Thursday, 31 December 2015

What can Coaches do when Kids don't Show up at Practice?

I have been coaching for a number of years and I've noticed over time that many coaches do little to nothing in response to kids not showing up to practice.  I scratch my head about this one, because if coaches don't care enough to call up kids and say 'what's going on? how come you weren't at practice today?' then who is going to say that.  Despite that, my experience is that almost all coaches don't reach out to kids who are not attending practice.

You have to understand, my other life is as an Assistant Principal at an elementary school.  In that setting, when a child doesn't show up, they get a phone call.  If it happens again, they get another phone call.  And if it happens enough, a meeting is arranged to bring together parent, child, and teacher to talk about strategies to get the child to school.  This type of follow up from the teacher or the school does a few very important things.  It says school is important, and its important to be at school.  Its so important that we (teacher and school) will work with you (parent and child) to find out what is going on, and to support the development of some strategies to get to school that deal with the issues that are standing in the way of the child getting to school.  Schools are in the business of student achievement.  Aren't ski clubs in the business of athletic achievement?

If children and youth are not at practice, they are not doing what they need to to achieve.  If ski clubs are really in the business (volunteer or otherwise) of helping children to learn to be great performers of skiing ability, then they need to take the job seriously and call up kids when they dont show up.  This action by the coach sends the message to the youth or child, that he/she is important, and that its important to show up.

There is so much constant chatter about attrition in competitive skiing in Alberta and probably elsewhere.  People shrugging their shoulders and saying 'thats what happens, kids drop out'.  From my perspective this is an unacceptable response to the real problem of kids dropping out of skiing.

Studies (Hattie, Visible Learning) show that the relationship between and teacher and students is one of the most significant influences on achievement.  I think is equally as relevant in youth cross country skiing.  If a coach doesn't bother to contact kids who don't show up, the message that gets sent is 'you're not important to me'.

Kids need to be important to coaches.  Every kid needs to be important, not just the one whose parent makes big financial donations, or not just the child who wins all the races.  But every single child.  Every single child deserves a coach that says through his or her actions and words 'you are important to me, it is important that you are at practice'.

I encourage to reflect on your own responses as a coach to the children who don't show up regularly.

We are having a stellar winter in Canmore.  I hope you are too.

Roy Strum
Canmore, AB

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