Coaches in China Shops – What’s Your Role in Coaching Youth Sports?

Two years ago, I made the decision to get back into coaching. I didn’t come from a particularly decorated coaching career (if you can even call it that). A short three-year stint as a club coach in Southern California for a 16-3’s team and one season as the 4th assistant at Long Beach State (basically a practice dummy who hit a hundred balls at the end of practice against a live defense) in my twenties isn’t really a top-notch coaching pedigree. But, it was enough time to decide it wasn’t for me and I stepped away for almost twenty years.

But after a graduate degree in clinical psychology, a couple-three years in therapy, marriage, children and enough time in between to really miss the sport that gave me so much, I found myself dipping my toe into the proverbial coaching pool with clinics and guest appearances here and there. I finally jumped in with two feet and began coaching with a local high school team.

Since then, I have taken an intentional and consistent approach to defining my value and purpose for coaching and have seen an inside look at what our teenagers/high-schoolers are dealing with on a daily basis (even though I’m an off-campus coach, I still see and hear quite a bit).


Let me tell you. I was a competitive athlete. I like to win. I FEEL frustrated when my teams don’t win. I FEEL competitive and inferior when I don’t coach to my potential. I beat myself up and overthink losses (so, you don’t have to, thank you very much) and see where I can learn and adjust.

WHEN I feel these things, I have the same triggers that probably all coaches have – to work the kids harder, to yell louder, to run more lines, to require a bigger commitment, to change WHO I AM for the win.

But you know what? I AM AN ADULT. I know better. I know what these kids need isn’t another person requiring them to sign their life away to be a part of my team. I coach high school beach volleyball. In the current landscape most of my players are in season for either club indoor or club beach volleyball while they also play on their high school teams. They also have lots of homework, travel for their club sports, family and friend dynamics and everything else that teenagers deal with socially, mentally, emotionally and physically.

I CAN ask these kids to give me everything they are giving everybody else, but I CHOOSE not to. Now, this isn’t to say we don’t work hard in practice or that I don’t teach them everything I can about the game and about winning and about life. I spend hours a week planning practices, educating myself on a sport that is growing faster than I can keep up and researching ways to keep their bodies healthy through nutrition, strength, conditioning and recovery. I’m not a pushover and I know what it takes to be successful, but I’m not going to compromise my values or what I am about to win.

Sorry.

Not sorry.

At all.

When I decided to come back to coaching, I decided to come back as a resource. As a mentor. As someone who is flawed, makes mistakes, but cares deeply about these kids, their goal and what they want to accomplish through sports. I also care about my own process, what I put back into the sport and what kind of influence I want to be – though I don’t have control over what people think of me, I do have control over my ego.


My purpose as a coach is to help as many kids as possible achieve their goals through volleyball no matter how big or small.

You don’t have to do it this way, you can nitpick every point and yell after every loss and focus on talent – that’s your choice.

But in light of the way our teens are experiencing a culture of academic and social stress, I’m choosing to be part of the solution.

As adults, we can’t all demand the same standard out of the same kids everywhere they go. I mean, we can – but eventually the system doesn’t hold and it’s usually the kid that suffers. This doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover or be afraid to let your kids fail or be afraid to push them to experience new potential – it doesn’t mean you treat them like tea cups, but it does mean you don’t have to be a bull in a china shop to get results.

Here’s what I’ve learned: it’s amazing what you can still get from a kid when you show them you truly care about them instead of just value them for what they can help you do. Believe me, they know the difference.

How can you make a difference in the lives of the kids you influence? What mistakes and adjustments have you made and courses of action have you traveled to be the best resource for your teams? What are your values as a coach? How do you intentionally and consistently stick to these values among setbacks, losses and team dynamics? What do you learn about yourself after a frustrating loss?

Let’s know why we do what we do, especially at the youth level.


Priscilla Tallman is a freelance writer in Phoenix, AZ. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She has written for FloVolleyball, Volleyball Magazine, The Art of Coaching Volleyball, Sweat RX, Gorgo Fitness Magazine, CrossFit Fury, The CrossFit Games and OPEX Fitness. She is married with two children and currently coaches high school beach and indoor volleyball. Though she doesn’t LIKE TO YELL in practice, she typed in all caps for emphasis. She’s not yelling at you either. 


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: for more information on my ever-expanding philosophy on coaching, listen to Episode 50 of the Better Than Yesterday podcast with Jake Thompson.

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Categories: All The Rest

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