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Kids' League Coaches Learn More than Coaching with Purdue Extension

April 21, 2016

Organized sports are highly popular in America, where 75% of families have at least one adolescent family member participating, according to Merkel's 2013 study, "Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes."  While simply having fun often appears to be the emphasis, successful programs capitalize on a "balance between physical fitness, psychological well-being, and lifelong lessons for a healthy and active lifestyle."  According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Among volunteers in 2015, parents were more likely than those without children to primarily engage in activities often associated with children--including coaching, refereeing, or supervising sports teams; tutoring or teaching; and mentoring youth."  It makes sense that parents would volunteer to coach their children's ball teams, but it does not guarantee they have the expertise to understand children outside of their home, nor does being a parent coach guarantee an environment of positive reinforcement and psychological stability for youth.  Research shows that adult mentors, teachers, and coaches have impacts on adolescent development due to their influence.  

Purdue Extension partnered with Angola Kids' League, a local youth organization in which youth ages 5-15 play organized t-ball, softball, and baseball.  Angola Kids' League has 44 ball teams with approximately 70 adult volunteer coaches.  Purdue Extension reached out to see if youth development education was needed in effort to boost volunteer development and create a positive environment for local youth.  The Executive Director of the organization stated there was a need, and as a result, the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator and Health and Human Sciences Extension Educator offered a coaches' training to forty-six adult volunteers.  The volunteers worked through a series of hands-on activities related to positive youth and adult partnerships, ages and stages of positive youth development, youth burdens and stressors, motivational reinforcement, difficult situations, and youth retention rates.  In addition, coaches had the opportunity to review nutritional displays showing healthy and unhealthy post-game snacks and drinks.

100% of the evaluation respondents stated they gained an understanding of youth behaviors, characteristics, and/or perspectives as a result of the training.  When asked if they committed to being a positive influence to the young people on their team by way of words and actions, 100% of the respondents agreed.  98% said they gained a new perspective or attempt at dealing with difficult parents or difficult situations, and 100% of the respondents said they were willing to make healthy snack/drink suggestions to the players' parents or care providers.  When asked what the number one take-away from the training was, one respondent said, "Kids' minds are busy and full.  The best way to get through to them is by speaking to them, having them speak back, having them practice the desired skill, and positive reinforcement."  Another said their number one take-away was "the perspective of how they (kids) learn best."  One individual stated they gained "a better understanding of a youth's perspective of adults and life."  A statement was made by one in which they said they took away the idea that they need to be the "positive influence on kids who might be in a negative situation with their home life."  One individual said they plan to "modify [their] techniques to better facilitate learning for the kids."  Comments about the training included things such as, "What we needed to start the season!; Incredibly good stuff!; Great refresher!; and Very foundational!"  As a result of the success of this training, a training has been scheduled with the Fremont Youth League, an organization with a similar mission and vision in the northern part of the county.

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