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How much is too much when it comes to youth sport?

How much is too much when it comes to youth sport?

How to coach with a Balance is Better philosophy

How to coach with a Balance is Better philosophy

Balance is Better Principles Poster

Balance is Better Principles Poster

Creating a positive parent culture

Creating a positive parent culture

Unpacking the Balance is Better principles

Unpacking the Balance is Better principles

Running good trials and selections

Running good trials and selections

Balanced Female Health

Balanced Female Health

The iCoachKids Pledge: 10 Guidance Points to Create Positive Sport Experiences for Kids

CoachesLeadership 5 Min Read

Following an extensive literature review, the iCK expert group has developed ‘The iCoachKids Pledge’. The Pledge provides 10 points of guidance for individuals and organisations wishing to create positive sport experiences for children. 

Here is the iCoachKids Pledge: 

1 – Be child-centred:
Always have the best interest for children at heart and listen to them. It is about what children want and what they need, not about the adults! 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

  • “Take off the adult-glasses and try to see the sport through the eyes of the child” 
  • Ask young people questions like: 
    Why do you come to my session? 
    What do you like and dislike? 
    – What other experiences of sport have you had? 

2 – Be holistic:
Develop children in your sessions as people first and foremost, not only as athletes. Aim to develop their psychosocial skills and capabilities not just their physical ones. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

Try to develop young people’s psycho-social capabilities, not just their physical capabilities. Do this by: 

  • Using activities that engage young people at more than just a physical level.
  • Make the most of teachable moments (e.g. losing, a bad ref decision, a mistake, good team work).
  • Challenge young people to think as well as move.

3 – Be inclusive:
Cater for all levels of abilities and motivations. Coaching is far from a one-size-fits-all. Get to know the kids you coach and dare to coach them differently. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

Coaching is not one size fits all. Ways in which coaches can differentiate their coaching include: 

  • Pay attention to every child, not only the good ones. 
  • Get to know the young people you coach, and understand how you may need to coach them differently.
  • Remove the barriers to participating so that all young people feel welcome, regardless of background, motivation, ability and previous experience.

4 – Create fun and safe environments:
Children want to have fun and to learn they need to feel safe. Build positive relationships and enjoyable and caring climates that allow them to thrive and that keep them coming back. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

As a coach, create enjoyable and caring climates for young people. This is not just about young people actually being safe, but also young people perceiving that they are safe. As well it is about creating environments that keeps young people wanting to come back. Coaches can do this by: 

  • Going out of their way to build great relationships.
  • Don’t let learning get in the way of fun. Focus on creating fun environments first.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your fun-side.

5 – Prioritise children’s love for sport and physical activity:
A very small proportion of kids will become elite athletes, yet all of them have the potential to become healthy active adults. Creating that fantastic legacy is part of your job. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

Remember, only a small number of young people want to become an elite athlete, and an even smaller number will become elite athletes. But all young people have the potential to become healthy active adults and have a lifelong love of sport. Creating healthy active adults who love sport is a key legacy youth coaches should strive for.  

Coaches can do that by making sure young people want to return for more. Key questions to ask about you’re coaching to support this include: 

  • Is your coaching fun? 
  • Is your coaching social? 
  • Is your coaching varied and novel? 

6 – Develop foundational motor and game skills:
Do not be overconcerned with the specific skills of your sport. At a younger age kids need to gain essential motor skills and learn the basics of how to play games using generic tactical principles to give themselves the best chance of success. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

At a young age, young people need to gain essential motor skills. As such, coaches should focus on generic skills and movement patterns (including generic tactical patterns of play in games) before specific sport skills. Think about your sessions having a sport-specific flavour, with a more generic purpose. 

What about coaches of older young people? 

As young people grow and develop, coaches can then introduce more complex and sport-specific movements and tactics. However, as some strength and conditioning coaches of elite and pre-elite athletes will attest, sometimes basic and foundational movement skills might be missing or require addressing. Don’t be afraid to spend time on helping, or getting support to help, older young people with improving their foundational movement skills (e.g., running, jumping, landing, turning, etc). 

7 – Engage parents in a positive and constructive manner:
Parents are not the enemy, but the biggest resource at your disposal. They want the best for their kids and so do you. Partnership is the key word. You will never know what parents can offer if you don’t talk to them. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

Think of parents as, not the enemy, but the biggest resource at the coach’s deposal. Engage with parents positively. Both coaches and parents want the best for young people, so align this want. Coaches can do this by: 

  • Talk with parents and find out what they have to offer and how they may be able to help.
  • Opening and maintaining regular lines of communication with parents e.g. texts, emails, meetings.
  • Helping parents, especially overzealous parents, to understand how they can help their child make the most out of sport.

8 – Plan developmentally appropriate and progressive programmes and sessions:
We are taking kids on a learning journey. We have to have a good idea of the destination point and develop short, mid and long -term goals and plans that will help the kids get there. It’s not peak-by-Saturday nor improvising a session ‘of the cuff’. Failing to plan is planning to fail!

Key takeaways for coaches: 

Remember, you are taking young people on a long learning journey. Don’t coach just for ‘Saturday’, but coach for long term holistic goals. This is possible with the implementation of a good coaching plan that is developmentally appropriate – i.e. the plan should take into account the young person’s age and stage of development, and the best way to help them progress. 

Watch iCoachKid’s video playlist on how coaches can plan for success? 

Watch iCoachKid’s video playlist on how coaches can account for the different stages of development and growth in young people? 

9 – Use different coaching methods to enhance learning:
Learning is a complex process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Different coaching and teaching strategies can serve different purposes at different stages of learning and development, complement each other, and help us achieve the desired results. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

It’s crucial that coaches understand that learning is a complex process that takes time. There is also not one single best way to coach.  

Different coaching strategies are better for different stages of learning, as well will have different impacts on the various learners. Whether the strategy is: 

  • Repetition 
  • Skill circuits 
  • Grid drills 
  • Games-based learning 

They all have a time and place. The key is understanding when to use the different strategies. 

10 – Use competition in a developmental way:
There is nothing wrong with competition. When the format and the atmosphere around competition is built around the developmental stage of the kids and considerate of their needs, competition is an amazing motivator and a lot of fun. A win-at-all-cost mentality can really spoil the party though. 

Key takeaways for coaches: 

Competition is neither good nor bad by itself. It’s impact on the experience of young people and the outcomes that they get in relation to competition in sport, depends on how it is organised, presented and managed.   

Key things for coaches to keep in mind: 

  • Avoid replicating the adult-version of the game 
  • Be wary of how the competition in its different forms incentivises different behaviours, for examples: 
    – Selection decisions
    – Position and game time decisions 
    – Parent behaviours

Watch More: Webinar Replay – Raising the bar in coaching youth sport

More from iCoachKids 

The Coaches Toolkit 

The iCoachKids Literature Review 

Free E-Learning courses for coaches, by iCoachKids 

iCoachKids YouTube Channel 

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