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Posted in: Area for Member Introductions

What are the similarities and differences between coaching old and young) (Over 50s and under 12s)

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  • Gem_97

    I am really interested in this topic but it is very hard to find coaches in any sport that have coached both areas. I do not mean to an elite level, I have just noticed some differences and have decided to do some subject reading and research and use this possibly as a dissertation topic for my university course. Any help or feedback would be greatly received.

  • pippaglen

    Hi Gemma! 

    Unsure how many coaches have had the chance to work with older athletes. My first experience of coaching had always been with young children and teenagers this took some getting used to and that fact that you have to have eyes in the back of your head ears like a bat making sure sessions fun. 2 and half years ago I decided to give coaching a break I had lost my best friend and coaching mentor to cancer and felt that I just needed to get my metal health back on track 6 months later I couldn't help myself and wondered down to the local track thinking that is wasn't in use this is when I met my new mentor Phil Peat who was coaching disability athletics, I had only ever coached adults a hand full of times and this was 20 to 40 year old basketball players who I was coaching strength and conditioning session, at first I felt a little intimidated due to the fact I'm only 5ft 4in and these guy's was 6ft2 to 6ft 8in players, after a few sessions the size didn't matter as long as I gave them a really good training session this gave me the confidence to coach older athletes 

    When I met Phil I wasn't sure what to make of any of the athletes as I had never Coached disability athletics, I asked Phil if I could help out to which he said yes this scared me a little not knowing how the athletes would react or myself. For the first 4 weeks I would stand aside and watch Phil coaching and the athletes so I could get to know them a little better and also for the athletes to get to know me and to trust me.  Some of the athletes are aged between 16 and 55 one athlete in particular is about 51 has Cerebral Palsy, short term memory loss and a heart of gold, I have seen his ups and downs, his previous life experiences and they reason behind his disability is heart stopping. The 51 year old athlete is a very determined athlete and who puts 110% into his training even if he is having a bad day, he wants to be at training sessions, he wants to compete and is very competitive, knows his own mind however he doesn't always know when to stop. I have never had a training session yet where he hasn't said thank you, give me a hand shake or a hug and a big smile.  

    I have observed younger athletes have coached athletes that have just been dropped off by parents athletes not wanting to take part, at this age they do have there own mind however they can sometimes be miss guided by others influences, a lot more pressure is placed on younger athletes to compete, to be competitive through out clubs and in a school environments pupils feeling of having to impress fellow pupils where as older athletes are able to say no don't have to compete if they don't want to. I feel that both older and younger athletes have the same ability to listen when they want and take advice when it suits. The older athletes just get on with training where as younger athletes like to have a mess about. unsure if you wanted this much information nothing like sharing.


    Many Riding for the Disabled Coaches coach both young participants and older, often in consecutive sessions, having to adapt sessions accordingly.  I coach 3 very young (primary school age) children in one session which is immediately followed by a session of 3 mature participants, two 30+ gents and a 50+ lady.  The main problem I find is flexibility and recognising that the short time we have our adult riders is not going to undo any bad posture or habits they may have.  Young riders are more malleable, generally.  I am sure that  D Robertson at RDA National Office, as Head of Therapy, could assist further.

  • Colinf

    As an Archery coach,. the sport is not physically demanding like football or rugby. I find when teaching under 12s and over 50s that the warm up exercises are kept short and fun.  The problem I have found with under 12s is that they are  developing their bodies and their strength capabilites are not so great, and  therfore  suffer tiredness and fatigue quickly. (their interest rate drops very quickly as well).  The same goes for some of the over 50s who may have had a sedentary life style until they take up a new sport. Recovery time from injury seems to take longer and some have a slower learning rate. I just tailor the activities to suit the individual or group. Hope this makes sense. 

  •   Answered

    Hi Gemma, 

    I'm a figure skating coach and currently coach both of these age groups. In our sport we tend to teach all ages and abilities (especially in the UK where there aren't specific coaches for elite, grassroots etc).

