Introduction:

Hello everyone and welcome to the first ever KidSport Alberta blog post! My name is Emily, and I am the practicum student that is currently working here. I will be posting the first few blogs, and then handing the reins off to future interns and other members of the KidSport team. 

Expect to see new blog posts come out every other Friday! If you have feedback or any topics that you would like me to talk about, please send me an email at student@kidsport.ab.ca

Now, onto the first ever blog post! Enjoy! 

My Top Three Coaching Moments:

When I was in my third year of competing in varsity sports, I was asked to help out as a volunteer coach for the track and field team that I was part of as a teenager. Of course, wanting to give back to the sport that gave me so much, I said yes. 

Almost three seasons later, I have learned a lot as an assistant coach for 15-20 young athletes, who range anywhere from 8-13 years old. There have been ups and downs, wins and losses, and lots of fun stories in between.

In today’s blog, I want to share with you my top 3 coaching moments as a youth track and field coach. Hopefully you can learn something from these, or at least smile at the heartwarming moments! At KidSport, we talk a lot about the life lessons learned from sport, but there are also lessons learned from coaching. In this post I’d like to share some lessons I have learned from coaching that have made me better as an individual.  

#3: Freezing Rain, Local Parks, and Picnic Benches

An experience that ranks as third from top is the day that I thought no kids would show up for practice. It was early November and we were still having practices outside in our local park.

Even though it was a snowy, rainy, and windy day, almost all of the athletes showed up for practice. We were all bundled up in our mittens, toques, scarves, and parkas! As the sideways rain-snow mix pelted against our faces, the kids carried on through the practice with no complaints.

The kids did their warm-up, and then did their stair workout (which consists of sprinting and jumping up a large amount of wooden steps in the river valley). Then, it was time for our end-of-practice strength workout. The only problem: the grass was way too slippery and wet because of the snow! 

So, we took advantage of the covered picnic tables, and used those for the strength workout. It was so fun to improvise as a coach: using the benches and tables as equipment. We had the kids doing box jumps on the benches, push-ups against the tables, and much more. On top of everything, the kids seemed to really enjoy it because it was such a change from their normal routines. 

This is definitely a top three coaching experience for me because I got to be creative and I got to see the kids persevere through bad weather conditions. We can often get caught up in the stakes of sport - winning can seem like the only thing that matters (even in youth sports!). Seeing everyone leave practice with a giant smile, in spite of their chilly fingers and toes, was a great reminder that sport should be fun, and that persevering through bad weather is easy when you’re having a blast with your teammates.

#2: Helping out with High Jump

For me, setting up the indoor high jump mat was probably the most frustrating process of a coach when I first started. This is because we have to set up the “bouncy-castle” style mat by ourselves. There are multiple valves, tubes, and cords that all need to be perfectly plugged in so that the mat can inflate.

It’s essential that each step of set-up be completed perfectly because, even in youth high jump, the bar can be set as high as 1.5 m - and athletes could seriously injure themselves by falling from that height onto an improperly inflated mat.

Almost every time we used the mat in my first year of coaching, something went wrong. We would set up everything, inflate the mat, and then come to realize that a portion was put on backwards, so we have to lift the heavy and awkward mat, and spin it around to get it in the right position. 

After we finally set up the mat, I was almost always overheated and feeling like I had completed a practice of my own!  Despite the frustration to set up the mat, high jump is one of the highlights for the kids at practice! 

Seeing how hard it is for me as a coach to set up the mat, many of the kids now help with the set-up and take-down of the mat without being asked. There was one time in particular where all of the kids worked together to help unclip each of the 20+ clips. Then, to deflate the mat, the kids jumped on the mat to squeeze all of the trapped air out. Then we all rolled the mat up together like a cinnamon bun. 

This is my second from top moment because it’s so uplifting to see the kids helping with the set-up and take-down in their own engaging way! They made a frustrating process turn into a fun and enjoyable one! And, now I know that I can rely on the kids for something that used to be so tough by myself!    

#1: Big Improvements 

My number one coaching moment isn’t a single story, but it does have what I think holds the most meaning and value to why I coach in the first place. 

My top moment has to be seeing all of the kids that I started coaching in my first season grow up and improve so greatly in just three years time! Many of the kids have moved on to older age categories that I don’t coach, but it makes me proud of them and myself to see them doing so well. As for the kids that I started coaching three years ago that are still in my group, it is so rewarding to see them taking on the leadership roles and learning the sport skills that they will hold onto and use for the rest of their lives. 

For the kids that move on to the older groups, it is always sad to see them go, but, at the same time, it gives me hope that they will get to have the positive experiences that I did as an athlete in track and field. I hope that one day they may get to the varsity-level like me (if that’s what they want), and maybe even give back to their sport by becoming a coach in the future!