· pdf file participate in all club/association coaches meetings, training courses and...
� kids and teens requires caring and well
informed coaches, eager athletes and supportive parents. Parents around the world send their children
to training sessions and games with the expectation that supervision by competent coaches will foster
positive sport outcomes, optimum learning and life-skills development.
A junior sports coach takes on the very important role of guiding kids, and helping them to get the very
most from their sporting activities. Whilst it is true that paid sports coaches are present within many
amateur sporting associations,
Despite this, reports still persist about the dramatic increase in
parents obsessed with winning, the frequency of sporting injuries
and a flood of young athletes quitting sports because they are no
longer having fun.
That’s where this Kick-Start Report comes in! Here you will find
well-researched, proven-in-the-trenches tips to support your
coaching education and make your experience a rewarding one for both coach and kids. The purpose of
this report is to introduce junior sport coaches to good coaching fundamentals, and to encourage their
professional development, hopefully ensuring all young athletes will have a rewarding and fun sport
experience (and coach too!).
#1 TIP: Don’t forget you
are coaching kids and
teens - this is NOT
“Coaching Kids Sport - KICK START©” Report Page 1
Don’t forget you are coaching kids and teens – this is NOT professional sport.
Adopt a coaching philosophy with a focus on individual skill development and improvement rather than
winning as the outcome.
Accept the well recorded research findings that children’s goals for playing sport are — fun, friends, fitness,
participation and skill development — always put those goals first. (Note: “winning” is not on this list!)
Always be mindful of the fact that playing sport is only one of many meaningful activities in which children
Develop superior listening skills. Always ask for and listen to your athletes’ thoughts and opinions.
Establish a positive rapport with your players, providing a supportive environment and showing sensitivity
to individual differences.
Be an inclusive coach by adapting and modifying you coaching activities to ensure every participant is
included, regardless of age, gender, ability, ethnic background or disability, and has the opportunity to
participate if they choose to. Reinforce the contribution ALL children make to the group.
Make good sportsmanship, teamwork and fair play fundamental values for the team.
Adopt a positive coaching style by always first complimenting EFFORT and the parts of skill which were
performed correctly. Make any criticism constructive, eg. “areas for improvement”, “what could work
better” etc. Be supportive in assisting your athletes in being student-athletes. School and family are just as
important as their sport – remember sport is just one part of life for a rounded, well-balanced person.
Make a positive contribution to your athletes’ self-confidence by always setting high standards and
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Participate in all Club/Association coaches meetings, training courses and educational tools.
Make it your business to obtain Blue Card, First Aid and CPR certification.
Familiarise, understand and follow all Club/Association/League and rules relating to your particular sport.
Read articles and publications on coaching youth sports to keep you well informed and up-to-date with the
latest research and information.
Take every chance to learn from other coaches (not only in your own sport) through observation,
mentoring and feedback.
Polish up on your knowledge of sport-specific skills, techniques and tactics.
Become familiar with child growth and development as it pertains to the age groups you are coaching.
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Always maintain a calm composure and be very aware of your body language and how powerful it can be.
Make sure your appearance is always neat, clean and professional.
Insist on high standards and teach positive values, including responsible personal and social behaviour from
Always treat your athletes, their parents and families, the opposing teams and all officials with the utmost
respect. Always shake hands with officials and opposing team after games.
Insist upon ethical conduct and teach good sportsmanship including how to lose.
Be an advocate for drug-free sport participation and living.
Adopt a sound work ethic. Coaches expect their athletes to play and practice hard, but they need to be
equally up to the task. Coaches need to conduct well-planned practice sessions, and have detailed
preparation for all games.
Always use appropriate language. Athletic competition occasionally brings frustration and surges in
emotion, but coaches should not use foul or inappropriate language.
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Always remember that careful prior planning (in writing) makes the difference between a smooth-
running, successful team and one that is erratic and uncoordinated.
Develop an entire season plan as well as a training/session plan for each practice and competition game.
Plans can be simple and brief. Write it down!
Set goals and plan instruction based on your athletes’ age, developmental and skill levels, using
progressions (from simple to more complex) for learning and practicing skills.
