Coaches Corner: Emily Leckie

Ask a teenager what their values are, they’ll surprise you. I’ve been coaching youth in many different settings for the last six years and their answers to this question have always been insightful, thoughtful, and positive. Common threads are often equity, respect, authenticity and the like. The first step to coaching or teaching anything, is to find out what’s important to each of the people you’re working with-- that’s how you make the important ideas stick. While I hope to impart my own values on the youth I work with (teamwork, trust, communication), it’s their values that really shape each lesson.  

Maybe equally as important is establishing a routine. Whether coaching traditional sports, animal science, or esports, mine is much the same. A breathing exercise to put everyone on the same wavelength, set a tone of focus and bring calm to the atmosphere. A quick check in, getting a gauge of how everyone is feeling. It’s important to see what everyone is bringing to practice for the day. Based on the mindset of my students, I can adjust the plan for the day.  

While some lessons are going to be largely rooted in gameplay and mechanics, many more delve into the ideas that all sports foster. In both cases, I work to challenge my students and their means of thinking -- sometimes by delivering questions, others by playing devil’s advocate. My role as a coach is to start the conversation and provide my students with a means to uncover the answer. Sometimes it’s through bringing clarity to their questions, other times it’s breaking down processes step by step.  

Depending on the day, a lesson can look like one of a dozen different things. Some things are silly, others serious, a few even border on tedious-- I just make sure everything has a purpose. Everything contributes to a common goal. Those goals echo back to the values of my students.  I finish each and every one of my sessions with a debrief. These questions are quick, usually as everyone packs up to leave. Lately, my favorite questions are what was your favorite part of today? and what’s one thing you’re going to work on until we meet next?  A little positivity goes a long way.  

Emily Leckie, also known as "Lark" has a strong background in teaching and coaching youth through her many years of experience in the 4H program. She works with our clubs as a coach for Connected Camps.