Championship Coach’s Advice to Parents: Look at the Child First
Steve Yang is a world champion coach. He and fellow coaches Rob Hales and Eric Dowling coached the Rowan Little League Girls’ Softball team to the world championship last summer at the finals in Portland, OR.
Yang’s dental office on Statesville Boulevard is decorated with congratulatory photos and messages, along with pictures of other kids’ teams that he has coached in the past 12 years.
This winning coach has a message for parents about kids’ sports: “Look at the child first. Sometimes, if you were in sports as a child, you want your children to be like you. It’s a crap shoot, 50/50,” whether that will work out. “Sometimes the child has no desire or no athletic ability and he gets into music or something else. Or your child may be athletically gifted and not ready to be pushed. Don’t push. No matter how talented your child is, if he does not have the desire, it’s not going to work.”
Yang has pushed in the past. He is the father of twins, John and Alex, who are seniors at Salisbury High School this year. They are athletes. Yang became a coach when the boys started youth sports at age 5. “When my boys were younger, I was very strong-willed and pushed to the extreme,” he says. “I have turned that around. I know that you need to look at what the kids want. It’s not all about winning.”
Although his family spends part of their weekends at gyms and ball fields, Yang says he and his wife are realistic parents. This is their family time. “We don’t expect our kids to win full scholarships or play sports professionally,” Yang says. “You only raise children once and this is what our children want to do. So we do it for them.”
He lists the importance of kids’ sports this way:
- Sports teach kids to make friends at a young age.
- They let kids be part of a team atmosphere.
- It’s good exercise and activity, rather than sitting home being inactive.
- The competition helps kids learn about winning and losing.
It’s all about involvement.
Today, with daughter Ellen on the Little League championship tea m and third grader Ashley also in sports, Yang’s philosophy is “if you take the fun out of it for the child, it is not going to work.” When the boys started high school, the family moved academics ahead of athletics for them. “We told them, ‘You will make a career out of what’s between your ears. Put that first.’ “
Even before high school, Yang says, there were times when school projects came first for the twins and weekend sports events were forfeited.
Organized youth sports is tough for parents and kids because it is so time consuming. In his 12 years of coaching, Yang says fall soccer turned into a year round sport. Club soccer for third- through eighth-graders became so demanding and it conflicted with baseball. The Yang family, with children included in the discussion, opted out. “We allowed our kids to help make the choices,” Yang says.
Parents and coaches sometimes encourage a child to stay with one s port, if he excels at it. Yang’s philosophy is: “If he is going to excel, he will excel, whether it is three months or six months. He may also excel at other things but never be given that chance,” he says.
He has also heard his share of angry spectators from the sidelines. “It can be frustrating to be yelled at,” he says. “If it is hear d, I try to pull the child aside and reenergize them.”
Yang calls the 2015 Girls’ Little League World Championship unbelievable. His message to the girls on his team would have been the same, win or lose: It’s all about the unity of the team, the friendships, and the bond of 1 3 girls and one magical summer. That will never be taken away. These memories will last a lifetime.