Inexpensive Coaching Aids That Every Kids Coach Should Carry
I’ve purchased a range of fancy coaching aids over the years – some quite expensive. Funnily enough, some of my favourite items are the most basic and inexpensive of my collection – and probably those that you would least expect.
Item 1: Pool Noodles
Every coach of kids should carry a collection of pool noodles. I can’t live without them. I always have six or so of the standard length plus another bag of 15-16 half-length (cut) noodles.
Their uses are virtually unlimited. Here are some of my favourites:
Taggers can use pool noodles as their “tagging implements”.
Usually when I mention this, people raise their eyebrows. They imagine the kids attacking each other with the noodles.
But if the kids are properly briefed to “touch” and not “whack” each other with the noodles, I have found the noodles to be a safety asset during tag games.
Because kids can keep their distance while attempting to tag each other, the chance of them colliding and getting tangled up while chasing each other is reduced.
Obstacles & Targets
Pool noodles can be held down low for athletes to jump, leap or hurdle. They can be held up high for athletes to jump or stretch up to.
They can be bent and pegged at each end to form an obstacle to crawl or slide under, leap over or roll an object through. A series of noodles set up in this way make a a great tunnel.
Stand half-length pool noodles up on pegs as targets to throw or kick at or between. Add a hoop for variety.
Corner Posts/Finish Line/Pathways
Simply stand halved noodles up over pegs fixed securely into the ground to delineate the corners of a playing area, to highlight a finish line or create a pathway. Below is an example of how I have marked out a scissors high jump run-up pathway for a class of school kids.
No need to buy expensive specialty agility poles. Save your money and stock up on pool noodles and some metal pegs. Peg them in upright as obstacles to dodge, weave and circle around.
Strategically use pool noodles to restrict and narrow moments into a desired pattern. The below image gives an example of how I do this when teaching hurdles. The pool noodles restrict the deviation of the lead and trail leg, and can encourage a compact arm action.
Adapt this idea for your own particular situation or sport.
For some more great ideas about how to put noodles to good use in a movement development/physical education setting, see the article 10 Noodles Activities To Embolden Your Arsenal by Keeping kids in Motion.
Item 2: Coloured Tape
I have recently been experimenting with using coloured tape to assist an athlete’s attention to a coaching cue. Some research has identified the effectiveness of placing a piece of coloured tape on an athlete’s body part to draw attention to the movement or position of that body part.
For example with scissors high jumping, I have found that sticking a piece of tape on a child’s driving foot and cueing them to “kick the tape up” is far more effective than instructing them to kick their foot up.
Likewise, a piece of coloured tape placed over an athlete’s shirt at approximately the level of their navel, accompanied by the instruction of “lead with the tape” can result in a more effective running posture.
Coloured tape can support your coaching cues. I never leave home without a roll of it in my coaching bag.
Item 3: Ribbons
A bag of coloured ribbons is a constant in my kit. They were home-made from store-bought material; cut up with fabric scissors into strips. This is an item that I mainly use with younger athletes, but nonetheless they provide a variety of options. They are versatile, inexpensive and very portable.
Some uses are:
- Ribbon-based games and challenges. (Check out some of my favourites HERE.)
- As obstacles to avoid or step over.
- To identify teams e.g. By wrapping a certain colour around a group members’ wrists.
- Safe* target markers – e.g. stretch them across the sand in a long jump sand pit as “obstacles” for athletes to attempt to leap over.
*The safety of using any item can never be fully guaranteed. Always check for potential slip and tripe hazards.
Purchase some pool noodles (cut a few in half), obtain some tape, and make some colourful ribbons.
Experiment with a range of unusual, inexpensive items to expand your coaching repertoire.
I would love to hear what you come up with and if you have any of your own favourite coaching aids. How do you use them? Let me know by leaving a reply/comment or by using the contact details below.
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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.