How Your Coaching Session Layout Can Liven Up Young Athletes
I had arrived at my local Little Athletics centre early enough and before things formally got underway to set up a long jump play session for the Under 6 age group.
I constructed a simple set-up: a couple of lines of hoops for some basic jumping skills, and two long jump landing areas marked out by some coloured cones in the sand.
Once done, I left the area to take care of some other duties, but my attention was soon drawn back to the long jump area. A crowd was gathering.
I quickly realised that the main attraction was my equipment. Kids were swarming all around it – hopping and jumping through the hoops, and running up to jump into the long jump landing areas that I had left there.
I panicked a bit at first, concerned that my carefully-positioned equipment was about to be “rearranged” and all of my set-up time wasted. But I was thrilled that the kids had been so drawn to what I had created. What better testimonial could there be, especially from the very audience it had been created for?
Kids Provide Clues For Coaches
Part of skilled coaching involves crafting a physical environment that kids are drawn in to.
We need to take note of what attracts kids to physical activity and let this inspire our coaching and sporting environments.
The long jump experience described above contains some key clues about what will draw kids in:
1. Novel, Colourful Equipment
If you look closely at the images above, you will see I deliberately used colourful equipment that is not necessarily associated with track and field.
We need to dress up kids’ sport. Kids sports need to look kid-friendly. We need to consider what will widen the kids’ eyes when they arrive. Build up your kit of colourful, fun-looking modified or adapted equipment and put it to good use during your sessions.
2. A Prompt to Play
The images above show a playful set-up, but also one that is not haphazardly arranged. The colours are carefully coordinated and the equipment is laid out in a way in which a use for the equipment is suggested. The row of hoops says: “Run, step, hop or jump through me”. The long jump landing areas beg the kids to jump into them.
The environment created by adults needs to invite involvement and be easy to engage with. Avoid confusing the kids with complicated set-ups.
Make your session set-up look organised, interesting, playful and challenging by taking care and showing intent when laying out your equipment.
3. Creative Control
While the long jump activities were set up in a way that implied their use, they were not regimented. They left the opportunity for creativity, which kids crave.
Give the kids space to provide their own angle of approach to activities. You can provide parameters without being too prescriptive. Plan to allow kids to use their own creative licence. Provide the environment, set the scene, then stand back.
4. Instant Involvement
The dozens of kids who clambered over and around my long jump set-up had leapt at the opportunity to be active as they arrived.
Instead of leaving kids idle, give them instant access to activity. Have something for them to do as soon as they show up. Schedule an arrival activity into your plan.
Draw kids into your coaching sessions by:
- Using novel, colourful equipment.
- Deliberately arranging your equipment in a way that prompts the desire to play.
- Planning to pass creative control over to the kids during parts of a session.
- Having something for the kids to do as soon as they arrive.
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.