5 Top Tips For Coaching Kids

New to Coaching? Some Words of Advice. . .

When coaching kids for the first time, it is not uncommon to lack direction. It is a period when coaching beliefs, standards and philosophies are only starting to be established. To fast-track this process, below I share five of the top things that I have learnt during my coaching journey so far. I hope that you find them helpful.

1. The goal of kid’s sport is different to elite sport. You need to adjust to this.

Generally, the main goal of elite sport is to win. The goal of kid’s sport is development. This difference is critical. Winning can still occur if development is done well. but winning should not be the emphasis of a kid’s sport program. Focusing on winning causes a coach to think and plan short-term. It can also lead to coaches using inappropriate training content for the development stage of an athlete. Focusing on long-term development brings an entirely different and more “kid-friendly” approach to your coaching. Remember that it is about the kids, not you.

Kid’s sport is DIFFERENT to elite sport. This should be apparent in your coaching.

2. Your demeanour is more important than your technical knowledge.

Don’t be scared away from coaching kids by thinking that you don’t know enough of the technical stuff. Technical knowledge doesn’t impress kids but passion and being likable will. How you coach is more important than what you coach. The two are not mutually exclusive and you obviously need to know the basics; but the basics are often enough for kids. The basics is what they really need to know.

Direct your effort into developing HOW you coach rather than WHAT you coach.

3. Smile a lot and look like you want to be there.

Enthusiasm is contagious. A coach’s energy will flow on to their group.

Therefore you must smile. Look enthusiastic. Appear excited. Be “up on your toes”. Bounce around. Be a performer. Tell them that you are glad to be there. Tell them that you’ve been looking forward to the session and have been for days.

If the kids believe that you like what you are doing, you will draw them in.

“If it’s not ‘your day’ then  try to make someone else’s.”                                                           Allistair McCaw, 7 Keys to Being a Great Coach

4. Don’t measure your success in medals.

Don’t chase medals. Or titles. Or premierships. This will lead you down the wrong path with both how and what you coach. It will also send the wrong message to the kids because they will be influenced by your lead. We need to help kids to love the sport more than the medals. Extrinsic motivation won’t sustain a young athlete’s motivation. How will you know you are doing a good job as a kid’s coach? See Point 5.

Medals don’t measure youth coaching success.

5. The best indicator of grass roots coaching success: the kids keep coming back.

If the kids want to keep coming back, if they look forward to seeing you, if your session is one of their favourite times of the week, you are doing a fine job as a coach of young athletes.

Some of the best feedback that I have ever received was when a parent told me that her daughter’s favourite day of the week was Tuesday – because that was the day she came to my coaching sessions.

Above anything else, that to me, is what youth coaching is all about – the young athlete loves to come to practice and can’t wait to get there.

Any long-term involvement in sport, whether it be at a competitive or recreational level, firstly requires an interest which develops into a passion. Facilitating this is one of the critical roles of a youth coach.

Start by finding out what the athletes in your charge like about the sport and coming to practice, and what they want from a coach. Match this with what you provide them and you will have a winning formula.

Coach in a way that the kids love to come to practice and can’t wait to get there.

Watch the Video

Can you add anything to the above list?

What is your best tip for coaching kids? I would love to hear from you. Let me know by leaving a reply/comment or by using the below contact details.

Further reading


How To Help Kids Love the Sport More Than the Medals

How to Measure Your Success When Coaching Young Athletes‏

Book Review: 7 Keys to Being a Great Coach by Allistair McCaw

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 coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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One thought on “5 Top Tips For Coaching Kids

  1. I like how you touched on that the main focus for youth sports should be development not the not number of games you win. I also agree with you that your demeanor is very important and you need to be happy and excited to keep the kids engaged. Some coaches and parents often forget that youth competition is the best time for development so thank you for reminding them that development now will equal more success down the road. The one thing I slightly disagree with you on is that I believe coaches need a little more understanding than the basic skills to really help develop their players and the older they get the more educated on the technical skills they need to be. Overall a great article.


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