The author of “Run with the Bulls,” Dr. Tim Irwin, describes a leader as a “person of disproportionate influence.” It’s tough to imagine a better description of a volunteer youth coach. If you want to know what it feels like to be a major league baseball player, try coaching a five-year-old T-ball team! You have instant hero status. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a clerk, a stay at home parent or unemployed – you are THE COACH! You are a person of disproportionate influence, and I encourage you to be intentional about how you influence your kids.
I’ve coached youth sports for more than 10 seasons, including some sports that I never personally played. I’m the first to admit that I was nervous, self-conscious and sometimes overwhelmed by the thought of volunteering to coach. How can I coach baseball when I never played?
It didn’t take long for me to realize that with players at this wonderfully young age of 4-11 years old I wasn’t coaching baseball; I was coaching KIDS. It might sound like an obvious statement, but for me it represented a paradigm shift in how I approached every aspect of coaching from practices to games to parents.
Accepting the responsibility as a person with disproportionate influence, I focused on a single and consistent message: “Always Play for Each Other.” I made a commitment to teach my players to use their gifts and talents to intentionally lift up their teammates.
In other words, if a kid scores the winning goal, who did he do it for himself or the team? One may argue that he “just did it” without intending it to “be for” anyone, and that’s probably accurate. But, if they are taught that when they are cheering, scoring, laughing, running and playing for each other, that simple “play” can be turned into a positive and intentional act of kindness and love. WOW! Now, that’s coaching.
Sports are not all about winning and losing, and they offer more than just another way to have fun. I made the decision to go beyond the sport and to be intentional about teaching my players life and leadership lessons in a fun way.
Encouraged by family, friends and coaches to share these lessons, I created APIVEO (Always Play 4 (IV) Each Other) to ignite the passion in kids to intentionally develop a life-long commitment to helping others. God designed, equipped and commanded us to do this, which is why I am passionate about passing this concept along to other coaches. Igniting a kid’s passion to help others is inspiring and humbling.
The commitment I’ve made each season to my team is now one I make to every volunteer youth coach and parent who is interested. APIVEO will provide life and leadership lessons that can be easily shared with kids. The APIVEO website will include printable lessons and discussion scripts for practices as well as insightful contributions from coaches at all levels. We encourage and count on the contributions of our readers to enhance the content by commenting and sharing their experience, concerns and opinions.
There are an estimated 20-40 million kids participating annually in youth sports. These kids are coached by 2-4 million volunteers and parented by 20-80 million parents. Together we can leverage this simple message, “Always Play 4 Each Other,” into a movement that will teach kids that WHEN YOU’RE NOT FIRST…YOU ALWAYS WIN. Then, we will have a large positive impact on the world.