Monday, November 28, 2011

Youth Sports: Coaching Lessons Taught By Toddlers?

I have a confession. I was a terrible coach for my first son. I was too competitive and uptight. Over time, I learned from my mistakes. I learned how to coach in a much more positive way. I learned from trainers. I learned from reading books and websites. But most importantly, I learned from the verbal and non verbal feedback I was getting from the kids. So when, Alan Stein approached me with an idea for a post "Coaching Lessons Taught By Toddlers", I was thrilled to include it on StatsDad.

Alan Stein is a social media influencer and the owner of Stronger Team. He is the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program, and a performance consultant for Nike Basketball. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players. 

More importantly, Alan Stein is a father of twin boys. And those two boys have made Alan a better coach. 

Alan Stein - Strength & Conditioning Coach
I am the proud father of 20 month old twin boys, Luke & Jack (aka The Born Backcourt).  Being a father has brought more joy than I could have ever imagined.  It has also made me a better coach.

How has being the father of toddlers made me a better coach?  Simple – my sons, as young as they are, embody several qualities necessary to being a successful coach – and they remind me of these things every day:

1.   Toddlers are Persistent: they never quit. Ever. When they want something… to be fed, to be changed, or to have a new toy… they do not stop until they get what they want.   And they are relentless when learning a new skill (like walking, holding utensils, etc.).  They spend hours and hours practicing until they master it.

      How persistent are you as a coach? How relentless are you in your own development?

2.   Toddlers are Communicators: they speak their minds freely. Granted, it’s in the form of crying, grunting, laughing, and Gibberish... but they do communicate. And they are attentive listeners.  When Mickey Mouse or the Wiggles are talking, trust me, they are listening!

How effective is your communication with your players? How about with your assistants?

3.   Toddlers are Enthusiastic: they have a passion for everything they do! When they are happy, they bounce around and their faces light up the room. When they aren’t, they flail their limbs and scream like wild hyenas. But they put their heart and soul into every aspect of their lives.

How much enthusiasm do you have for coaching? Do you raise the level of those around you?

4.   Toddlers crave Structure: they are on a schedule.  They go to sleep at the same time every night, get up at the same time every day, and eat (and nap) at routine times.  They are very consistent.

      Do you have a daily routine? Do your practices have structure or are they haphazard?

5.   Toddlers are Uninhibited: they don’t care about looking cool. In fact, they don’t even know what cool is. They will (literally) crap their pants and just keep on

      going.  They aren’t afraid to make mistakes.

Are you worried what others will think if you make a mistake? Do you intentionally leave your comfort zone?

6.   Toddlers are Creative: they think outside of the box.  They will spend an hour playing with a wooden spoon or an empty paper towel roll.  They make the most of what they have.

How much imagination do you put into your practices?

7.   Toddlers are Honest: they hold nothing back when telling you what they think.  They have no hidden agenda and they speak from their heart.  They don’t say things to hurt your feelings; they say them because they believe it to be true.

Do you honestly communicate to every player on your team and let them know their role as well as their strengths and weaknesses?

8.   Toddlers teach Patience: they aren’t necessarily patient, but as their father I have to be! If you’ve ever waited 45 minutes for your toddler to put on their shoes by themselves or ever played Ring Around the Rosie 271 times in a row… you know what I mean.

Are you patient with your team when things aren’t going well?

As a coach, if you are persistent, enthusiastic, creative, honest, patient, structured, uninhibited, and can effectively communicate… you will be successful… regardless of W’s and L’s.

Do YOU Have What it Takes to be a Champion? Watch this video:

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this outstanding blog.  Feel free to email me directly at with any questions, comments, or if I can be of service in any way.

Train hard. Train smart. Enjoy the journey.

Alan Stein


  1. Great blog post - very similar to some of the posts that I have tried to make on my blog at It is amazing the lessons that we learn from our children. Just goes to show you how lucky we are as parents.

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