3 Simple Rules for Youth Coaches

Last weekend, while presenting at the TPEA National Conference, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down over dinner with some of the best coaches around. We discussed our systems, or goals and our philosophies. During one of these discussions, we talked about specific qualities that great youth sports coaches possess? What unique coaching styles separate the great coaches from the poor coaches? In my opinion, it comes down to the ability to follow 3 simple rules…

  1. Empower your players – Players need to feel in control. We need to teach them to take responsibility for their actions (in training and in life). By giving players the feeling that they are in control of their own destiny, great coaches can provide the opportunity to learn skills like work ethic, leadership, effort, persistence and the confidence to overcome adversity.
  2. Equip them with skill – I am referring mainly to movement skill, which I believe is the foundation for technical skill. Especially in the younger age groups, coaches need to lay a broad and solid foundation in movement skill (balance, coordination, rhythm…). Then we need to build upon these skills by teaching them how to confidently jump, land, accelerate, decelerate, change direction, hop, leap, skip, lunge, push, pull and press. These skills lead us into throwing, catching, kicking, striking, volleying, dribbling, passing, receiving, etc.
  3. Emotionally Engage them in the Journey – Great coaches get players excited about learning, they create an atmosphere where the athletes are not afraid to try. Great coaches teach young players to enjoy the journey of athletic development. They make learning fun.

Here is an example…

When teaching a new skill, 1) Tell the player the goal, 2) Show the player the technique, 3) Allow the player to try… When cuing this new skill, keep it simple by getting them to see an image or outcome (external focus). Nick Winkelman had a good cue for teaching acceleration last weekend, “Be a jet, not a helicopter.” Helicopters take off slow and vertical, while jets take off fast and low… just seeing that image can reinforce all the technical aspects of acceleration, especially when other cues are added (push the ground away from you). Finally, emotionally engage the player in the process. It may take weeks, months or even years for the player to master a particular skill. The key is to keep the player from getting discouraged. Great coaches celebrate each stepping stone on the way to success.

Empower, Equip and Engage your players in every training session, and the results will astound you…



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