Rugby, football, hockey. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, there are a number of qualities a coach needs that are non-negotiable when working with children. Here are five vital components that young people look for from a sports coach.
It’s something of a cliché, but sport is about having a good time. It is well known that participation in team sports is a great way of building a young person’s confidence and social skills, so training and matches should be something they look forward to with relish. Training sessions in particular are a great platform for a coach to ensure that everyone is engaged and enjoying the experience. Young people love a jovial coach, one who can make them laugh, while helping them improve their game at the same time. Competitions are also a winner. Make sessions varied and interesting, and the kids will be crying out for more.
2. Ability to listen
Much of what a coach does revolves around organisation and instruction. But it’s vital that you can listen too. A player may not be enjoying a certain drill or understand their role on the field. Said player should be confident that when they approach you, their feedback will be taken on board, rather than dismissed. It is vital for children that they have a voice, otherwise they can feel ignored, which will ultimately result in less enthusiasm for their sport.
3. Game Time
Some players are simply better than others. It’s a fact of life in all sports. Coaches generally know the players that are likely to get the team a result, and those who are in over their heads. But everyone needs a shot, even if for some players it means a few more appearances off the bench. This particular blogger remembers a two-and-a-half-hour round trip to Eastbourne for East Grinstead United one cold January day. My father provided transport for myself and other players, and I saw just five minutes of action. It rained the entire time and I stood sodden on the sidelines. And this was not an isolated occasion. Unacceptable for a sub-paying youngster at under-12 level. Give everyone meaningful minutes on the pitch and rotate fairly.
Children are far more likely to flourish under the guidance of a positive coach, an energetic presence always going to pains to encourage. Point out what the players are doing well in training and matches, particularly when you can see improvement from individuals, perhaps on an area of their game that has been worked on recently. There is certainly a place for criticism from a coach (how else are players supposed to improve?), but it needs to be delivered the right way. An effective technique can be voicing criticism alongside a compliment on what the child is doing correctly. It makes the negative more digestible.
Passion can be channelled in different ways. There is the angry parent on the sidelines, remonstrating furiously that a referee’s decision has gone against their child. That is a form of passion, but it is the wrong sort. Coaches, needless to say, need to be leading by example and showing their love for the game in the correct fashion. A passionate coach in training will be one who never tires of running drills, demonstrating how children can improve their technique and always being open to questions.
This list is by no means exhaustive but if, as a coach, you have these five angles covered, the chances are you're producing sessions that kids look forward to attending.
What other qualities do you think a kid looks for in a coach? Comment below!