LESSONS LEARNED AFTER 14 YEARS AS A YOUTH SPORTS FATHER, COACH, AND LEADER

Why am I writing a youth sports article on a real estate website?

First, I am passionate about youth sports, and one of the reasons I left my former VP-level Silicon Valley job for a full time real estate career is it allowed me flexibility to coach my children’s sports teams. Second, many of my real estate clients have young children starting youth sports, so I thought it helpful to summarize my learnings and observations over the last 14 years to share. In 2018, I wrote an overview of the mid-Peninsula sports scene that gets quite a lot of views through organic Google search results. ​​

My experiences with youth sports is rooted in having been an involved father to my college-age son and my high school daughter. During their childhood, I volunteered to head or assistant coach 20 different soccer and basketball teams, served on the board of our area’s largest non-profit youth basketball league, and experienced the rapidly growing world of “club” sports. I have seen the best of youth sports and the unheathy side of it too.

I am always excited when I am able to provide my real estate clients detailed hyper-local feedback on public/private schools, dog parks, athletic fields/facilities, restaurants, commute options, and the youth sports scene which all have ancillary effects on the real estate market.

PLAYING FOR LOCAL, VOLUNTEER CITY LEAGUES YIELDS INTANGIBLE BENEFITS

If my 7 year old child doesn’t join a competitive club team and commit year round, (s)he will fall behind others, and not have a shot at a college scholarship.

Love the AYSO Key 6 Philosophies

The current trend is joining a club team at a younger and younger age. Rationale is for kids to get an “experienced (non-parent)” coach for skill development, better competition, and more focus. Those are certainly viable benefits, but I believe parents and kids underestimate the intangible social/personal benefits to remaining in your local volunteer-based city leagues as long as possible before switching to a club.

  • Making friends within one’s community for both kids and adults from the local teams. 
  • Prior to my daughter playing AAU and HS basketball, she also played for a high level club soccer team. Her fondest elementary school sports memory? Eating oranges and the awesome banners from her U6/U8 AYSO soccer teams with the Blue Diamonds and Star Strikers. I believe all children should play AYSO as long as possible, and I’m pretty sure the kids athletic and committed enough to play college/HS will end up there regardless if they play AYSO or a club team at age 7.
  • More flexibility for children to play other sports and not have to commit to a year round single sport schedule.
  • Less expensive and time spent driving far distances to games. I recall a regular season club soccer game (single game, not a tournament) 4 hours drive away in Fresno…WTF?!

POSITIVE COACHING & SKILL DEVELOPMENT MORE IMPORTANT THAN WINNING

Those who knew me when I was younger may find that title amusing, as I used to be hyper-competitive with games of any kind. Do not choose a club team based on how many tournament trophies/medals they may post on social media. Winning trophies is only a small correlation to good coaching. 

Coach Royce focused on skill development, positive coaching, and work ethics
  • While all coaches want to win, the top coaches use practices for mostly skill development than on “set plays” and care more about the future than immediate wins and losses. Huge thank you to Coaches Anna Sterrett, Miranda Seto at Fever AAU girls basketball, my friend Coach Royce Nelson at Supreme Kourt AAU boys basketball who my kids played for and run fantastic programs.
  • I’ve observed opposing coaches scream at the top of their lungs at 11 year olds even when they had a 30 point lead in basketball or a 5-1 lead in soccer. They think they are motivating higher level performance, but they are only demoralizing kids. I believe in the Positive Coaching Alliance philosophies.
  • Unfortunately, I’ve seen terrific, strong players quit a sport because of just one bad coach; but I’ve also seen kids who were top club players change sports because they found a different sport “more fun” and motivational after experiencing a positive, development-oriented coach.
Incredible parent coaches Joe & Todd and group of girls who are top HS players in different sports now
  • Special shout out to the amazing parent volunteer coaches I had the privilege of coaching 2 or more seasons of a sport with and did so with passion and dedication – Peter Anderson, Steve O’Driscoll, Steve Scholl, Gary Chiang, Joe Haws, Todd Leyte-Vidal, and Tim Netane.

