How Coaches Keep Students Engaged During Online Schooling - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

Even though youth sports have been brought to a halt because of COVID-19, coaches can still maintain their relationships with players and help them grow as individuals in the same way teachers are with online communication. The role of relationships in sports coaching changes with age levels, but from Pee-Wee football to the NFL, a positive and encouraging relationship with a given player will cause that individual to perform better on the field, and for many, that positive relationship can also help the athlete divert from poor choices off the field.

At the high school level, many coaches are also teachers, and a good percentage used their "teacher hats" to hone the leadership needed to perform successfully as a coach. Ultimately, coaching is educating, and it's not rare to find a coaching staff with a stockpile of educational degrees, and the skills learned from a postgraduate program like a masters in education policy transfer wonderfully to the fields, courts, tracks, and pools of the world. With the coronavirus, however, the lessons from those arenas can't be taught in person, so here are some tips for coaches to continue helping their players who are stuck at home and doing their schooling online.

Cover All Your Bases

If you want to reach one of your players to check in to make sure everything is all right, but aren't having success with email, branch out and use other services. Social media accounts are aplenty, and sending a message via Facebook or Instagram (or one of 40 others) will almost certainly reach them more quickly than an email. Ultimately, setting up some kind of teleconference via Zoom or Google Hangout really adds to the one-on-one effect, but some form of initial contact is obviously needed first.

If you want to reach the whole team, explanatory screencasts are pretty much PowerPoints that you can show to an audience that is spread across a town or state, and they are generally well-received by youngsters.

Pitch Some New Material

Even though face-to-face education isn't happening at present, there are countless educational videos from any sport you can imagine online, and sharing some relevant ones with your team can help them hone their skills at home, if, indeed they choose to do so. To get even more engagement, try making an instructional video of your own and posting it to YouTube. Kids love seeing their coaches in awkward and unfamiliar situations!

Be Available and Open

In addition to reaching out to students in need via multiple channels, also be sure your players can reach you in a variety of ways. Some kids are afraid to call or text because they feel intrusive. Letting them know you have an email, are willing to set up conferences, etc. will increase their chances of contacting you if they have any issues. Ensuring you actually check all of these things and provide timely feedback to your squad is important to making sure they stay engaged and on track.

Don't Change What's Most Important

Though the means of communication are drastically changing due to COVID-19, the role of the coach is ultimately the same. Be a role model, unify your players even if they can't be right next to each other, and encourage them as much as you can. So many student-athletes view their coaches as a secondary (or even primary) mother or father figures, and switching communication methods due to school closures should just be a bump in the road as far as continuing to be that positive influence in your players' lives.

Articles by Sarah Daren