There is a lot to learn from coaching youth sports that can be applied to the corporate world. Youth sports is very prevalent and it’s teaching kids the wrong lessons much like what you see in the corporate world. In the workplace, we teach managers how to coach their employees and there is a parallel with coaching the youth in sports. For example, organizations have departments and teams that don’t always get along as with youth sports where you have parents not getting along with each other or the coaches. They often complain to the coach about their kids not playing as much as another.
In the workplace, we promote the 70/30 rule. This means that 70% of your time with your employees should be invested in the positive things such as positive reinforcement. If you focus on that 70%, you open the doors to the 30% where people have an opportunity to improve. In youth sports, a lot of the reinforcement that the children receive from their parents is more negative than positive. In addition, their parents haven’t coached them on how to be a good teammate. The parents just want to see them succeed even at the expense of the other players or even the team. The question for parents is whether they create and build a path for their child or do they help them create their own path.
From my experience with coaching youth, it is important to coach them to be good teammates. This is one of the biggest problems with youth sports today. There are the parents who go behind the scenes sometimes without the child knowing and arguing with the coach because their child isn’t getting enough playing time. The coach’s reasons for not getting playing time could mean they haven’t practiced enough or they haven’t shown any team support. When coaching them to be good teammates, it is important that they cheer on their team no matter what the circumstance is. This teaches the kids to be a good teammate and ultimately to be a good co-worker in the workplace and to think about something or someone other than themselves.
When coaching youth, many coaches tell the kids, for example, you have to hit the ball and when coaching employees, managers tell their sales reps that they have to hit their numbers. This means something different for each person and therefore they need coaching from their managers or in youth sports, from their coaches. The coaches and managers need to help guide them to help them make progress and move toward the end result. There are too many coaches that coach to win and too many parents that encourage this as well. In the corporate world, we teach the tiers of learning: knowledge, skill and behavior. This can be taught to the youth in sports as well. For example, you can teach kids how to shoot a basketball correctly (knowledge) and have them practice shooting (skill). Lastly, if the child shoots the ball correctly but misses all of them (behavior), you still encourage them to keep shooting. Confidence will come with time, but it won’t come if the coach tells him to quit missing shots or not to take that shot. This will leave a negative impression and the child will not want to shoot a basketball again if this is all they are hearing from the coach.
In the workplace, rarely do managers ask employees to come into their office to provide positive feedback or recognition for a job well done. Managers who take time to provide positive feedback to their employees and coaches who give positive reinforcement to the kids on their team help to condition their minds in the interest of working on getting better, making progress and ultimately leading to a positive end result. More times than not, managers don’t know how to give positive feedback and the employees don’t know if they are doing a good job or what they are doing well. Positive reinforcement and feedback with the use of positive adjectives can go a long way. This can be done with 30 second coaching as it is a short, specific and positive coaching method that encourages continued effort or progress.
Lastly, there is the issue of the "blame game" both in the corporate world and in youth sports. When sales are up, the sales reps take all the credit by talking about themselves and telling you why they are successful. On the other hand, when sales are down, sales reps blame this on elements out of their control such as the bad economy or our products aren’t very good. This is also something that happens in youth sports today especially those with overbearing parents. The kids who are trying to live up to their parents expectations and don’t want to lose will blame their loss on other things such as the referees were bad or something else that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They don’t take responsibility for not playing very well and they don’t give the other team credit for playing better. This lesson of accountability should be taught to these kids when they are young as it will make it easier to accept when it comes up again in the future.
The life lessons, positive work habits and behaviors that are taught in youth sports can be applied to the employees in the corporate workplace. If coaches would think about the impact that they are making on the child when they are coaching them, then you will see better coaching in youth sports. If the managers would take the time to coach their employees, then you will see more motivated and productive employees.
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