Eugene Houchins on Coaching the Little Leagues
When he is not hard at work as the President of American Life Fund, Eugene Houchins is very much a family man. As a father who believes strongly in encouraging his kids’ pursuits, Houchins decided to take up coaching for the Little Leagues. In his years of coaching Little League Football, Houchins has learned how to instill sportsmanship and resilience in kids. For those in search of a rewarding extracurricular activity, he highly recommends getting involved in the community. From one coach to another, here are some things Houchins advises on:
Using Positive Reinforcement
Don’t refrain from giving your little league praises! Kids are much more receptive to constructive criticism when they’ve also been reinforced for doing good things. Players are especially impressionable when they are given praise for their character as opposed to being constantly assessed by their skill level. Being able to build on their confidence by acknowledging their hard work, and excellent teamwork, elevates their self-esteem, and in turn, motivates them to put their best foot forward.
Houchins uses several methods to show positive reinforcement — sometimes in a gesture, like a nod of a head, a pat on the back or a hi-five, and other times he gives his kids verbal praises, acknowledging a good execution on a strategy or commending them for treating their teammates with respect.
Keeping Things Simple
Kids require customized instruction in order to stay engaged. Keep in mind, mental and physical maturity can vary in kids — As a coach, it’s your job to reflect on what might be the most effective way to help them to understand based on observations.
Sometimes the best way to communicate is by keeping things simple. Most Little League coaches start with the fundamentals: find the ball, follow the ball and don’t stop until you hear the whistle. Once the kids have a grasp on this, you can ease into rules and the more technical side of the game. Some things you can do to minimize confusion, are the following:
- Give age-appropriate instructions
- Give them one at a time
- Keep explanations simple and to-the-point
- Give them time to process.
- Finally, ask them to repeat your instructions!
Communicating Expectations with the Parents
Understandably, parents are heavily involved with their kid’s Little League Team. Being able to clearly communicate expectations with parents as a coach is critical. To avoid disgruntled parents critiquing from the sidelines, you want to be firm about your intentions when it comes to the culture of the team.
It’s good to emphasize the overall objective; to help kids develop positive traits, and ultimately, have fun. You and the parents must work together to foster an environment where character building is encouraged and negativity is unwelcomed. Leave the door open for parents to feel free to give you feedback or suggestions, with the intent on working towards achieving the latter.
Giving kids a great sports experience can feel extremely rewarding. As a Little League coach, Eugene Houchins has spent countless hours coordinating line-ups, booking facilities, scheduling team meetings and practices, all in support of building up the community through youth sports. For Houchins, being able to have a positive impact on the team, including his children, is the greatest feeling in the world. For parents interested in taking up any extracurriculars, he highly recommends coaching!