Did you know, sports could triple the number of mentors in this country? That’s because coaches are the largest untapped source of mentoring in the nation. For one reason, many coaches still see themselves as just that, “coaches” and not as “mentors”. They view their primary goal as teaching their players athletic skills and strategies for winning their game; however, the better coaches embrace their role as mentors. They incorporate techniques for building positive team cultures, strong relationships among players, and life skills counseling into their practices and games.

It’s time that we demand this “mentoring” from all coaches. The results will not only be more successful athletes but better students as well.

Literature is increasingly pointing to the lack of character development education among youth as a contributing factor to school dropout rates, youth violence and other negative social behaviors. Coaches are in a unique position to fill the gap in character education. This is because coaches are uniquely able to engender trust among youth, even those youth who have learned not to readily trust adults and authority figures. Coach-mentors can use this trust to provide young people guidance and advice, tackling the difficult decisions of adolescence. Coach-mentors can make their practices an alternative “space”, outside of the school and the home, where young people feel more confident testing themselves mentally and physically without fear of judgment or failure. Coach-mentors help their teams develop values like leadership, teamwork, discipline, stick-to-itiveness, and resiliency. These values directly translate to success in the classroom and the community.

But this transition from “coach” to “mentor” will not happen naturally. It will take training to achieve the fullest potential of the estimated 2-3 million coaches in this country.   Up2Us Sports is beginning a national effort to provide this training and certify coaches in sports-based youth development (SBYD).

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SBYD is the merging of athletics and mentoring into an intentional methodology for fostering positive child development. As parents wake up to the examples of poor coaching and the negative impact it has on their sons and daughters, parents should demand SBYD training be integrated into all coach licensing. Schools should require that athletic directors and coaches be SBYD certified so that their coaching reinforces their overall drive for educational excellence.

One day, all coaches should be able to say, “I am a coach, and I am a mentor”. That will be the day several million more adults have joined the mentoring movement to ensure that all American youth have safe and successful pathways to adulthood.

Paul Caccamo
Founder & CEO
Up2Us Sports