Return to Play: 5 Tips For Coaches

October 9, 2020


As a coach you are both a teacher and a role model. And through these roles, you are in a unique position to provide players, fellow staff/volunteers, and parents with information and support tailored to meet new expectations and requirements that apply to youth sports. 

And in speaking with over 600 coaches, our own research shows that many coaches are taking on these new responsibilities as they return to work. We learned that:

  • 74% of coaches reported their sports are back up and running in some capacity [Click to Tweet!]
  • 64% if this group are playing with modifications
  • And only 9% of them have returned to normal play with no modifications


If you’re among the group returning to play and modifying how things are done, here are five tips that might sound obvious – but are always helpful to hear.

1. Communicate!

There's no such thing as too much information when it comes to keeping parents in the loop. Communicating with players is more important than ever, so be sure to over-communicate and even repeat key information.

Of course, communication is valued by coaches as well. Our study found that out of the top five qualities coaches believe make successful athletes, two of them included communication. In order the qualities are...

  • Hard working: 59%
  • Can communicate with teammates effectively:  57%
  • Can to communicate effectively with coaches: 54%
  • Competitiveness: 46%
  • Focus: 45%

2. Adopt "non-essential touch" guidelines

While there are numerous operating considerations for return to play, most emphasize the importance of physical distancing. You and your players will have to consciously change old habits, from hand washing and sanitizing to replacing handshakes and high fives with elbow bumps to just-say-no to spitting. This might be the hardest part of returning to play, but winners always love a good challenge, right?


3. Model safe behavior

Encourage and educate safe, new habits such as:

  • Laying out the new rules in parent communications and team talks
  • Displaying posters that explain the importance of hand washing
  • Posting reminders in highly visible spaces

The most important of all, though, is how you conduct yourself. When you walk the walk, your team will follow in your footsteps. If you ignore the rules or take shortcuts, they’ll assume they can slide as well.


4. Make use of virtual work

While practicing or even playing games in-person is great, there is no reason to step away from the virtual tools that have served you so well over the past few months. Digital communication can augment the in-person work you’re able to do, helping you maintain maximum contact with the team as a whole but especially with individual players.


5. Limit shared resources or equipment

There's no better time than now to enforce BYOE (bring your own equipment). Sharing during this time can put kids at risk, Consider recruiting parents as volunteers to clean equipment between players to minimize potential virus spread.


Overall, it’s a work in progress.

We don’t have all the answers, and we’re all learning to operate in what has quickly become the new norm. As coach, you take the lead in helping players, their parents, and even the community as everyone gears up for a winning season. We are, as we say, all in this together.



Subscribe to the Squad Blog

Join our squad in getting weekly updates on the most helpful content for your youth teams, sports clubs, students, and more.