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Principles of Youth Coaching

  • Avoid – laps, lines and lectures – You would be better served to play small sided high intensity games that encourage fast play of short duration than to make your players run laps for conditioning. As adults we don’t like standing in lines so why would our children? Players come to practice to play not sit and listen. Use the “30 second rule”.
  • Positive Attitude – be enthusiastic without being intimidating. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline your players, but don’t discipline for mistakes when the player is trying their best.
  • Be prepared – the younger they are, the more organized you should be.
    Activities need to be developmentally appropriate and fun – small sided games, work on skills and tactics.
  • Give clear instructions – short demonstrations with short, clear instructions.
  • Simple to complex progression – never underestimate a child’s ability.
  • Provide opportunities for decision making – attack/defend scheming.
  • Use safe and appropriate spaces.
  • Be patient. – don’t push players beyond limits in regards to practice.
  • Care more about the players as individuals than for how athletically inclined they are.
  • Allow time for just playing the game.
  • Be the first to demonstrate good sportsmanship – Honor the game. Respect the rules, opponents, officials and traditions of the game. Keep a low profile during the game and allow the kids to be the center of attention.
  • Understand the different characteristics of youth of different age groups.
  • Have a team meeting before the season starts and lay down the team rules and explain your coaching philosophy and goals. Advise parents at that time that there will be no discussion of coaching philosophy later in the season so they should decide now if they want their child to play on your team. It's OK, for parents to disagree with your philosophy, but they should do it before the season starts and move their child somewhere else.
  • Get parents involved at practice. This will help the player feel more comfortable when trying something new. Remind the parents that during games they should try to remain quiet and not yell out instructions as this will only confuse the players.
  • Be approachable – Listen to your players and parents. Keep an open mind and never retaliate against a player because a parent tells you they don’t agree with your game time decisions or the their child’s playing time. Think things over before getting back to the parent. This will give you time to review and decide on a solution and it will give the parent time to calm down.
  • Provide opportunities for all your players - It doesn't matter if your coaching 4 year olds or ten year olds. Find ways to get all of your players involved. Yes, you will always have some natural athletes and some kids who don't know a ball from a hole in the ground, but lets get real, what are we playing youth sports for. So the coach can win or so the kids have opportunities to develop. That 8 year old with no skills may just develop into the next star high school athlete if some coach doesn't give up on him to early.
  • Keep notes during games – game time is not the time to teach something new. It’s a time to evaluate what your players have learned and what skills need to be improved. Game time is also a good time to learn from the other coach and team.
  • Lastly, but most importantly – manage your time effectively – Keep things in perspective and keep your priorities straight – God, spouse, and family come first. Having good, dependable assistant coaches and a good team parent will take a lot of pressure off of you.