As kids head back to the classroom, it’s important to help student-athletes achieve a positive frame of mind. After all, many haven’t played sports or participated in a single group or team activity in a very long time. Here are a few fundamental ways you can help students get in the right back-to-school mindset as they return to the field, court and classroom.


1) Talk to Kids About COVID

Fact: kids will be afraid to return to school, and that fear is real. As leaders, we must try not to project our fears on top of theirs and instead, make it a point to talk with them so we can better understand what their feelings are as they prepare to head back. It’s also important to keep students and parents informed of all changes to their regular school routine, including new COVID protocols designed to help keep everyone safe. Lastly, be aware of and empathize with parents’ concerns about the current situation. At the end of the day, communication will be key for a safe return.


2) The “New” Normal Will Be Different

No doubt about it. Life is very different than it was just a couple of years ago and we’re all still learning to navigate our “new” normal. As you return to school, check-in with your players and students to see how they’re handling these changes. Focus on building a safe and engaging environment and share your plans for your class or season with your players to create excitement, regardless of all the changes they’re experiencing.


3) The Importance of Being Physically Fit

Now is the time to teach kids that being in good physical shape is key to having a successful season. To do this, educate them on the benefits of exercise or give them at-home workouts they can do on their own when they’re away from the field/gym. Get them ready today so you can all have a successful season tomorrow.


4) The Importance of Feeling Mentally Strong

After a year of limited sport, the state of your team’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Remember that the last year and a half has been mentally exhausting for student-athletes and returning to school and sports will likely feel somewhat overwhelming. Try to connect with your athletes one-on-one to ensure they’re in good standing and ready to get after it this season.


5) Drills to Build Sport-Specific Skills

When it comes to drills, we all have our favorites. This includes both sport-specific and position-specific drills. Begin incorporating your favorite drills prior to the season so athletes become more comfortable/less nervous about performing. Also, focus on putting together both individual and group workouts. One-on-one workouts make it easier to offer targeted feedback while group workouts help create that all-important team chemistry among your players.


6) How To Get Help from The Parents

The number one challenge for coaches today? Parents. In my experience, there is a right way and a wrong way to work with them. The wrong way is to imply you don’t need or want them to be involved; to essentially say, “back off, leave me alone.” The right way is to encourage open communication on both sides. While you’ll need to create some boundaries and expectations, you should also let parents know you’re open to hearing what they have to say. After all, a good relationship with them will help ensure a great season for you and your team. To help facilitate this, communicate both your team and individual players’ goals to your parents and make sure it aligns with their expectations.


Aaron Locks

  • CEO, National Academy of Athletics
  • Over three decades of sports coaching, education & management
  • Worked with world-renowned coaches, including Dusty Baker, Pat Riley and John Wooden