work as well on the soccer field as they do in the conference room.
1. Get to Know People as People
Figure out just who is on your team. Beyond matching names to faces.
In business: Yes, we ARE all special snowflakes. We all have a personality type, our own motives and things that bug us. At the office, we’re taught to recognize how we function, and how coworkers function, to find the effective ways to work together.
In coaching: The shorthand term (among older kids, anyway) is identifying each kid’s player personality. That hard-charging bundle of energy who hates the spotlight? Ask her to set up teammates for goals. The shy, demure child? He would probably enjoy playing some position other than goalie. The key here is to find ways to challenge and encourage each player effectively.
Example: Instead of insisting everyone use their right foot to start a dribbling drill, ask them to use their stronger foot. This puts lefties at the same level of comfort as the rest of the team, which creates a better learning environment. Then, to make the drill more challenging, ask them to use their weaker foot. Everyone shares in the difficulties and maybe even enjoy the challenge of improving.
2. Understand your Audience
Whom are you trying to reach and what are you trying communicate to them? What is their greatest need? Remember, your audience is not your client or your players’ parents. It’s your client’s audience and the players themselves.
In business: What are they trying to accomplish? How can your product or service help? What’s going on in the audience’s life that might distract them from your message, or from being receptive to your plan or objectives? Answers to these questions will determine your approach, right?
In coaching: Players of different ages have different needs. Sometimes you have to think like an 11-year-old to understand an 11-year-old.
Example: One wet game-day morning, a coach noticed his u-12 girls soccer team was oddly timid during warmups. They were anxious that they would slip in the wet grass and come up muddy. Gross, right? And embarrassing. The coach coaxed the girls to lie on their backs in the wet grass. Then everyone roll left. Everyone roll right. Now the whole team was wet and muddy (and giggling madly). Suddenly, they couldn’t care less about falling.
3. Have a Plan. And a Backup Plan.
Few things erode confidence in leadership quite like a lack of organization.
In business: The creative brief and the editorial calendar are your road maps. No one goes anywhere without them, right? (Or anywhere good, anyway.)
In coaching: The creative brief is your weekly practice plan. You can find piles of video clips, practice plan templates and guides online. There are two huge differences between your work plan and your practice plan, though. First, you should be prepared to eliminate whole sections of your plan. If your players are having a hard time understanding an early activity, it’s better to shelve the later ones for while.
Second, be prepared to toss your practice plan. Some days — like when there’s a full moon — you can forget trying to teach anything new. Roll out the balls and let them play.
4. Build in Extra Time
Set realistic timelines and give tasks the time they need to get done properly.
In business: For all our automation and templates, good creative work still takes time. To understand, to create, to revise (and revise…). So pad the timeline a bit. And if you generate quality work faster? Worst case, your client is pleasantly surprised to receive your deliverable earlier than expected.
In coaching: If you want to start at 5:30 pm, ask that kids arrive by 5:10. If you block out 20 minutes for a drill, give yourself an extra 5 for explanations. The simpler, the better. If things are running on time, then you have more time to run the drill, or more time to scrimmage, which is what they came to practice for anyway, right?
5. Keep an Even Keel
Networks crash. Vendors deliver late. People miss meetings. Managers set the tone for their coworkers.
In business. When adversity strikes, In-Charge Guy may feel better when he kicks a trash can across the room or screams a blue streak at someone on the phone. But that helps no one around him. In fact, it makes things worse. Heightened tension makes people rush or hesitate, causing more mistakes. And they can’t wait to get the away from In-Charge Guy, for the day, for the project, maybe even for good.
In coaching: Parents should be able to watch your behavior and not be able to tell the score. Getting worked up one way or the other does nothing to help the kids learn the game. Get upset and yell at the ref? Don’t be surprised if old No. 38 mouths off. Grump at a player for a mistake? Half the bench might not talk to her for the rest of the game. Or worse, tease her about it. You should be watching and encouraging when your players are on the sideline. When they’re on the field, let them figure things out.
Example: Some years ago, a team of 10-year-old boys played in a season-ending tournament. Chances are they can’t tell you the scores of any of the games, or who scored. But they can tell you that the who they played last that weekend. Because that team’s coach was thrown out of the game for berating the referee (who was a 15-year-old high school sophomore). If you’re going to lead, you should exhibit the behavior of someone worth following.
6. Love the Work (BONUS!)
As you may find with your creative work, coaching can be hard to give up. Once upon a time, my high-energy little girl wanted to play soccer, and the town club needed coaches.
Twelve years and thousands of hours on the practice field later, I turned in my clipboard after coaching boys’ and girls’ soccer or girls’ lacrosse.
Coach for a season or until your kids age-out. Know that the teams you coach may lose more than they win. But here’s the one thing about coaching youth sports that you won’t hear often enough.
For everything there is to teach, from technique to timing, the youth sports coach ultimately has one job: To make the game so much fun for their players that they can’t wait to come back and play next season.
Do that, and you’ll walk away a winner.
Greg Reid is a B2B content writer and recovering youth soccer and lacrosse coach who helps businesses educate their audiences and increase their sales. You can find his writing at ScribblingMadly.com.