TRUMBULL — Westport Little League manager Walter Wolgast leaned over and reached out, shaking the hand of one of his players and smiling.

“Hey,” he said in an encouraging tone. “Good game.”

It was a subtle, quick exchange. But it has a much greater impact for a young 11-12 year old athlete.

Youth coaches are put into a position of great responsibility and importance, providing the building blocks for athletes of the next generation.

It is before the rigorous competition of the high school level, but after the education of the “Tee ball” age. During a time when athletes go through changes not only in the games that they love, but in their own lives as well.

Even for Wolgast, after a tough defeat to Fairfield National during the District Two Little League tournament, giving encouraging words can go a long way in the confidence and the growth of a young athlete.

“I’m proud of the boys,” he said after the game. “They really work hard.”

An accomplishment that cannot be overstated, bringing kids together to play as one unit and working toward completing a single goal is a life skill that extends further than any youth sport and reaches into life.

“They’re a team,” Wolgast said. “They’ve got each others backs. They’ve been practicing for about two weeks now and they’re really a tight knit group.”

Coaches are there for guidance and for leadership, but also for creating an atmosphere and a team environment that teaches key life lessons that player can take long after hanging up their jerseys.

It is a job for every coach of youth athletes.

Obviously, everyone wants to win. But in order to win, someone has to lose.

It is then, when the coach becomes a major figure in the lives of many young athletes - to offer words of encouragement when it is toughest to hear them.

ajohnson@hearstmedia

ct.com; @aronJohnson_