Whiteboard planning sessions prior to the commencement of the season are very helpful. Discuss the
upcoming competition with your athletes, including goals, strategies and mindset.
Plan well on game days with transportation, line-ups & subs, equipment, warm-up drills and game strategies.
Plan for athletes’ two-way discussion sessions, and provide brief written feedback for player and parent.
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Be mindful that skilled instruction techniques are the key to your players’ developing self-confidence, skill
Ensure that athletes and their parents fully understand all Club and team rules/policies and consequences.
Reinforce written codes of conduct with a team/parents meeting at the start of each season. Enforce
policies/rules consistently and fairly.
Employ a variety of instruction strategies to meet the needs of all athletes, whatever their stage of
development, skill level or learning style.
Consider using small-group practice, such as stations, circuits and small-sided games.
Give positive feedback immediately before corrective feedback, and limit corrective feedback to one thing
at a time.
Understand each athlete’s reason and motivation for participating, and use a variety of coaching instruction
Find ways to manage individual athlete’s physical and mental fatigue during practice and competition games.
Provide clear expectations about the vital role that teamwork plays in the development of individual and team
Work together with athletes to set team and individual goals.
Encourage athletes to support and praise one another.
Get to know each team member, especially new ones. Avoid excessive turnover and social cliques on teams.
Schedule team meetings and other forms of team talk as opportunities for players to voice their concerns,
ideas, questions and feedback.
Instill a sense of pride in your athletes about their contributions and role in the team, and recognise and
publicly praise each athlete’s strengths.
Use teachable moments to discuss real-life examples of positive and negative teamwork.
Integrate team-building games into training sessions. Many team-building games require no props and can be
played indoors or outside on a sports field. Debrief with players on what worked or didn’t work and what
they learned making sure you let insights come from the players themselves.
Schedule additional team-building opportunities outside of practice and competition.
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Encourage your players to fail, and teach them how to learn from failure.
50. Praise your athletes for effort and tenacity. Focus on highlighting those achievements which came through
sustained effort over the long haul. Kids who are praised for being gritty will learn to value, and embrace the
persistent pursuit of long term goals.
Lead by example, be a model “Grit” for your players. Don’t complain about things out of your control (bad
refereeing, etc) that affected a sports outcome. Be honest with your kids if you are disappointed, explaining
Personally, you could do something on your bucket list, such as sign up for your first marathon, or something
very challenging. Demonstrate to your kids that your challenge is not easy, but it is worth the struggle, and
perseverance required to achieve your goal.
Teach, don’t tell. Kids tune out if all they hear is the coach barking orders. Stop directing, and start asking
questions. “Do you know why you have to mark your player?” “Do you know why we practice this drill?”
Understanding the purpose of things not only leads to better engagement and cooperation, it leads to better
frustration tolerance — which is a huge part of being mentally tough.
Teach kids that their biggest competition should be with and not with others (ie. improving
technique, time, etc). Explain that competing with others frequently leads to performance paralysis. This is
because fear of failure and focusing on winning, leads to muscle tightness, excessive anxiety and poor
Encourage athletes to be – good or bad. In other words don’t let
them blame other people or factors for not doing well.
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Teach your players to ‘turn off their head’. Help them find ways to get into the flow of the game, turn off
their head, don’t over think, play on “auto-pilot”—it’s the best way to play smart. Rather than overthinking
their technique or game play, kids are more likely thinking:
Teach your athletes mental skills such as concentration and focus, mental imagery, stress management and
Make sure you promote rest and relaxation for your players. The mind is exactly the same as the body -
you can’t beat it up relentlessly all of the time. There needs to be time to rest, relax, breathe quietly, re-
generate and then come back stronger. For the mind, that is the essence of mental toughness.
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Junior sports coaches are usually time-restricted trying to fit in trainings, games, kids school commitments
and other constraints. Plan your conditioning program using methods that don’t beat up the body and
take inordinate amounts of time
Take care of your athletes’ durability. Focus on health and functional strength using methods like
bodyweight training, high-intensity short burst drills, etc. Make sure your athletes roll, stretch and have
massage to maintain healthy, supple, explosive bodies.
