Engage Young Athletes with Mini Competitions
Competition – used in the right way – is a very powerful motivator and an extremely effective group management strategy.
When coaching large groups, such as a class of school children, I very early on in the session initiate a team or small group competition. The competition revolves around an ongoing cumulative point score throughout the session. Points are not only based on the successful completion of tasks (e.g. Hitting a target) but also on things like quickly responding to instructions.
I find that doing this will help with the following:
When I want to speed up transitions and gain attention quickly, I introduce a point score.
For example, to encourage participants to line up quickly in the groups that I have arranged, I announce a “Champion Lining Up Team” competition – the team first to line up straight, quietly and ready to go is awarded a point – often to cheers and raised winners’ arms.
In this example, competition is used to encourage a prompt response to instructions and a group ready to listen.
Points like these can be awarded at various times throughout the session. You will often find that the need for you to prompt compliance will disappear and the kids will magically manage themselves in search of points for their team!
Putting a shot, even with a hula hoop lying on the ground as a target, can become a little tedious to a young athlete after several attempts. Attach a cumulative team point score to hitting the target and suddenly the group’s attention to the task becomes much more focused. Increasing the number of points for more difficult tasks as the session progresses is another effective strategy for prolonged engagement.
See an example of a shot put game that uses points as rewards HERE.
If I ever notice that participants could try just that little bit harder – I attach team points to the task. For example when coaching the scissors high jump I instruct everyone to land on their feet. It is common for least one participant in big group to continually fall to their knees “unable” to complete the skill . . .until I introduce a point score for the successful completion of the task!
4. Behaviour Modification
Ever had that kid who deliberately kicks over obstacles – such as mini hurdles – in an attempt to get a laugh from others? Attach team points to every successful navigation of the obstacles and watch the that same kid suddenly leave all of the obstacles untouched!
Some final tips:
- I let the kids keep their own points using an “honour” system – there is no reason to formalize the scoring.
- I will often during a session check in with the kids about how their point scores are going. ie. “Is anyone up to 10 points yet?”
Funnily enough I rarely announce a point score winner at the end of a session – the kids don’t seem to mind. It seems that being awarded points is the motivation rather than who ends up with the most points.
While no strategy will have a 100% success rate, using point scores and mini competitions within a session is something that has become an effective and therefore regular part of my repertoire.
Have you ever used point scores as a group management strategy?
I would love to hear if you have used a similar strategy and some scenarios in which it has worked. Also, let me know if you try using this system for the first time and how it goes for you.
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.