    The similarities between the two groups, for me, tends to be in the information you are giving them. Both require attention to detail when learning a skill - often adult skaters are new to the sport like children are and therefore correct technique is important. The difference with this is how the information is relayed. My adults love to know the where, why, who what and when and process it in their own way. Kids require simplistic information without being overloaded. I also like to teach kids to think for themselves - solve problems they come across etc but with adults this can be tough as often they are set in the ways and how they approach something. 

    Also, although there are exceptions to the rule ... adults and kids can be tentative when stepping onto the ice for the first few times. Both need confidence building, reassurance and positive reinforcement throughout their instruction. Kids do tend to build confidence quickly whilst adults take a little longer, but sometimes for both ages getting that first fall out of the way can really help. I also know that adults and kids work well together in group settings - not it their specific age groups but mixed - they both help each other out. 

  • rippin

    Hi Gemma

    I'm a Lawn Green Bowls Coach and coach both adults (mainly over 50s) but also a few juniors some of whom are between 8 & 12 years old.  As the sport is not physically demanding the main difference with the juniors is one of lack of concentration if the sessions are too long.  For this reason I normally coach the adults and juniors on separate sessions with the adults having two hours and juniors only one.  However, with the older of 8-12 years olds I have successfully managed to incorporate them with the adults and this has helped them integrate into the game which unfortunately is still largely populated by older adults.  

  • Gem_97

    Thank you for your response. That was great to hear. Any chance you could go in to a little more detail of what the kinds of things you teach the groups? Are they similar? I am currently looking at different teaching styles as well, do you find yourself using a more game based approach for both of the groups? (Teaching games for understanding)

  • Gem_97

    Thank you for your response. That was great to hear. Any chance you could go in to a little more detail of what the kinds of things you teach the groups? Are they similar? I am currently looking at different teaching styles as well, do you find yourself using a more game based approach for both of the groups? (Teaching games for understanding)

  • rippin
    On 28/04/17 2:57 PM, Gemma McKay said:

    Thank you for your response. That was great to hear. Any chance you could go in to a little more detail of what the kinds of things you teach the groups? Are they similar? I am currently looking at different teaching styles as well, do you find yourself using a more game based approach for both of the groups? (Teaching games for understanding)

    For the adults we usually have a short structured programme to teach them the technical side of the game and then move on to a game based approach after about 6 weeks but with continuing technical support and an insight into tactics.  As they progress more advanced area of both the technique and tactics are applied as and when they need it.  Following this the option is there for them to develop individually with he fall back position of using the coach as and when required.

    For the juniors a different approach is used in that we have shorter sessions we tend to be more game based at an earlier stage.  These games can be either devised as fun sessions that require the children to develop techniques that will be necessary for them to use in a normal game scenario, or they can be shortened games based on the normal style and rules of the game.  To a large extent we try to let the children themselves decide what activity they wish to try at a session but always guide them into developing their skills in specific areas as required.  In either case we let them develop their own techniques and styles as long as they are achieving fun and some degree of success but will always step in and ask them if they think there may be other ways in which they are more likely to achieve what they are trying to do and then guide them in the technique and tactics.

  • Colinf

    Hi Gemma, One of the first things I try to get across is to slow down in their archery ( they are so full of enthusiasm) so as to give the body time to recover between shots. The juniors are always the first to shoot their allotted arrows. I really have to instill into them that they will not get " A gold medal" for being the first off the line. I also try to  get the adult archers to slow down so they can concentrate a little more, also helps with their breathing patterns. With both adults and juniors curbing enthusiasm and trying to focus that enthusiasm can be a difficult job. A friend of mine who shot at the Rio Olympics said that he had great difficulty slowing his breathing due to an adrenalin rush, If you can focus their enthusiasm and they enjoy the sport half of the battle is already won.  Best wishes. Colin Ford

  • anfy

    I also coach bowls and I find the main difference is in the initial motivation of the two age groups.

