Show Young Athletes That You Will Listen & Act
One of the keys to successful coaching is getting “buy-in” from your athletes and one of the most effective strategies to achieve this is to give your athletes a voice.
Not only do you have to give your athletes a voice but you also need to show them that you are ready to listen and act upon what they say. You should always have the final word, but avoid asking for input then totally ignoring it. This shows that you weren’t genuine and the athletes will pick up on this very quickly.
When it comes to kids, don’t be afraid to give them a say. Make them part of the decision making process. It is a great confidence-booster for a child if they suggest something and the coach uses it. It makes them feel important, useful, respected and empowered.
Some ideas that I have successfully used to give young young athletes a voice include:
1. Pre-season questionnaires
Arrange for the athletes to fill in a pre-season questionnaire that asks them things like:
- What do you most enjoy about athletics?
- What do you like about training?
- What do you dislike about training?
- What is “fun” to you?
2. Pre-session input
Prior to a session starting, ask the kids if there is anything that they are hoping to learn, work on or do during the session.
Really try to include what they suggest, even if it means a slight alteration to your plan. If you can’t include something, explain to them why or tell them that you will try to include it next time.
3. Input during a session
- Let the kids design a stage in a fitness or skills circuit
- Let the kids suggest and choose a game to end a session
- Let the kids decide how to make an activity easier or more difficult
- Simply ask the kids: “What do you think?” about any range of things related to your session.
4. Post-session input
Ask the kids:
- What they enjoyed most about the session
- If there was anything that they didn’t enjoy
- Is there anything that would have improved the session
- If they have any ideas for next time
These types of questions can be confronting for some coaches but can provide brilliant feedback and show the athletes that you value their input.
6. Post-season review
Conduct a post-season review during which you ask an athlete’s opinion on a range of topics, including:
- Can you suggest any changes or additions to next year’s program?
- How can we make the program even more enjoyable?
- How can we even further improve how we work together as athlete and coach?
How do you give your athletes a voice?
What strategies have you used to give your athletes a say? Let’s create a list. Send me your input by leaving a reply/comment.
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.