STEP UP AND VOLUNTEER COACH!

Are you fearful for being “unqualified” in that sport or lack of free time?

Every city youth sports league needs volunteer parents to help coach and other roles to run the league and teams. Every parent is busy. I ran the local National Jr. Basketball chapter for a few years and on the Board for many more, and I am proud of recruiting many committed volunteer parent coaches and Board members. I would encourage all parents to step up and volunteer for something in one league/sport/activity.

  • You don’t necessarily need to have played the sport growing up to be a good coach for elementary school age kids. Practice plans, skill development drills, coaching tips are plentiful on Youtube. Focus on fundamentals, few fun games, some concepts, a few strategy/plays, and a positive attitude.
  • Partner with a parent of one of your kid’s friend’s parents to coach with.
  • Ask parents on your team to help out with practices whenever they are able.
So blessed that these now college young men who I coached when they were in elementary/middle school participated in my 50th birthday basketball tournment w/my old guys basketball friends
  • To this day, I run into kids, now young adults who I coached when they were younger. When I hear “hi coach”, it totally makes my day that they remembered me.

Don’t Stress, It All Works Out in the End

As parents, we fear that even with planning for every circumstance, our kids don’t make the U11 all star team, their athletic goals in high school or some other disappointment.

Middle school undefeated championship team led by the awesome coach Tim. These players are now in high school with 5 playing basketball, 4 volleyball and a 1 soccer! #specialteam

Having coached many teams and following local high school athletics in my community, I know most of the boys and girls who were “all-star” level players in elementary/middle schools in baseball, soccer, basketball. Would it surprise you to know only a minority percentage of these all-star players became a varsity starter in high school at those sports? Here are some of the reasons: 

  • Kids playing a year round club sport simply burned out when they started specializing at young age, and they transitioned to a different sport.
  • Physically growing and maturing at different ages so those who grew taller and stronger at an earlier age may just be average size as a high schooler.
  • High schools with a lot of students draw from wider geography plus the 4 year age range so it is much more competitive to make a HS varsity team.
  • Of course, there were some who we could all tell would be a superstar in a particular sport realized their potential and it’s great fun watching them play now..

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am proud that both my kids love sports, believe in fitness, and made a lot of friends through their teams. I personally did some things right, but also made my share of mistakes too.

  • My now college son realized HS basketball may be tough at only 5′ tall in 8th grade. He picked up tennis “for fun” as a 7th grader and really enjoyed it while playing for coaches Holly and Margaret who were awesome and made the game fun.
  • He started training seriously starting 8th grade with one of the area’s top tennis coaches, John Hubbell at Bay Club. Some said he started too late for high level tennis. Through his hard work, good coaching, and playing USTA tournaments, he improved his game rapidly to become 4 year starter for his HS team and captain his senior year.
  • The irony is he is now 6′ feet tall having a great time playing pickup basketball, intramural volleyball and club tennis in college.
Daughter trying to defend my sister’s college best friend’s all-league daughter Bailey
  • My daughter is playing HS varsity basketball, and this upcoming season will be fun as she continues to shoot up in height while having a strong spring/summer AAU season playing for coaches of one of the top HS/AAU programs in Northern California.
My garage – 17 basketballs, 4 footballs, 7 soccer balls, 12 tennis rackets, 2 golf clubs, 2 gloves, 2 balls, 3 discs,1 ping pong table, 4 snorkels, 3 hockey sticks, 1 bat, 1 volleyball, 5 bikes, 1 soccer net, 1 blocking pad, 2 rollerblades, 2 scooters, 3 softballs, basket of tennis balls, and 1 boogie board
  • Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of the shelter-in-place during the pandemic is not having organized activities. We actually really enjoyed riding bikes, throwing the football around, hiking local trails, competing in silly games, and playing ping pong in the garage. Old school fun which I hope all of today’s kids will carry with them into adulthood.
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