    Bowls does not have a culture of coaching at high levels so, with the youngsters, we are used more as facilitators than coaches. Whilst the participants are happy to do drills, etc in football sessions (for example) because they see top players going through drills on TV, their approach to bowls is of the "just show me how to bowl so I can win" rather than honing their technique. They do not aspire to be a professional bowler in the same way as they may hope to be a professional footballer, so they expect little from a session beyond instant "success". As they progress to joining in with adult games, the example of "good" players will then be mimicked (often the wrong bits!), rather than accept any advice from a coach! This may be because they are aware that the "good" players don't use a coach, so why should they? The bottom line, therefore, is that beyond the basics, and some very short sessions of "fun" activities (ie highly disguised technique drills) the coach is not used or listened to as a Coach. I have a Plan to rectify this, but it is a slow and frustrating process!

    At the other end of the spectrum, we are used primarily to coach beginners. These are usually retired people who either have a background in other sports and for various reasons try bowls (eg it looks more sedate) or people just looking for a social life. The approach with them is as Keith says - a six-week introduction with follow-up sessions on tactics, etc. The reality is, because of the age they have started, they are unlikely to make it to the top level so they will often muddle through rather than ask for help. A lot of my coaching is done leaning on the bar and having an informal chat!

    In summary : older bowlers are often interested in correcting what they perceive to be a fault and will generally put in far more hours (they have the spare time) than the youngsters, who will turn up for their allotted "junior" session and forget about the game until next week! This is evidenced by the differing attitudes during a competition : the older players will watch and critique what is happening during the matches, whereas the youngsters are buried in their iPads until it is their turn to play!

    I would also take issue with the use of the phrase "teaching style". I spend a lot of time tutoring new coaches, and the biggest hurdle is to convert them from "teaching" to "coaching". The answer to your question is probably that in reality we (as coaches) do more teaching with Juniors and coaching with Seniors. (I'm not saying it is ideal - it is just the way it works out)

  • grumpystu

    Hi Gemma, I have just returned from our State Western Australian masters Swimming Championships where-in the youngest competitor was about 20 & the oldest 87. The latter still being able to compete in the 200 ms butterfly. When swimmers enter Masters competitions they nominate their time for the events they are competing in; thereafter swimmers are placed in a heat with others of a similar time in mixed races ( male & female). Swimmers compete in 5 year age groups with no finals & best times are worked out in each age group after the event. The motto of Masters Swimming WA is 'Fun, Fitness, & Friendship' but there are many who are still very competitive whatever there age: As a Masters coach this is one of the difficulties of coaching as we have to cater for all groups a) Those who want to do their own thing & swim for fun & the coffee & chat afterwards. These tend to be the older group & we still suggest they do certain drills To maintain a healthy body & slow down the possibility of dementia. b) those who are mostly concerned with fitness & are not too bothered about their technique or competition. This can be a bit frustrating to coach especially when you note that they could easily become faster than your competition swimmers: If the coach is not careful these swimmers can disrupt  the competitive swimmers by not trying to do drills correctly. c) The keen competitive swimmers are still in it for fun, fitness, & friendship but tend to train harder & want to improve their technique & therefore will always do their best to carry out drills correctly; The difficulties that may arise in this group are a big variation in abilities especially in advancing age, when it is more difficult to alter technique, because joints do not move as well as they used to, or they have been practicing their faults for years so that neuro-muscular pathways are ingrained. It is harder for older swimmers to visualise their technique & even when they have the feedback of videos they might have difficulty in 'feeling' their movements. As a coach for over 50 years & being a Sports Physiotherapist for roughly the same length of time I tend to see their swimming also as a therapy & might alter their technique to keep it within the rules of competition or as a therapy to maintain joint mobility, muscle strength ( fast & slow twitch), balance, bone strength, & neuroplasticity. One has to admit that you cannot be everything to everybody but it is a boost to our own brain pathways to try. The coaching can be more successful if you can attract like-minded coaches. It also helps the aging coach in every aforementioned area if from time to time they get in the water with them. Finally I would imagine that exactly the same factors arise in every Masters Sport. Good luck with your study.

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