Will they come back tomorrow?

The most important KPI for youth sport coaches

What do coaches really need to know to be successful, and can we package it into a course? So our curriculum for coaching is filled with physiology, motor learning, technical aspects of training, and, of course, specific sport skills. We hope that our courses help coaches meet the KPIs that their future employers set.

And those KPIs can be tough because they're not your typical list of coaching goals. Most often they're the result of specific circumstances. A new coach, for example, may be hired to pull a team up from the bottom of an avalanche of sport misery. How this is framed in KPI language could be quite interesting.

State, national, and professional level coaches have KPIs, you can bet on it. But youth sport coaches? Probably not. But there is one KPI in youth sport that is like the "one ring to rule them all' and that is, Do your athletes look forward to coming back tomorrow? Are they hooked on the sport? Do they enjoy what they are doing?

For any youth sport coach this is the most important KPI of all. It really doesn't matter how much technical knowledge a coach has or how good an athlete he was in his younger days. These things may be mild indicators of possible future success but unless that coach can get the athletes to practice sessions then he's not going to be very successful. Unless he can ignite an interest, indeed a passion for the sport in his athletes then he's not going to be very successful.

Getting kids hooked on sport is a skill that is almost impossible to teach and it's hard to pin down exactly what a coach does that stokes this passion. It's not a checklist of things to do or say. It's something we might label as a soft skill. But it's easy to create KPIs that measure this soft skill.

The two most important factors in a country's sport success are:

  • The number of athletes under training in a sport (more is better).
  • The length of time those athletes are participating in the sport.

While there may be many people who are responsible in some way for these two factors it's coaches who bear primary responsibility for them. The coach creates the environment for the young athletes. He or she makes it fun to be at practice and competitions. Coaches keep young players interested and looking forward to future challenges.

Eventually athletes develop their own internal motivation for training and learning and the responsibility for their success shifts from the coach to them. However, at the beginning the responsibility is all on the coach. The coach is 100% responsible for the environment he creates.

To put this in performance terms we only need one sentence:

Get as many athletes as you can into your program and keep them there as long as possible.

The way this is done is to make training and learning something youngsters look forward to, something they want to do again.

Coaches who are able to do this will be wildly successful. When athletes leave a training session looking forward to the next one it means that the coach is doing something right. He's doing a good job. This is the most important thing a youth coach does.