One of the most important things in coaching children is to focus on fun and skill development. Especially at very young ages, competition shouldn’t be an essential issue, because kids should first of all learn to enjoy the game and have fun playing it, so they can grow to love it. How you conduct your practice sessions and manage to motivate your players can make the great difference between playing just for one season, or playing forever.
You should set your coaching philosophy based on the particular age group you’re coaching, because children have both physical and emotional abilities according to their age. You cannot expect the same results from a 6-year old as from a 15 year-old player. As a youth sports coach, you will be working with children, therefore it is essential that you focus on fun and skill development.
It’s normal as a coach to work towards winning as much games as possible, but when you’re working with children, encouraging their best efforts is more important that winning every game. Their results will not define you as a coach, but the passion they develop for the game will. Every practice session should revolve around the kids’ development, and having fun is a major factor in their progress. Concentrate on teaching skills and helping overcome difficulties, and always encourage each and every one of them. Everybody strives to win, but you must convince your players that a winner is a person who gives his best efforts, regardless of the situation.
Bare in mind that children are very impressionable, and as a coach you will also be a role model for them. If they feel that all you care about is winning, they will stop having fun and start feeling under pressure. Enjoying the game is essential for their skill development, and building their confidence is your responsibility as a coach. Give them plenty of positive feedback and make every kid feel he’s an important part of the team, whether he’s mastering a skill or still struggling to progress. Make the kids understand that making mistakes is part of the game, and as long as they put their best effort into it they will progress soon. As their coach you must help them learn from their mistakes, not punish them.
Last but not least, never use the scoreboard for feedback. Encourage them and give positive feedback judging on their efforts and dedication, not their wins or losses. And always remember, their best results will come when they’re having fun.
Mihai is the author of this article. If you are interested to read more, feel free to check his other articles for useful information.