As we navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, it is important to acknowledge the significant impact it has had on our youth's social and emotional growth. Our kids have spent the better part of two years learning how to adapt to remote learning, socially distanced interactions, and a general sense of uncertainty. As a result, it is important to approach coaching this generation of youth differently.
Let me share an example of my own struggle earlier this year while coaching my team. I used to encourage them to high-five each other before games, but I noticed that they were not as enthusiastic as before. It wasn't until I had a conversation with a podcast guest Coach K that I realized the reason behind it. She pointed out that for the last few years, kids have been discouraged from high-fiving or even touching each other due to concerns about spreading germs. It was a reminder that the pandemic has changed the way we interact with each other, and we need to adapt accordingly.
Another factor that has changed is the rise in social media usage. While social media has its benefits, it has also led to a focus on individual achievements rather than team success. Likes and followers are the new measures of success, which can lead to a lack of understanding about the importance of teamwork. As coaches, it is our responsibility to teach kids that success is not just about individual achievements but also about working together as a team.
So, how can we coach, teach, and lead youth after the pandemic? Here are a few pieces of advice:
Build Connection: Social and emotional connections are more important than ever before. As coaches, it's essential to foster a sense of community among team members. Encourage your team to get to know each other, and create opportunities for them to bond.
Focus on Teamwork: While individual skills are important, teamwork is critical to success. Encourage your players to communicate and work together, and highlight the importance of everyone playing their part.
Embrace Flexibility: The pandemic has taught us that things can change quickly. As coaches, we need to be flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances. This means being open to trying new things, adjusting schedules, and being prepared for unexpected situations.
Celebrate Small Wins: It's easy to focus on the end goal, but celebrating small wins along the way can be just as important. Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements, no matter how small they may seem.
Prioritize Mental Health: The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone's mental health, including our youth. As coaches, we need to be aware of the signs of mental health issues and provide resources and support for our players.
In conclusion, coaching this generation of youth requires a different approach due to the pandemic's impact on their social and emotional growth. By building connections, focusing on teamwork, embracing flexibility, celebrating small wins, and prioritizing mental health, we can help our youth develop into well-rounded individuals and successful team players. Let's work together to create a positive and supportive environment for our kids to thrive in.