Avoid the stupid stuff. For example, long distance road running for basketball players (too slow, wrong
energy system & motor patterns, too jarring on joints)
Focus on game-specific fitness. Use short, sharp workouts that mimic the sport game you are playing. This
way you are working on the game and fitness at the same time.
Dynamic stretching and warm-ups are best at start of session. The old-fashioned static stretching has gone
out of favour, but if used, is better at the close of session when athletes are already fully warmed up.
Develop conditioning programs which are a split between strength training and conditioning, containing the
following elements: 1) Agility drills, 2) Mobility/flexibility, 3) Strength training, 4) Core strength, 5)
Accommodate varying fitness levels by grouping athletes of similar abilities at team conditioning sessions.
Target times appropriate to the different levels can then be set to challenge athletes according to their fitness.
Plan to keep your players fit during the off-season and pre-season by providing them with advice on their off-
season activities and self-driven programs for them to use. You can also run some pre-season conditioning
sessions yourself for the players to attend.
Make sure that players and parents know that rest and sleep are just as important as the time spent on
conditioning and skills development. Lack of sleep can literally sabotage all efforts to help kids achieve their
sporting goals and get the most out of their sport.
Strap on heart rate monitors to get an objective measure of each athlete’s effort, intensity and fitness.
Teach your athletes about heart rate recovery: the amount of time it takes for their heart rate to return to
their near-resting rate. (Fit players usually have quicker recovery times)
If the conditioning goal is speed, agility and power, be sure that each athlete has adequate time for rest and
recovery between drills.
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Provide your players and parents with some simple nutrition education. Emphasise the detrimental impact
that poor nutrition and hydration has on athletic performance, particularly for young athletes. Eating healthily
and drinking lots of water is a simple message to send.
Teach that hydration needs to happen before, during and after exertion. Some players may require more
water than others. Coaches and parents can remind players to “drink until you pee clear” which is a simple
practical way to guage how hydrated the body is.
Water is the best drink for athletes – hands-down. Sports drinks (watch out! - many commercial ones are
loaded with sugar) are not essential unless the weather is hot, or the competition or event is an endurance
one. Avoid carbonated drinks, caffeine, milk and energy drinks – these are not suitable for athletes’
Discuss with your players and parents the importance of scheduling when and what to eat before during and
after an athletic event. Encourage them to eat using the “Eating Timetable”.
Promote the consumption of whole foods (does it grow in nature?) and a good balance of macronutrients
(protein, carbohydrates and fat). Encourage the reading of labels at the supermarket, avoiding packaged and
processed foods as far as possible. Home cooking is the way to go if at all possible.
Encourage your players to avoid eating foods that steal energy before a game. These include most takeaway
foods (burgers, etc), pastries and doughnuts, french fries, milkshakes, ice-cream, and fatty fried foods.
Make sure the team manager organises a mid-game snack during competitions. Fruits that have a high water
content are ideal, for example: melons, grapes, oranges etc. These are also good as part of a post-game
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Make sure that practice sessions and competition games are adequately and appropriately supervised. Be
the last person to leave an event and ensure everyone has a lift home.
Check the environment prior to practice and competition (eg. Humidity, temperature, storm activity,
playing surface). Modify any unsafe conditions and/or make adjustments or re-schedule the event if athlete
safety is in question.
Ensure athletes are wearing their protective gear at all times. It should fit properly and be worn correctly.
eg. shin guards, helmets, protective strapping for recovering injuries.
Carry a mobile phone to practices and competition in case of emergency with permanent access to
athlete’s emergency contact information at all times.
Take all precautions to avoid injuries or exacerbate existing injuries, including adequate warm-up before
vigorous activity. Dynamic stretching and warm-up is best at start of session, static stretching is better at
close of session when athletes are fully warmed up.
Be fully informed and knowledgeable about your athletes’ medical conditions and injuries as they affect
participating in sport. Allow athletes enough time to recover from injury before returning to play.
Inform yourself and develop the knowledge to recognise injuries and provide immediate and appropriate
care. Make sure you are First Aid certified and always carry a fully equipped first aid kit.
