WYC 048 – Youth Sports – Rich Clayton talks eliminating the pressure of mistakes

What does it take to be a winning youth coach? Listen in as Rich Clayton shares stories and discusses his journey to becoming a successful youth sports coach and athletic director.

Rich has been coaching, teaching, and an athletic director for the last 16 years in California.  He lost both his parents at a pretty early age, so coaches were a huge influence on his life.  Rich grew up playing football, basketball, and baseball, and played Jr. College football.  Rich is currently transitioning from a larger school district in California to a newer one – and he is excited about starting all over and developing new systems.



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‘In coaching, people will only listen to you, because they truly believe that you can make them better’

My Cringe & ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments

  • It’s much different approaching kids as a coach vs. as a player. As a player – you can push teammates and call them out, but as a coach it’s a different dynamic so you have to change your approach.
  • ‘As a coach you can run out on the field- but if you don’t have quality teaching and skill development – you’re going to charge out and no one is going to be with you’

Teaching Children & Keeping it Fun

  • A teaching analogy – ‘I am going to teach you to cut the lawn.  First – this is a lawnmower.  This is how you start a lawnmower, etc.’
  • Teaching model: 1st – teach; 2nd – evaluate, is it working?; 3rd – Re-teach
  • Whole-part-whole: Show whole team concept; Break down into small groups to work on it; Then develop circuit or drill where coaches can check progress
  • Look at skills needed in a game – then develop drills that break down the skills into pieces you can practice.  Make sure these drills simulate real-game experiences.  Name the drill – so you can refer to it during a game: ‘Johnny remember during the waterski drill what we focused on.’

Self-Confidence and teaching kids to achieve peak performance


  • Book: Mindset by Carol Dweck – Fixed mindset vs. Open mindset – Teach kids that failing is a highly valuable part of the improvement process.  Eliminate pressure on the kids that makes them afraid to make mistakes.  Kids are often getting pressure from family members, parents, grandparents, uncles – so as a coach you have to be intentional to not negatively

Culture – Discipline/Rewards/Teambuilding

  • Think through your coaching philosophy before establishing any type of rules.  Then involve the kids in creating any team rules.  Then make sure you are fair, trustworthy, and equitable.
  • Do rewards in groups as much as possible – i.e. offensive line, special teams, etc.

Connecting with Kids

  • Sharif Williams – Tore 4 ligaments in his knee his senior year – the whole coaching staff, and community – rallied around him and helped make sure he had the support he needed to rehab his knee and pursue his dream of playing college football at Univ of Arizona

Can my kid play college sports?

  • Parents – know what the academic requirements are by middle-school.  You need to have your child cleared by the end of their junior year.

Specialization in youth sports

  • You want your kid to get as much teaching as possible from as many different resources as possible

The One that Got Away

  • Rich’s senior year he got a pass interference call on 4th and 2 against the other undefeated team in his league.  Still has no idea why he did it.

Coaching/Leadership Quote or Book


  • Book – ‘The Education of a Coach‘ – Bill Belichick – ‘Why would a coach making $12 million a year listen to someone making $100k a year?’ – Belichick’s answer: ‘In coaching, people will only listen to you, because they truly believe that you can make them better’

Parting Advice

  • Constantly be giving positive feedback to the kids.  Show them what they are doing and where you are taking them.
  • Network with other coaches.

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