The Most Important Youth Coaching Success Factor Is Not What Most People Think
Lots of people are scared away from becoming a youth coach because they think that they don’t know enough of the technical stuff.
They are worried that they don’t know enough about the skills, drills and tactics of the sport. They are concerned that they will be out of their depth and they are fearful that they will embarrass themselves. They feel intimidated.
Have you ever been in this situation?
If so, this is such a shame. Because technical knowledge doesn’t impress kids . . . but being passionate and likeable will.
My biggest piece of advice to people who are considering becoming a coach of kids is this:
HOW you coach is much more important then WHAT you coach.
In saying this, the HOW and the WHAT you coach are not mutually exclusive. You do need to know the basics; but the basics are often enough for kids. The basics are what the kids really need to know. You don’t have to get fancy and technical.
So yes – you need to learn the fundamentals of the sport. But once you have these locked down, spend your time working on your skills and qualities such as:
Good coaches of young athletes are charismatic in front of the kids. The kids like and are drawn in by them.
Passion is the main ingredient in a powerful coaching presence.
2. Voice Projection
Learn where to stand and how to use your voice so that everyone can hear what you are saying at all times.
3. Body Language
Learn how to look open, relaxed, happy and confident when you are working with the kids. Even if you don’t feel this way, there are tricks of the trade that you can use to appear so.
4. Feedback Delivery
Learn how to deliver feedback that is warmly accepted and effective.
5. Group Management Skills
Learn how to keep a session flowing and avoid unnecessary interruptions and distractions.
Get good at keeping disruptive behaviour in check and dealing with it when it does occur.
6. Repertoire of Games & Fun Activities
Research and build up your toolbox of games and activities that the kids love. Work on delivering them in an inspiring way.
7. Sense of Humour
A coach of young athletes can’t take themselves too seriously. Learn to laugh with the kids and to laugh at yourself.
Work With A Mentor
I encourage novice coaches to observe and work with coaches who are known to be great with kids. Watch them closely and work out where that success is coming from. Your coaching certificate is only the very beginning of your education and development as a coach. I believe that you will learn more about the craft of coaching kids from a good mentor than you will from almost any other source.
An extensive technical knowledge of a sport is not required in order to be an effective and successful coach of kids.
When starting as a coach, learn the basics, then direct your effort into developing HOW you coach, rather than WHAT you coach.
Let me know what you think!
Do you agree with what I have outlined above? What are the most important skills and qualities that a coach of kids must have? Let me know by leaving a reply/comment or by using the contact details below.
How to Win Young Athletes Over in the First 5 Minutes
How to Serve Up a Feedback Sandwich to Young Athletes
How Coaches Can Best Prevent & Manage Misbehaviour
Book Review: 7 Keys to Being a Great Coach by Allistair McCaw
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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, Anchor or via email.
Couldn’t agree more with your advice for coaching young children, watching kids grow through athletics and projecting your enthusiasm for events and getting a little bit of technical knowledge passed over is great reward . If they all get confidence to try and I any improvement is fantastic. Hopefully your advice would get more coaches mostly from parents to try too. I am lucky enough to coach from 6- 14 year olds . Love reading your advice , just to get me thinking again .
Thanks for your comment and feedback Andy. We need more coaches and, like you have said, I hope that this article will encourage more parents to step forward. Even if it results in just one person gaining the confidence to do so, I will be happy! Darren
1. Is that opinion or product of research ?
2. Children – age range this refers to?
3. Ability of children you are coaching ?
4. Let’s say group I coach U16 international women – you better be ‘on point ‘ technically or you will be found out – they will know. They will tell you stories of how a coaches methodology and knowledge has been detrimental to them and their team. They will take a lot of ‘not perfect ‘ coaching using your concepts if they perceive a net gain technically
Hi Andy. Thanks for your comment. I based the article on a combination of opinion, experience and “circumstantial evidence” (i.e. comments from individuals). The “kids” I envisioned whilst writing are roughly of primary school age (up to about 11 years of age) and at the novice level. You make a good point about older “kids” at a higher level of performance; something which was not included in the scope of the article. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify. Darren
Couldnt agree more. I’ve coached soccer at all levels from two year olds up through High School in these principles all matter at any age.
Another good thing to do is make sure you’re fair and remember that winning isn’t as important as teaching the kids the skills they need to succeed not only in the sport you coach but in life in general.
I also suggest keeping the parents informed sending Weekly Newsletter letting them know how the kids are doing what you’re working on and how they can help with the kids when they’re at home. Keeping the parents informed and letting them to know what markers to look for also keeps interference in your coaching to a minimum.
Being a positive coach that is always encouraging and supportive will yield you much better success than a coach that yells and screams a lot.
I’ve had kids that have gone on to college playing soccer and when they see me, they still call me coach. It’s the best feeling.
Thanks for your comment. You provide some good advice for coaches of young athletes. I agree that it is very worthwhile keeping the parents informed. A regular newsletter is a great way to communicate proactively. Darren
Enjoyment is the main criterian. Build confidence and don`t accept limitations.
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