The role of a coach in youth sports is extremely complex, particularly as the children are still very much developing, both physically and personally. On the one hand, this requires a profound knowledge of human physiology, especially of children during their development. Further, children of the same age vary in their developmental status, which also may require additional consideration. Aside from physiological awareness, there is also a requirement for high pedagogical competence, as the coaches are also responsible – at least to some extent – for the children’s development of confidence, connection and character.
In an ideal scenario, the coach essentially creates situations and experiences for the children, from which they can grow upon and learn. However, we must acknowledge that in practice, participation in sports has led to deleterious physical and psychological consequences in children through authoritarian and abusive behavior, disrespectful treatment and mockery, overtraining and excessive physical demands, physical and emotional abuse, and/or serious and sustained sexual assault and abuse. While we firmly condemn the abuse of power to mistreat and abuse children, we believe in the potential positive impact organized sport can have on children‘s lives and emphasize the importance of the coach‘s role.
Sport and inclusion do not happen spontaneously, with its effects very much dependent on its implementation. The intentional inclusion of children from low-SES households therefore requires training of coaches, adaptation of existing processes, and investment of resources.