100 Top Tips That Will Make you a Better Youth Sports Coach

100 Things That I Have Learned About Coaching Young Athletes

  1. Your athletes don’t expect you to be perfect, just passionate.
  2. Passion is a prerequisite for effective coaching.
  3. Some of your best coaching ideas come from the kids.  Be alert for them.
  4. Give your athletes a voice – show them that you are ready to listen and act upon it.
  5. Kids respond to responsibility.
  6. The best indicator of grassroots coaching success is that the kids want to keep coming back.
  7. Don’t just go through the motions when conducting a warm up. The warm up is an important part of a session, not just a precursor to it.
  8. The first 5 minutes of a session are so important.
  9. Good leaders “walk the talk”.
  10. Don’t underestimate how observant and perceptive young athletes can be.
  11. The best way to learn about coaching is by coaching.
  12. Accreditation is just the start of a coach’s education.
  13. Learn how to make practice into play. Disguise repetition as play.
  14. Find out what “fun” means to your athletes.
  15. Your demeanour is more important than technical knowledge when coaching kids.
  16. Great coaches are creative.
  17. Drills and equipment are ok for variety and novelty, but don’t base your program on them.
  18. Quality coaching should not be reliant on facilities or equipment.
  19. The goal of youth sport is different to elite sport. Coaches must adjust to this.
  20. The ability to switch to Plan B, C or D while remaining composed it a vital skill when coaching.
  21. Sporting success at an early age must be kept in perspective.
  22. You can encourage and facilitate development, but not rush it.
  23. A good coach will catch the kids being good.
  24. Athletes can look great doing drills but still struggle with the full movement.
  25. Keep a reflective coaching training diary.
  26. When dealing with kids, the volume of training should not be a coach’s main strategy for improving performance.
  27. Any increase in an athlete’s training load must be done slowly and in small increments.
  28. Good coaches know when to step in and also when to step back and allow things to happen during a session.
  29. The art of coaching includes knowing when to just stand back and keep quiet.
  30. You don’t have to be talking to be coaching.
  31. How the coach reacts to mistakes will influence how the athletes react to mistakes.
  32. Teach kids to treat failure like a speed hump, not a road block.
  33. Avoid placing performance expectations on a child.
  34. Many parents want kids to move straight to the advanced stuff. Good coaches are not pressured by this.
  35. See a skill more than once before trying to provide feedback.
  36. Build a broad skill base in athletes before getting specific.
  37. Help young athletes to understand that correction is not criticism.
  38. Coach kids for gradual ongoing progression rather than for quick results and the risk of earlier drop out.
  39. Coaches must show leadership when it comes to teaching young athletes about sportsmanship.
  40. Never underestimate the power of well-timed enthusisatic praise of young athletes.
  41. Don’t over-use praise. It loses its effect.
  42. With young athletes, emphasise speed development.
  43. Knowing your own story will help you develop and understand your coaching identity.
  44. When coaching, keep everyone within your field of vision.
  45. Smile a lot and look like you want to be there.
  46. Face the kids away from the sun when you are speaking with them.
  47. Keep the big picture in mind; try to look beyond the end of the season.
  48. Be patient and have a plan.
  49. Keep your ego in check.
  50. Don’t measure your success in medals.
  51. Ask you athletes what they expect from you as their coach.
  52. Use a questionnaire to help you to determine your approach tom coaching a new athlete.
  53. You can’t coach everything at one practice. Focus on the top 1-2 priorities, embed those, then add 1-2 things.
  54. Criticising is not teaching.
  55. Keep learning and be open-minded.
  56. Learn from other coaches, from other sports & from outside of sport.
  57. Coaches who won’t listen to their peers are unlikely to listen to their athletes.
  58. Find a mentor.
  59. Read widely.
  60. Simplicity & clarity are so important when coaching kids.
  61. One of the keys to coaching kids is to not take yourself too seriously. Make time to laugh & have some fun.
  62. Yelling is ineffctive.
  63. External coaching cues are more effective than internal coaching cues.
  64. Coach a skill using only one cue at a time.
  65. Cues are only as effective as an athlete’s ability to understand and interpret them.
  66. Analogies are important when coaching kids – develop your repertoire.
  67. Every coach of young athletes should have access to a set of medicine balls as part of their coaching kit.
  68. Encourage kids to play sports other than yours.
  69. Think of yourself as being a link in the chain of an athlete’s lifetime sporting experience.
  70. Know your role in the development chain.
  71. The biggest difference between success and failure often comes from mastering the fundamentals. Good athletes perform the fundamentals well. Good coaches focus on teaching the fundamentals.
  72. Take a “fundamentals first” approach. Don’t bypass the basics.
  73. Prioritise strength training and the teaching of fundamental movement skills over other forms of development.
  74. Build up an extensive collection of games, drills and activities that are designed to improve the basics.
  75. Avoid looking for quick fixes or magic solutions.
  76. Take a “slow cook” rather than a “fast food” approach to the development of a young athlete.
  77. Build a positive relationship with the parents. Over-communicate rather than under-communicate.
  78. Teach kids to love the sport more than the medals.
  79. Winning is not necessarily a sign of good youth sports coaching.
  80. All great coaches of young athletes are also great performers.
  81. Coaches need to be “coachable”.
  82. Make your program “kid-focused” and “kid-friendly”.
  83. Make sure that it is about the kids and not about you. Good coaches are athlete-centred, not self-centred.
  84. A youth sport coaching program must loo different to an elite coaching program. Not just a little bit different, but entirely different.
  85. For kids to digest feedback, you need their focused attention and engagement.
  86. Prepare athletes for their sporting future, not just the next competition.
  87. Talent development does not follow a linear progression. Help parents understand this.
  88. To best help young athletes prepare for a big sports event, don’t treat it like a big event.
  89. Develop young athletes so that they can compete well whether you are there or not.
  90. If training isn’t fun, kids won’t improve.
  91. Be comfortable with stepping back, letting the kids loose and getting out of their way on “game day”.
  92. Debrief and review a good performance with as much vigour as you would a poor performance – yours included. The debrief is as important as the plan.
  93. The best coaching style is one that is genuine to you.
  94. Don’t be afraid to alter an athlete’s faulty technique, even at the risk of short-term performance decline.
  95. Ask kids what they most enjoyed about your coaching session. It is invaluable and may surprise you.
  96. Ask the athletes what they learned and where they improved during a session. Remind them of this a the beginning of the next session.
  97. Be clear about your purpose as a coach.
  98. Document your coaching standards and beliefs in a way that can be clearly articulated.
  99. You need to develop a strong coaching philosophy.
  100. Communicate your philosophy and ensure your coaching reflects this philosophy.

Which is your favourite tip?

I would love to know which tips resonates the most with you. Are there any that you would like to know more about? Are there any with which you disagree? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the below contact details.


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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