Youth Sports Think Tank 2019 Day Five Review

The Power Of Belonging – Using Positive Discipline Tools To Develop Confident Athletes

“High fives change lives.”

Welcome to my Day 5 review and summary of the GO! Chase Excellence in Youth Sports Virtual Think Tank.

My review focuses on one presentation that I have viewed in the last 24 hours.

Each of my reviews follows the format of the Think Tank ‘Workbook & Reflection Journal’ provided alongside each of the sessions:

  • What – What issues does this session address?
  • So What? – Why are these issues important?
  • Now What? – How can I address these issues or implement the ideas in this session?

Today’s Review

Today’s review is from the “Compute” track of the Think Tank. The “Correlate – Coach the Brain” track is focused on how we can write better “software” in our athletes’ brains to lead to excellence.

The presentation I chose today was ‘The Power Of Belonging – Using Positive Discipline Tools To Develop Confident Athletes’ with Jane Nelson. Jane is the founder of Positive Discipline. The session is hosted by Coach Reed Maltbie.


Why do so many coaches yell at kids? Why do some people think that to make kids feel better, you need to make them feel worse?

This session, emphasises the need to treat kids with dignity and respect so that they have a sense of belonging and a feeling of significance.

The Balance

The skill is balancing kindness and firmness. Many coaches go too far one way or the other. Being too firm to the point of meanness or putting kids down can damage a child’s self esteem. Being too kind to the point of permissiveness can lead to kids feeling entitled and that the world should take care of them, rather than them being responsible contributors. Over-permissiveness can lead to kids not developing a sense of capability and significance.

Praise v Encouragement

It is important for coaches to understand the difference between praise and encouragement.

Praise teaches kids to depend on the evaluation of others. e.g. “like what you did”.

Encouragement teaches self evaluation. e.g. “You worked really hard. How do you feel about that?”

Additionally, kids are perceptive and can see through over-praising., quickly picking up that you may be over-compensating due to some deficiency in them or the child that is receiving all of the praise.

Practical Tips

  1. Always greet kids as they arrive for a session with eye contact, a “high five” or a fist-bump. Welcome kids; invite them in. It will create a feeling of belonging.
  2. Build a sense of significance by giving kids the opportunity to contribute or be responsible. Asking  kids for help can make them feel proud.

So What?

When kids feel connected, it is so much easier to provide them with guidance, discipline and instruction because they trust the coach.

When kids have a sense of belonging and capability, they are more disciplined, focused and engaged.

Kids are naturally altruistic and this can be extinguished if we don’t give them opportunities to exercise this trait.

Now What?

I have certainly been guilty of telling kids that “I” am proud of them and will certainly be more conscious of using this phrase in the future. I have already changed my language with my own children after watching this session!

Coincidentally, I have only recently started high-fiving or fist-pumping kids as they arrive at my sessions, but I have done so inconsistently. I am now inspired to make this a conscious and purposeful feature of every session from this point on.

Coach development programs certainly need more of the “How to Coach” material – such as what is discussed in this presentation – to complement the “What to Coach” information that is abundant.

Being skilled at connecting with kids and getting them “on-side” opens the doorway to learning and should be one of the first things that all coaches are taught.

Favourite Quotes From Presentation

“Connection before correction.”

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, we first have to make them feel worse?”

“Praise teaches kids to depend on the evaluation of someone else.”

“High fives change lives.”

Further reading

Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline Tools For Coaches

Can Praise Be Harmful to Young Athletes?

Youth Sports Think Tank 2019 Day Four Review

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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