There are many benchmarks that can measure whether your season has been successful. An honest reflection on the season is the key to understanding your accomplishments and building on them. Whether you are the athlete, parent or coach, remind yourself that winning is important, but it is not the only way to define success.
Ask yourself what things you have learned during the season. Did you learn new skills on the field? Were you a good teammate? Hopefully you developed more confidence in your abilities and in doing your part for the team.
Were there times when you needed to show respect and good sportsmanship to the people around you? That is very difficult at times for athletes who are trained to be highly competitive. It is definitely a sign of success when you conduct yourself with pride and respect for officials and opposing teams, even under difficult circumstances.
Can you think of times where you faced challenges and you kept a positive attitude? That is also an important consideration for success. Most importantly for athletes, did you have fun practicing and playing with your teammates? If you enjoyed your season and gave your best effort, then you should definitely measure your season as successful.
The biggest question for parents is whether or not you did your very best in your role as the biggest fan for your athlete. Did you find ways to encourage and support your child whether they were winning or losing? Your job is to be a positive role model and cheer for your child, so ideally, you spent most of the season leading by example to your young athlete.
It can be extremely easy to lose sight of team dynamics and the bigger picture when you want so badly for your child to excel. Part of what parents have to do is nurture their athletes through the ups and downs of the season. The season’s grind takes a toll on everyone, so if you can honestly reflect on things and say you kept a positive tone with your athlete and helped them work through daily challenges, you did your part.
One of the most difficult things for parents is to stay away from the "blame game" with referees, coaches, leagues, other teams, etc. When things aren’t going well, we sometimes slip into that mentality, so if you were able to promote positive thinking and stay away from blaming others for the season’s challenges, it was absolutely a successful season.
Of course, coaches want to win, but some of the winningest programs don’t have healthy atmospheres for young athletes. As a coach, can you look back at the season and see that your team improved each week? Did you set practice and performance goals for your athletes? Did you achieve those goals? Improvement for young athletes is incremental, and often they take one step forward and two steps back as they learn the sport and the many skills required of them on the field. If you can see that your team worked together under your leadership every week to learn and improve, then your youth football season was successful.
Did you instill a sense of team pride in your athletes? Were you able to encourage them to learn and have fun without yelling or losing your temper? That is not always easy in youth sports, so hopefully you established a positive atmosphere for your athletes and provided an appropriate balance of learning and discipline. Coaches have a tremendous impact on their athletes’ confidence and mentality, and I’m continually impressed at the devotion of volunteer coaches to creating a great experience for their teams.
We often refer to an undefeated season as a "perfect season," but I’m going to tell you there is no such thing as a perfect season. Every season has its challenges for athletes, parents and coaches, and a huge part of sports is learning to overcome those challenges. The best thing we can do is assess how we contribute to the development of our kids and their love of the sport. If we are honest about our interactions, we can build on the strengths of this season and learn from any mistakes we made. Let your success story include the tales of many contributions to the team and making the season the best possible for athletes. Win or lose, your team will understand success.