“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” – Magic Johnson
For many youth athletes, that “somebody” is their coach. When kids join youth sports they and or at least their parents might be hoping for a boost in confidence, some basic instruction in the sport, lessons in teamwork and the development of skills. If the kids have an effective coach, those goals are within reach.
For coaches looking to make an impact, we compiled a few youth coaching tips from across sports and industries to give a leg up.
Youth coaching tips, the Do’s
1.) Have fun: Coaches need to remember that their youth athletes are kids, and kids want to have fun. Kids aren’t going to dedicate time to a sport if they aren’t enjoying the process. As stated on TheCoachesSite.com: “Every skill or drill you teach should be fun and relevant. Young athletes tend to switch off when they start to get bored.” To keep practices diverse and fun for kids, coaches should try new drills and be able to teach skills in various ways to keep training sessions fresh.
2.) Practice with a purpose: It’s important for coaches to make the most out of their team practices and to make sure the training sessions are organized. To be effective and to keep the players engaged, coaches should have a plan as to what skills will be addressed and how drills will be conducted. Practice can be so important to player development that legendary basketball coach John Wooden viewed it as one of the most important parts of his job. “In the end, it’s about the teaching, and what I always loved about coaching were the practices. Not the games, not the tournaments, not the alumni staff. But teaching the players during practice was what coaching was all about to me,” Wooden said.
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3.) Be positive: Young athletes want to be around positive people. It’s important for kids to develop confidence and feel like they are in a secure and supportive environment. TheCoachesSite.com suggests, “It’s important to project a positive belief in the child, in their strengths, and in their capacity to overcome obstacles and pursue personal goals.” Creating this positive culture will help athletes develop as players.
Be positive. Young athletes want to be around positive people. The Do’s and Don’ts of effective coaching. [Click to Tweet]
4.) Get to know the athletes: To better engage with his or her players, it’s important for a coach to get to know each athlete on an individual level. This will allow the coach to become familiar with each player’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and also enables the coach to understand each player’s personality and learn what motivates him or her. According to Psychology Today, “The better you get to know children, the better you can understand their strengths, limitations, and needs. This helps in adapting instruction to the child’s level of ability.”
5.) Establish parent/coach relationships: While coaches might think their job starts and ends with their players, it also includes each athlete’s parents. TheCoachesSites.com says, “This helps build a trusting relationship, and helps to keep reality in perspective regarding their kids.” Dealing with parents and communicating with them effectively and regularly is part of the coach’s duties, and is important to make the team – and its players — successful. For more tips on parent communication, read our post here.
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6.) Ensure players show good sportsmanship: While it’s important for coaches to teach athletes skills, it’s just as important for them to instruct their players on the rules of the game, and how to play with good sportsmanship. Following rules, playing safely and with integrity, and showing respect to opponents are skills athletes will need for the rest of their lives, both on and off the field. Having a Code of Conduct in place sets a solid framework for expectations.
7.) Show the importance of hard work: Coaches set the model for their players by showing the benefits of hard work. Coaches can teach players how putting in practice and following through with their commitments can benefit them in their sport, and in their everyday lives.
Youth coaching tips, the Don’ts
8.) Don’t yell at kids for making mistakes: When a youth athlete makes a mistake in the game, it can be tempting for a coach to scold the player immediately. However, focusing on the bad play and shaming the player can have negative results. USLacrosse.org says, “They already know they messed up. There’s no quicker way to send them into shutdown mode than yelling at them.”
9.) Don’t over-coach during a game: When the game is underway and coaches find the need to change the game plan or strategy, it can be tempting for them to overcomplicate their instructions to their youth players. According to USLacrosse.org, “Too often coaches want to start from scratch in the heat of the moment.” This risks confusing the young athletes and causing frustration.
10.) Don’t show disappointment: It’s important for coaches to avoid showing their disappointment and frustration in front of their players. USLacrosse.org states, “Your team is looking for positive energy and you need to show them that you believe in them.” If coaches show their emotions and get down, that will rub off on their players. The young athletes will lose motivation and will stop playing to their full potential. Instead, coaches can show the players how to overcome disappointment and setbacks.
11.) Don’t show confidence in only select players: It’s tempting for a coach to rely on key players down the stretch of a game. However, according to the Positive Coaching Alliance, coaches need to avoid substituting “players in key situations for a more skilled player”. Coaches need to properly train all of their team members to be able to handle those game situations, and need all players to know their coach has confidence in them.