Larry Lauer, coaching director at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports (ISYS) and MSU kinesiology researcher, recently appeared on the Indiana-based Kids Count Radio Show. The program, which is produced by the Indiana Youth Institute, recruited Lauer to give an expert opinion about the important roles that coaches play in the lives of youth athletes — especially in underserved areas such as Detroit.
Research from ISYS states that under-served youth athletes gain more life-skill and character development when their coaches place greater emphasis on creating caring climates instead of focusing on competition. The two most important elements of coaching, Lauer said, are a combined effort to demonstrate that they care about the kids, and then help them improve individually on their own level.
“Meet the kids where they’re at,” Lauer advised. “Give them some sense of control over their situation, help them make good decisions, talk to them about things that are happening on the field and try to transfer it into their lives, whether it’s in school, family or social situations.”
Regarding youth athletes in under-served communities, Lauer believes that the population has not been studied enough, and therefore cannot obtain the proper resources needed.
“At Michigan State, we really feel a responsibility to reach out to those groups and really try find ways to help them,” he said.
Although Lauer acknowledged that coaches only get to spend an average of four to six hours with young athletes, he said they still have the potential to make a difference. Focusing on self-improvement, he said, is the key to life skill development.