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One of the most popular threads on ConnectedCoaches has been one where members have shared their top tips for coaching 13–18 year olds. I thought it would be helpful to collate all their responses in one blog post.
Below, you’ll see some of the knowledge they’ve shared. Whether you’re an experienced coach or just starting out on your coaching journey, each member’s advice is something I’m sure you can benefit from.
Find out why they come to your session and let them have an input.
What interests them? What motivates them? What are their goals, ambitions and dreams (as young people, not just for your session!)?
Let them be creative and change things in the session. For example, setting challenges for themselves; organising part or the whole of the session; including music; choosing the activities/what to learn next.
Coach them in small groups or pairs.
They will appreciate having someone there of a similar age/level and will tend to motivate each other while still receiving attentive coaching. It also takes the pressure slightly off if they have one-to-one sessions – they continue learning but have some breathing space.
Be realistic about the impact you can have.
Coaching 13–18 year olds is always a huge challenge, as even by 13 their experiences have been so varied compared to, say, a group of eight year olds.
In my multi-sports/skills role, primary schools work is hugely different to secondary schools; in fact, if often amazes me the difference even over a few years. In a school environment the peer impact increases pressure on kids more and more as they enter secondary school. In a primary environment you'll get virtually all kids engaged and excited in a mixed-sex session, even up to 11 years old. But somehow by 13, if one popular kid deems something ‘uncool’ or ‘unworthy’, the sheep follow. As many secondary schools are streamed, I notice those with kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds or those in lower academic streams frequently tally with less engagement and participation.
However, away from schools and within the club environment I work, the impact is quite different. My under-17 boys’ football team – due to playing at a reasonably high level – show a super attitude. Taking on a new group also has a large impact. Taking over a boys’ team at say 14+ can be very tough as so many cultures and attitudes can be near impossible to shift, but taking over at even 12/13 can allow a team to be moulded and attitudes and behaviours developed. Obviously, working with a team 2–3 times a week over multiple years in a club environment is hugely different to working with a varied school group once a week over a term. I think that advice given on working with this age group can be very idealistic and works great if you're working frequently with a great set of kids who are hard working with a positive attitude. The impact of home life, peers, teachers etc builds into the mix too, and therefore being realistic about the impact you can have is important, depending on all these factors.
Participant-led goal setting.
It’s important to understand what else is going on in their lives; what exams they have and what they are working towards – what their bigger picture is. Goal setting that is increasingly participant-led as age increases is vital, otherwise you don't get the buy-in you need as a coach. When I started my senior men's TeamGym gymnastics teams (a stand of gymnastics where participants train, perform and compete as a team), my co-coach and I kicked off with a discussion and planning meeting where the guys laid out their plans for the first year. As coaches we facilitated the process but let them drive it.
Give them input into your session.
I find with the teens that I work with, letting them get involved with some choices made within the session is always a good way of engaging them. I think when they believe they've had some input in the session it makes them want to come along more often. My main 13+ session is a drop-in session, so keeping them engaged is hard. I would never give them full control, but maybe letting them decide on rules of the competition element of the session can make them feel they are making it their session.
Let them take responsibility for their own development.
For this age group, they need to decide how serious they want to be at sports, whether they are happy at a recreational level, or if they want to see how far they can go. There are such things as late developers. Just because these people are new to the sport at 15/16, if they work hard, you will be surprised at what they can achieve.
They should, though, be starting to think about gym work, fitness and conditioning, nutrition and psychology. We as coaches can help them with that. However, the onus is on them.
For the under 16s at my old club, they hadn't had any structure with their games and I introduced pre-game warm-ups as a team. For the first four or five games I took them through key exercises (runs and stretches – very basic) and I even did these with them. The next few games I watched...so far so good. One game I got held back five minutes and went to see how they were doing – just chatting...OK. The next game I really got held back doing the paperwork and they returned to the dressing room huffing and puffing to the point I could tell they were faking it (also verified by parents!). I supervised them for the rest of the season and we came third in the league!
I now make this point to the kids right from the outset, that we as coaches will provide you with the tools to develop, but ultimately, your performances come down to you and how much you want to improve.
Seven top tips for coaching 13–18 year olds.
Seven top tips for coaching 13–18 year olds.
What are your top tips for coaching 13–18 year olds? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Just some thoughts1. Arrival activity - have something for them to do upon there arrival ( I always set up a box and play 10 v 2 tight 10 by 10 box or or something like this, but I coach football so something similar, join in if you can to set focus and tempo)2. Get them all moving - following pre arrival, Try to start with something that gets them all involved high pace, game related ( I coach football so I always start with possession for 20 minutes) 3. Challenges - use challenges to motivate individuals, things you want them to do, just speak to people while sessions goes on, so don't need to stop everyone 4. Keep everyone involved - limit line drills to no more than four people, keep tempo high then give plenty of rest breaks5. Be brief and concise - if speaking to whole group try to make coaching points within 30 seconds and get them playing again6. Reward the winners - when we do game based drills the winners get to do a fun challenge such as cross bar, soccer am style drill for last five minutes losing team get the gear in, this keeps things competitive and seems to get them going7. Encourage leadership - give players responsibility for things, setting up arrival drills, doing team talks before games in practice, picking formations and tactics 8. Use scenarios- in games rather than just playing use scenarios I.e your losing and need a goal, need a draw to qualify
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