Tips for Achieving Maximum Group Participation
Coaches need to appreciate the significance of focusing on maximum group participation to the success of a coaching session – particularly in preventing athlete behavioural problems. In this case, “participation” refers to the percentage of time that a young athlete spends actively involved in a session. This is compared against the time they spend waiting for a turn, listening to instructions, standing in line, etc. Coaches of young athletes must aim for a high percentage of activity time. Five ways to promote maximum participation are:
1. Lots of Equipment
Always ensure that you have and use enough equipment for the activity that you intend to conduct. E.g. One piece of equipment each, or one between two.
2. Small Groups
Organise small groups in preference to larger groups. E.g. A situation with ten lines of three athletes is far preferable to one with three lines of ten athletes when they are waiting for a turn.
3. Avoid Lines
Avoid or modify activities that lead to long lines or waiting periods. For example, when conducting a long jump session with a large group, avoid lining up the entire group on the runway to wait for their turn. Consider if some drills and practices can be done safely from the side of the pit, where 4-5 athletes can participate at a time, rather than just one.
4. Be Creative
If lines or waiting times are unavoidable, be creative and look for ways to keep the athletes busy and engaged. Can the athletes act as “assistant coaches” who provide feedback to others? Can they act as an “official” or “judge”? Can they perform a task such a having to “warm up” in preparation for their turn? Or practice a skill? Or jog to a point and back again? Or simply clap, cheer and encourage others? With the long jump example given above, if you eventually want the athletes to use the runway and jump one at a time, try sending a maximum of six athletes to wait on the runway. The rest of the group can gather near the sand pit. Their role can be to applaud the athletes who are running in to jump, as they would have seen a crowd do on television during a “real” long jump competition.
5. No Elimination Games
Avoid “elimination games” i.e. Games in which athletes “go out” and are forced to wait and watch until the end of the game. Alternatively, change the game so that the athletes complete an activity when eliminated, and/or can re-enter the game after a short period.
A good coaching session involving young athletes will see the participants “kept busy”. Many athletics activities, when conducted in the traditional way are not conducive to achieving this. Therefore, a coach must be creative in looking for ways to boost the activity time of athletes during a session.
What tactics do you use to keep young athletes busy?
Do you use certain strategies? Did you learn them from someone else or discover them yourself? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.