More Than Just Coaching with Levon Burton II

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Anyone who coaches in youth sports today knows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Kids now have more access to technology and information than ever before, and that, among other things, creates a whole new set of obstacles to overcome when working towards success in sports. Still, expert coach Levon Burton II will tell you that the solutions to those problems remain much the same as they have ever been.


Levon fell into the world of cheerleading after having been involved in other sports, and found that that type of athleticism came naturally to him. It was the confidence he gained from the sport, along with the support of school teachers, that first inspired him to become a coach himself. Today, he has been coaching for over 20 years and has probably coached over 1,000 athletes, taking multiple teams to both the Summit and the Cheerleading and Dance World Championships. 


In seeing so many kids come through his programs, he has learned how crucial it is to see them as people first, and as athletes second. Seeing them beyond their skill helps coaches remember that their athletes are human beings with a laundry list of problems and experiences outside of what happens in the gym. In fact, Levon emphasizes that coaches only see athletes for two hours a day, and for the other twenty-two hours, they’re someone else. “What happens in those twenty-two hours effects what you can get out of them in those two.”


What’s more, coaches in youth sports are at an advantage because kids inherently want to please their coaches - even when it doesn’t seem that way. Telling them that they’re doing a good job can be wildly affirming for them as people, and it will go a long way towards their continued growth and improvement.


Of course this is not to say that young athletes should be told they’re doing a good job when they’re not, but when they do fail, coaches should take some of the responsibility for that. If you set them up for success, it offers them more opportunities to learn what it takes to be successful and how good success feels. This is a lesson that they can carry with them beyond youth sports and into their adult lives, where the pressure is really on.


It’s that concept of life lessons through sports that Levon says should be a coach’s greatest priority. He says that a good coach is driven by their own personal goals, and a great coach is driven by success for the team. But a life-changing coach is aware of the athlete’s personal goals and uses those intentions to create habits in sports that they can carry over into other aspects of their lives. While they are involved in sports, kids draw motivation from their interest in the sport, but if those good habits are solidified while the stakes are lower, they can rely on those habits to make them successful in whatever they choose to do as an adult. This is where Levon has found true success for himself - seeing youth athletes grow into successful adults is what makes coaching truly worthwhile.


To hear more about how Levon learned to take ownership of the teams and programs under his supervision, as well as how his priorities translate into tangible practice plans, listen to our 180 Procast.


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