How to Use Arrival Activities to Energise Your Coaching Sessions

Tips To Ensure Kids Enter Your Session With Energy And Enthusiasm

“Idleness will kill a program, especially if you work with young people.”

Mark Collard in Serious Fun

Kids need something to do as soon as they arrive at a coaching session.

Otherwise, there can be an awkward few minutes during which they don’t know what to do.  Or they will look to fill the time with anything they can find – including playing with your meticulously set-up equipment or just generally getting up to mischief. You need to avoid having kids standing around or being left to their own devices.

The gap between when kids arrive and the start of the session is an ideal opportunity to set the scene and build momentum for your session. Mark Collard refers to it as the “unofficial” start.

Start your session under control, not under stress.

Have something for the kids to do when they arrive. It is important enough to write into your lesson plan.

“Attract people’s attention as soon as possible and keep them busy.”

Mark Collard in Serious Fun

The Scenario

“Arrival activities” are handy to have on hand at every session, but they are particularly valuable when:

1. Kids arrive early

Have you ever had kids arrive well before the start of a session? Have you been in the situation where it is just you and one kid for 15 minutes before anyone else arriving?

It can be awkward if you have nothing to do and small talk can only fill in a certain amount of time, especially if the child is relatively quiet or shy.

2. Kids are running late

Have you ever had a large number of your group arrive late for a session? To the point that you don’t have enough kids to undertake the initial activity that you have planned? Always have a “Plan B” to switch to, just in case.

Entry With Intent

It is not just having something for the kids to do to fill in the time  until the session is to formally begin. You can achieve some significant things during this period. Two of these are:

1. Momentum

Momentum in a session is everything. You can start building momentum before the session getting formally underway by crafting the kids’ experience as they enter your territory. You can get them moving physically and mentally. You can break the ice so they are truly ready to begin once the session is in full swing. Think of it as a warm-up for the warm-up.

2. Connection

“Connection” is commonly listed as one of the “C-Words” that a good coaching program should develop.

With adequate planning, you can have the kids interacting, cooperating and connecting within seconds of arriving and all in advance of the session formally getting underway.

5 Cs of Coaching

The 5 C’s’ of Coaching

Get the kids warming to each other even before they are warming up.

Arrival Activity Ideas

Have a few arrival activities under your belt, ready to respond to a variety of scenarios.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Help With Setting Up

Young kids love being given a productive role and feeling helpful.

Allowing them to help you set up for a session not only will fill in some time before a session starting. It also provides them with an opportunity to cooperate, communicate and contribute. Coach-athlete and athlete-athlete bonds can be established and strengthened.

Tip: Deliberately leave your session set-up unfinished, with a few simple tasks left-over for the early-arrivals to undertake.

2. Free Play

Provide equipment for some guided free play. It is always worthwhile having a variety of items of equipment handy.

Tip: Always keep a frisbee, vortex, football, etc, in your kit, ready to withdraw when needed. Skipping ropes and hula hoops can also be useful.

3. “Practise” For The Warm Up

You can ask kids to practise the warm-up game. What does this mean?

Your warm-up game is set up and ready to go. A few kids arrive early. You gather them together, explain what the warm-up game will be and tell them to get some “special practise” in before the others arrive.

4. Entry Games

If you are really crafty, you can set up a game that uses the same equipment and space that your planned warm-up game will use at the start of the session.

Arrival Game Example – Foxtail Target Throws


  • A pop-up garden bin in the middle of the playing area
  • Hoops scattered about playing area
  • One foxtail ball per person


  • The kids stand in a hoop and try to throw the foxtail into the bin.
  • The aim is to see from how many hoops you can throw the ball into the bin.

5. Creativity Challenge

Provide the kids with several items of equipment and ask them to create a game, challenge or exercise with those items of equipment. Take notes for your coaching toolkit as the creativity flows!

More Advantages of Good Arrival Activities

  1. If your arrival activities resonate with the kids, they are more likely to arrive on time. They won’t want to miss out.
  2. You will always be active at the advertised start time. Things will be underway as the kids arrive.

Final Tips

When planning for the kids’ arrival, design activities that:

  1. Will occupy as little as one child and up to a sizeable group of kids.
  2. Ideally don’t require any additional set-up and may even use the same space and equipment as the formal warm up game or activity.
  3. Kids can walk straight into as they arrive at different times.
  4. Transition seamlessly into the start of the session.

Over To You!

Add an item titled “Arrival” or “Entry” onto your session plan. Ensure that you begin to sufficiently plan and resource this part of your session. I would love to hear the difference it makes and the experiences that you have with it. Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.

Further reading


Serious Fun by Mark Collard (Amazon US Store)


Brave Ways to Start a Coaching Session by Dan Cottrell on Connected Coaches

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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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