Acquaint yourself thoroughly with the Club/Association procedures for reporting serious injuries and follow
Follow privacy regulations related to personal health information.
Submit field and equipment maintenance requests to the Club or Association.
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Introduce yourself and your coaching philosophy to the parents at the beginning of the season. Outline clearly
your expectations of both the players and the parents during the season.
Let parents know how and when they can communicate with you.
Help parents understand the particular sport you are coaching and how to optimise their role in supporting
their children and the team.
Provide guidance to parents about communicating with their children before and after practice and
Open good lines of communication with the parents, keeping them well-informed through-out the season via
a number of mediums (eg. email, text message, website, newsletter etc)
Require parents to show respect to game officials and the opposition team.
Remind parents that this is their child’s sport experience (not the parents!)
Don’t be afraid to exhibit your love of the sport you are coaching.
Helping individuals to become a cohesive team is a wonderful reward for junior sports coaches.
Enjoy your athletes as young people, and revel in the opportunity to teach them valuable life skills and enjoy
shared experiences with them.
Celebrate individual and team successes.
Enjoy rewarding friendships with parents and other helpers.
Smile, laugh and cheer along the way!
1. EWING, Martha, SEEFELDT, Vern (1989) Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. “Why do children participate insport.”
2. SENECAL, J., LOUGHEAD, T.M., & BLOOM, G.A. (2008) “A season-long team-building intervention program: Examining the effect of team goalsetting on cohesion”. Journal of Exercise & Sport Psychology 30(2), 186-199.
3. REYNOLDS, F. (2005) Coaching Philosophy Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/coachphil.htm
4. CARRON, A.V.,Colman, M.M., WHEELER, J., STEVENS, D. (2002) “Cohesion and Performance in Sport. A Meta-Analysis”. Journal of Exercise &Sport Psychology 24, 168-188.
5. MEISTERJAHN R and DIEFFENBACH, K, “Winning vs. participation in youth sports: Kids’ values and their perception of their parents’ attitudes”,Journal of Youth Sports, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2008)
6. O’SULLIVAN, John. Changing the Game Project. “Rescue your kids from “Affluenza”: Teach them Grit!”, 2013
7. HOLT, N. L., TINK, L. N., MANDIGO, J. L. & FOX, K. R. (2008). “Do youth learn life skills through their involvement in high school sport?” CanadianJournal of Education, 31(2), 281-304.
8. SMITH, Ronald E., and SMOLL, Frank L. (2012) Psychology for Youth Coaches: “Developing Champions in Sports and Life”
9. WHEADON, David (2014). The Art of Coaching: “Essential advice and tips on teaching the skills of Australian Football”
10. THOMPSON, Jim. (1995) Positive Coaching: “Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sports”
11. NCAA Research: Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level (2013)
12. REYNOLDS, F. (2005) “Coaching Philosophy” Available from: brianmac.co.uk.coachphil.htm
13. U.S. ANTI-DOPING AGENCY (USADA) “True Sport – What We Stand To Lose In Our Obsession to Win” – The True Sport Report.
14. KREIDER R, et al. ISSN “Exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendations” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 7. Published online 2010February 2. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-7.
15. COLGAN, M. Optimum Sports Nutrition. New York: Advanced Research Press, 1993.
16. SAWKA M.N, et al. “Influence of hydration level and body fluids on exercise performance in the heat”. J Amer Med Assoc. 1984;252:1169-1169.
17. COOK Christian J., CREWTHER, Blair T. Physiology & Behaviour: “The effects of different pre-game motivational interventions on athlete free
hormonal state and subsequent performance in professional rugby union matches”.
18. FRIEDLANDER, Jodi, M.S., N.C. and BAUMAN, Ed, M.Ed., Ph.D. “Eating to Win: Diet & Nutrition for Athletic Injury Prevention & Treatment”.
19. LAIR, Cynthia and MURDOCH, Ph.D., RD. 2012. “Feeding the Young Athlete”: ISBN 978-0-9836615-2-8
20. “Energy Balance in Young Athletes”: International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 1998, 8, 160-174
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Jean LittmanCopyright 2015
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