The Future of Coaching

I've been talking about the fact that coaching is much more than understanding how to draw X's and O's on a drawing board or teaching kids how to kick a ball for a long time. The future of coaching in general is so much more than teaching a sport. It's about developing the whole child. 

In this article, I'm going to share my experience as a coach from earlier this week. I spent the day with The Aspen Institute and several thought leaders in the youth sports industry. What I heard there was promising and offers hope for parents, players and coaches that we can have more for our children than we have previously imagined. I'm talking about wins beyond the scoreboard! Stay with me as I explore the "Calls for Coaches" report and presentation. 

The Gist

Two years ago, the Susan Crown Exchange commissioned The Aspen Institute to explore the role that sports can play in developing young people's social and emotional skills. In turn, the Aspen Institute's Sports and Society Program formed a partnership with the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development and brought in experts from the EASEL Lab the the Harvard Graduate School of Education and produced a white paper titled Coaching Social and Emotional Skills in Youth Sports (see below). 

About a week before they were scheduled to release this brief, I got an email from one of my soccer moms (who also happens to be a child psychologist and a member of my Character Committee), suggesting that i might want to go to The Future of Coaching presentation. I registered immediately and showed up eager to hear what they had to say. They didn't disappoint. 

In a nutshell, they determined that it is possible for coaches to do the things we've been talking about on this show since it kicked off in 2017. I was thrilled to hear many of the same kinds of things reflected back as I sat in the audience. While I'm pretty sure none of these participants have ever listened to an episode of this show, they were up there on stage, backed by money and some Harvard intelligence, talking about exactly what you've been listening to on this show. 

They created a framework and even a simple checklist for those coaches wishing to put this into action. What a great sign of things to come, I thought. We're going to make a difference and we're going to make that difference in my lifetime!

Calls for Coaches

Listed below are the seven Calls for Coaches. I encourage you to download the documents and read them for yourself to get more details about each of these calls. 

  • Know Every Athlete's Story
  • Establish a Supportive Team Culture
  • Celebrate Effort
  • Focus on the Skills That Matter
  • Be a Role Model
  • Be Coachable
  • Join Forces

Can it get any better? 

Know Every Athletes Story

The first point about knowing every athlete's story is really about getting to know every player. Coaches need to recognize that every player is an individual and things going on in their life affect their performance both on and off the pitch. This is accomplished through simple things like saying hello to them as they come out to play, talking with players and their families, asking questions, and allowing time for players to share. Listening is key for coaches and parents should be looking for coaches that can do this. 

Establish a Supportive Team Culture

The second point about establishing a supportive team culture is about creative a safe and supportive environment. I've talked about this in so many episodes from Episode #2 Entertainment vs Development Culture,  Episode #5 Screwing Up and Managing Mistakes, #10 - How to be Intentional About Development, and then more specifically through the following character specific episodes:

Celebrate Effort

The third point about Celebrating Effort is something I want to explore more deeply in a future episode, but you'll find evidence of this thinking every time you hear me talking about Progress over Perfection. Perfection does not exist and we hold children to that ideal, we are setting them up for failure. If, on the other hand, we celebrate progress towards a goal, then our children can begin to feel successful. They will also understand that life is a work in progress. There is a correlation between work and outcomes and the work is something we celebrate!

Focus on the Skills that Matter

The fourth point about focusing on the Skills that Matter is also covered often here in the show, but take a look at the Calls for Coaches document for some specifics about encouraging parents and caregivers and using pre and post activity circles as opportunities for reflection. We're not talking about Kumbaya here. We're talking about practical ways to make some very real progress towards development. 

Be a Good Role Model

Being a good role model goes without saying. This common sense advice has been around the coaching world forever. 

Be Coachable

Be Coachable could use some attention. The future of coaching report advises coaches to "Seek opportunities for support, training, and professional development." I cover this in some detail in the episode about How to Be a Good Coach. Bottom line is: the kids are watching and coaching is a journey. We never know it all and we're always learning if we're open to it. Be open to it. Looks for coaches who are actively adding skills and training to their own between season activities. Coaches who are actively and deliberately growing are golden!

Join Forces

The last point about Joining Forces is something that I talk about in the episode on Making Community Connections, demonstrate in the interview episode on Making College Affordable, Fundraising for Your Organization, talk about in The Soccer Mom Uber, and tease out in the episode titled Cooperation Super Power. I definitely see more episodes coming out as I share some of the cool things you can do (and we're doing) with respect to partnerships in the community and helping to develop the whole child. 

The Presentation

The full presentation of The Future of Coaching: Calls for Coaches to Support Emotional and Social Skills is posted here in its entirety. Documents are below for your easy download, and as always, I welcome input from The Soccer Sidelines community on Facebook, Twitter, or on our Web site in the Connect tab or below each episode. 

Our New Sponsor!

I am pleased to announce that The Soccer Sidelines has a new Sponsor. The Maryland State Youth Soccer Association has been listening in on my show. They contacted me to see if they could help promote the message that I've been sharing on this show and I happily agreed. It is clear to me that the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association is actively exploring ways to promote the game and bring families closer together. I'm proud to be a part of that. 


  • “Future of Coaching: Calls for Coaches to Support Emotional and Social Skills.” The Aspen Institute,
  • “SCE.” SCE,
  • “EASEL Lab.” EASEL Lab,
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The Soccer Sidelines

Soccer Dad, Coach, and Club President who is devoted to developing kids and their families. With a diverse background in leadership in other settings, David is focused on empowering parents, players, and coaches to focus on the stuff that really matters in youth sports.