Dear Coach: My nine-year-old son is an excellent soccer goalie, but he has developed a big head and doesn't take practice seriously. How can I help him stay focused?
Dear Goal: As every Big Man on Campus finds out, a Bigger Man is always just around the comer. Your son may only need an introduction to that top gun. Find an experienced older goalkeeper in your town—maybe the high school varsity goalie, or someone who plays on a local semipro team—and arrange for your son to work out with one of them. Your boy will be thrilled to get the attention of a big-time player and will be motivated to work harder. Have the older player talk to your son about the dedication it took to reach his level. Hearing firsthand about the work needed to stay on top should open your boy's eyes a bit.
Dear Coach: I'm a successful high school football coach, but I worry I'm putting too much pressure on my players to win. Are there telltale signs I should watch for?
Dear Stressing: "Usual signs of stress are absenteeism, dissatisfaction and unusual behavior," says Jack Hutslar, founder of the North American Youth Sport Institute. "You may see the defense get nasty with the offense, or you might detect racial animosity. This is misplaced aggression: Players dare not attack you, so they attack each other." Be sensitive to kids who are team leaders and speak for the rest of the squad—show you've listened by addressing their concerns. "That gives players real ownership in a team," Hutslar says.