Coaching younger children: it’s an investment for the future…

A shorter but hopefully helpful blog post today and it’s about coaching young children in a specific way.

By using facets of ‘play’ for children, allowing them to be creative, exploratory and imaginative is essential. 

By using a games-based approach to learning sport, ensuring the experience is as close to the ‘real thing’ as possible, authentic and realistic is essential. 

By allowing young people to have a voice and choice in what and how they learn things, gently creating opportunities for ownership, leadership and responsibility is essential. 

By fostering a sense of self-worth, ensuring they feel valued as part of the learning process and being an individual yet also part of a team is essential.  

The returns from using activities that foster these skills are essential for long term development but be very clear, the returns on using an approach like this isn’t about the returns you will get immediately. If we allow all the above parts to happen we are going to be in a better place in the future. 

You see, I would liken this to what you do with your money. By doing all of the above things you are essentially setting up a five-year ISA; a saving’s plan that you can’t draw the money out of for a long period of time but will reap higher returns later down the line. This process doesn’t create an ATM/Cash Machine that you can draw out the money straight away!

Coaching in this way isn’t about instant returns to help you win a league or championship or anything short-term. It’s about equipping young players with the skills that will be of huge help in the future, whether they become a footballer or a fireman. It is very timely when working with younger children to develop these skills as some may be harder to develop later down the line.

I would quite happily be the coach of a group of U14’s that have been exposed to this previously, to all of these coaching methods in the younger ages and be able to reap the returns. However, if they haven’t, don’t expect what you draw out the cash machine in five years to be anywhere near what you can get from the saving’s plan!

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8 thoughts on “Coaching younger children: it’s an investment for the future…

  • June 10, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    The first coaches a child have set them up for their entire athletic career. You are the one who teaches them how to throw, run, dribble, pass, shot, skate, and more. They may be young and it may be mostly for fun but what they learn from you sets them up for life long success.

  • July 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I agree that it is important to create a learning environment for young players. What evidence do you have that this will be successful? And how do you define success?

  • July 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Totally agree Jodi, the first coach is essential in making or breaking a young person's love of sport. We need more makers than breakers!

  • July 23, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Frank,

    Self-determination theory is a fairly well established piece of research that underpins intrinsic motivation for young people and applies across many domains. Worth a read of the work by Deci and Ryan if you haven't already.

    Success? Depends on the individual and their definition? Mine might be different to their's, so who's is more important? I can loosely define mine linked to all the player's wanting to come back next season, individuals then need a handle on their own goal setting, of which I'm just a small cog in making that happen.

  • July 23, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Good points. Their is a lot of talk of long term player development at the moment but I think a lot of coaches forget that it is long term PEOPLE development that's most important.


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