The 25 Best Tips From ‘Coaching Young Athletes’ During 2019
Below are 25 of the best tips, tricks, thoughts, and ideas that appeared in articles posted on the Coaching Young Athletes blog during 2019.
1. Design Drills That Thrill
Too commonly, “drills” see young athletes robotically going through the motions – often repeatedly and sometimes without real intent. A kid’s attention span and motivation is not well-matched with a sports program made up of these type of drills. Drills need to be done in a way that engages the kids. Design drills that thrill.
2. Create Stories & Scenarios To Disguise Your Drills
Good coaches design novel ways to teach kids athletics skills. Get creative with your coaching and develop some challenges (e.g. obstacle courses) accompanied by stories or scenarios (e.g. the athlete is undergoing “ninja training” in preparation for a “secret mission”) to replace traditional drills.
3. Always Let The Athlete Lead The Post-Event Conversation
Approach your post-event conversation with a young athlete with awareness, intent, and empathy. Allow the athlete to lead the conversation. It is unhelpful for a young athlete to feel any adult intensity or expectation revolving around their sports performances. A relaxed approach that gives the impression that the whole world doesn’t revolve around their recent performance is best.
4. Teach Kids To Push Off With Both Feet At The Start
When the gun is fired, a young athlete should push down and back with both feet. The role of the back foot is often underestimated. Most athletes push with their front foot, but many just lift their back foot away from the ground or the back block. The back foot is just as important, if not more so than the front foot.
5. An Analogy Is Arguably The Strongest Form Of Coaching Cue
A good analogy links the unknown to something already known, making it easier for the learner to navigate a new or developing movement.
6. We Need To Change The Default Adult Agenda Away From Wanting Kids To Become High Performing Athletes.
A realistic acceptance that sporting kids are unlikely to “make it” will provide more space to focus on the personal benefits and growth that participation in sport can provide.
7. Control Without Being Controlling
Relinquish some control, relax the structure of practices and be prepared to go with the flow, while maintaining a close involvement and guiding hand. Get to the point where you become comfortable with feeling “nearly out of control” of a session.
8. Fundamental Movement Skills & Strength Development Must Shift From A “Nice To Do” To A “Critical” Aspect Of Our Youth Sports Coaching.
Work on fundamental movement skills in the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of a session. Use variety and novelty to gain an athlete’s attention and prevent boredom.
9. Regularly Check In With Your Athletes
Coaches are hugely influential in a young person’s life and can often be an important confidant for kids. Coaches should know what to do to support kids who may be under pressure or having a hard time with lots going on in their lives.
10. High Fives Change Lives
When kids feel connected, it is so much easier to provide them with guidance, discipline, and instruction because they trust the coach.
11. Criticism Is Feedback
It is wrong to say that praise improves self-esteem and wrong to say that criticism damages self-esteem. Honest and kind criticism is information that will help an athlete improve and is more likely to result in increased self-esteem.
12. Be cautious when labelling kids as “talented”
“Talent” is not fixed. It is a dynamic thing that is changing all of the time. As a child’s growth and the environment is changing, so may the “talent” that is evident.
13. Link Performance To Learning, Effort & Growth
The way we react to a child’s performance can influence their mindset. It appears that when talking with children following a sports performance it is best to link the performance to things such as effort, learning, and growth, rather than the child’s “talent” or “natural ability”.
14. Don’t Delay Development In Favour Of The Fixture
When focused on the fixture we can become too concerned with trying to get results NOW, which is often to the detriment of performance later. Chasing short-term results will usually see the laying of a faulty foundation and most likely a sports career eventually crashing down.
15. Higher Quality Motivation Is Internally Driven
A young athlete’s motivation will be assisted if coaches and parents act in an autonomy-supportive way. One way to understand this behaviour is to think of it as being in contrast to what would be considered as controlling behaviour, without going as far as being fully permissive.
16. Intentionally Craft An Environment That Generates Buy-In
W need to be alert to what factors lead to self-driven engagement. The challenge is then to deliberately attempt to replicate these factors within a coaching session.
17. External Cues Are Better Than Internal Cues For Learning And Performance
Knowing this and being able to apply this knowledge can be a game-changer in coaching. Be mindful and purposeful with your use of language when coaching a skill.
18. One Word Can Make A Big Difference
Don’t underestimate the power of language in coaching. Taking time to craft your language to resonate with your audience will make you a better coach.
19. Be Discerning About What You Include In Your Program
Any activity that appears within a session should have passed through several filters before being delivered to the kids.
20. Be A “Carriage” For Your Athletes
The word “coach” comes from the name of a small Hungarian village Kocs, where carriages (i.e. horse-drawn vehicles) were made. It’s a wonderful way to think about coaching: transporting someone from point A to point B; from where they are to where they want to be.
21. Back Off When A Young Athlete Is Struggling
I think that many coaches react in the wrong way when a young athlete in their charge is struggling. They typically narrow the focus to work harder on the perceived “problem”. I think that the opposite is more effective. In many cases, coaches should relax, back off and diversify the program.
22. Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Coaching Kids
All coaches – no matter how experienced they are, or how confident they appear – will sometimes experience fear. If you have ever felt fearful as a coach, or haven’t coached yet because of fear, take heart. You are far from alone.
23. For Strength Training, Use Challenges That Require Kids To Manage Their Body Weight
Not many kids are overly thrilled by performing what we traditionally think of as body weight exercises. e.g. Push-ups, sit-ups, and burpees. Kids struggle to put them into the context of their daily lives or find an immediate reward in doing them. The exercises are just too repetitive and bland.
24. Find Out What Kids Like About Your Sessions
We can get carried away delivering what is important to us and what will look impressive to those watching. But do we consider what is most valued by the kids? If we fail to consider our coaching from the kids’ point of view, we will fail as coaches. Empathy is essential for sports coaching excellence.
25. Design Activities That Will Capture And Hold The Kids’ Attention
For kids to learn they must be paying attention. Good coaches have a sense of what will make a child’s eyes widen and their ears prick up. They are proficient at designing activities that will cause the kids to lean in and lock on.
Which tip is your favourite?
I would love to hear which of the tips is your favourite. What resonates with you? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply 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.
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.