Saying Nothing Can Be Doing Something When Coaching Young Athletes

Step In Or Remain Silent When Coaching Kids?

Not long ago I was coaching long jump to a group of eight and nine year-olds. I was teaching them to keep their feet up and away from the sand for as long as possible before they landed in the pit. We were using a sand wall as a fun way to help them to achieve this.

During this activity I could see glaring faults in the arm action of some of the young athletes. What did I do about this problem?


I remained silent about it. Why?

Bringing focus to the arm action may have interfered with what I was really trying to achieve. It may have confused the athletes by overloading them with information. I was also pretty certain that an effective arm action was beyond the athletes’ current skill level.

The temptation to talk

It is tempting to try to teach everything at once. The urge to blurt out something as soon as we see a fault can be strong. Or the fear that if you don’t say something, others will believe that you can’t see the fault and think less of you as a coach.

I have been guilty of over-coaching at times, by making comments when they were not really needed. I think that many coaches feel that we need to be saying something to validate our existence as a coach.

You don’t have to be talking to be coaching. Sometimes making that conscious decision to say nothing is great coaching.

I think that an individual’s coaching is maturing when they are able to recognise a fault and make a conscious decision to avoid correcting it due to seeing a bigger picture.

Get comfortable with keeping quiet

Coaches and sports parents need to get comfortable with keeping quiet.

Keeping quiet can allow kids the time and space to learn, whereas too much noise can distract.

If you are a coach, instructor or sports parent try keeping quiet at times. Get into the habit of sometimes simply observing. Resist the need to interject every time an athlete does something. Stop to weigh up whether or not your feedback will actually help or hinder. Concentrate on quality rather than quantity of feedback.

Saying nothing will sometimes be the best strategy.

Let me know what you think!

Do you agree? Can you relate to this article? Have you ever caught yourself talking too much as a coach or sports parent? What are your strategies to avoid this? Let me know by leaving a reply/comment or by using the contact details below.

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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4 thoughts on “Saying Nothing Can Be Doing Something When Coaching Young Athletes

  1. Lindsay Harrison says:

    Thanks for that Darren

    I know myself that I over coach and by you writing this article, hopefully this will remind me to keep quiet and kiss more often


    On 13 Dec 2016 7:03 PM, “Coaching Young Athletes” wrote:

    > Darren Wensor posted: “Step In Or Remain Silent When Coaching Kids? I was > recently coaching long jump to a group of eight and nine year-olds. I was > teaching them to keep their feet up and away from the sand for as long as > possible before they landed in the pit. We were using a ” >


    • Thanks Lindsay. I definitely have over-coached at times over the years. It really can take an effort to at times ignore faults “for the greater good”, especially if you are aware that others are watching! I sometimes will explain to any observers (e.g. parents) exactly what I am doing and why I am doing it. Darren


  2. Barbara Connolly says:

    Darren I found your piece very insightful – having seen and experienced what you highlight, two things strike me as to why this can be the case. 1. Inexperienced teachers/coaches are often not yet comfortable with their own level of knowledge and are set on getting everything across – it can take a level of experience to understand that all delivery of knowledge and learning should be based on the readiness of the learner 2. Sometimes teachers and coaches approach from the wrong perspective – they want to impart what they know rather than what the learner needs. While both usually end up at the same unhelpful point for the learner, the first usually learns, but the second does not try to see things from the learner’s position and this can be far harder to change.


    • Thanks for your input Barbara. I agree with your observations. I wonder if this could be something to deal with through coach education, and if so, what would be the best way to approach it? Darren


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