Tag Archives: Sport

5 Unexpected Things That Can Enhance Your Journey As A Youth Sports Coach

Some Of The Best Coach Learning Experiences Will Surprise You

Learning can sometimes come from the most unexpected sources.

Many of these are not what we would usually consider as conventional coach development opportunities. Some we might prefer to avoid and some we may even fear.

Here are 5 unexpected sources of learning that can ultimately enhance your coaching journey:

1. Conducting A Bad Session

All coaches have sessions that they are not happy with.

A bad session is often a stronger catalyst for deep reflection than any successful session. And deep reflection is the source of real coaching improvements.

As long as you don’t let a bad session entirely derail your coaching confidence,  poor sessions are opportunities for improvements.

I hate it when a session – or something contained within a session – flops. But it does give me the impetus to examine what went wrong and what I can do better next time. The key is being prepared to take responsibility and not lay the blame elsewhere. It’s all about being accountable.

It’s also about accepting that things won’t go well all of the time and having a strategy for moving forward.

2. A Lack Of Equipment Or Facilities

I’m sure that state-of-the-art facilities are nice, and not having some things can be limiting, but it can also be expansive. You need to be creative and learn to adapt. Forced creativity often leads to a discovery that may not have emerged if we are left in our comfort zone. If, for example, you have ever had a session confined indoors due to bad weather, and not able to access your regular space, facilities, or equipment, you may have had to debut some wonderful new material that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. 

Sometimes, having access to limited resources can be a bonus rather than a burden when it comes to learning to be creative and flexible.

3. When The Unexpected Occurs

I put a lot of effort into planning and don’t like last-minute changes and surprises. But often when I am faced with these situations, I find that I invent some of my best stuff. 

It is not unusual to be faced with groups that are bigger or smaller than expected, or group members are running late, or the weather changes, or you have forgotten to pack a key piece of equipment. All of these things may necessitate quickly changing your plan and sometimes creating new adaptions of existing activities or even brand new additions to your coaching repertoire, some of which will survive, or at least influence your coaching going forward.

4. Coaching Challenging Participants

It is understandable to feel sorry for ourselves when faced with an individual or group that is rowdy, non-cooperative, or disinterested. It can be frustrating. But approached with resilience, it provides an opportunity to review, reflect upon, and hone teaching, leadership, group management skills.

Planning and delivering a variety of strategies to cater for these circumstances can cause a coach to dig deep and devise solutions that expand our coaching toolkit. Sifting through what does and doesn’t work provides valuable feedback to us for when we are faced with similar situations again in the future.

It is also at these times that we are most likely to read and research about possible strategies and solutions, and consult others about their thoughts and experiences. This process is invaluable as we grow and develop as coaches.

5. When The Kids Take Over

It sounds like a horror situation, doesn’t it? I’m not, however, talking about group anarchy. I’m referring to a situation facilitated by the coach, whether pre-planned or not, where the coach takes a back seat for a while and lets the kids lead.

It is worth planning athlete-led situations into your sessions, but they can also sometimes arise unexpectedly. If you sense the kids want input, don’t push back, panic, or grip more tightly to your control. Be alert to opportunities to stand back, pass the reins over, and learn. Kids can be more creative than adults. The challenge here is feeling OK with relinquishing some control. I’m certainly not advocating sitting on the sidelines, putting your feet up and leaving the kids to it. The coach should always remain as a gentle guiding (or steadying!) hand if needed.

Kids thrive on responsibility, ownership, and input. When you allow them this freedom, watch carefully and take note of how they operate and what they create, and you will learn a lot about the kids. You will also most likely gain a whole lot of new kid-designed activities and challenges to add to your coaching repertoire.


Five unexpected sources of learning that can help you improve as a coach of kids are:

  1. Conducting a Bad Session
  2. A Lack of Equipment or Facilities
  3. When the Unexpected Occurs
  4. Coaching Challenging Participants
  5. When the Kids Take Over

All of these things involve personal challenges or stepping outside of our normal comfort zone. Just as we understand that the right amount of challenge will result in the growth of our young athletes, it is also the stage on which growth can potentially thrive in coaches. The key is to frame the experiences in the right way and have prepared a course of action to capitalise on them when they occur.

Difficult coaching situations call for excellent coaching skills and can ultimately present us with our most proud coaching moments and greatest learning experiences.

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 TwitterFacebookLinkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.

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