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What are your top tips for coaching 13-18 year olds? | Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Posted in: Coaching Youth (age 13-18), General Forum

What are your top tips for coaching 13-18 year olds?

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  • robertkmaaye

    I'm interested to hear what your top tips are for coaching this age group? This is with a view to turning it into a blog post so the tips can benefit all future members of ConnectedCoaches. I look forward to reading your responses.

  • LizBurkinshaw

    No 1 - Find out why they come to your session. What interests them. What motivates them. What are their goals, ambitions and dreams ( as young people not just for your session!) 

  • Coach them in small groups or duo's - they will appreciate having someone there a similar age / level and will tend to motivate each other whilst still getting attentive coaching. It also takes the pressure slightly off if they have 1 on 1 sessions - they continue learning but have some breathing space.

  • garyfowler

    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 8 year olds. In my multisports/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 pressures 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. And as many secondary schools are streamed then 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 in the club environment I work in the impact is quite different. My u17 boys football team, due to playing at a reasonably high level, show a super attitude. Taking on a new group has a large impact too. 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 to be 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 often 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, hard working, positive attitude etc. The impact of home-life, peers, teachers etc builds into the mix too and therefore I think being realistic about the impact you can have is important depending on all these factors. Culturally we don't have the same values or respect of sport and coaching compared to USA, Australia, and many European countries as well. Sport or PE is always the first thing that sufffers if a kid needs extra tuition or to attend a music lesson etc so is it any wonder kids don't grow up having the respect for sport and recreation if we as a culture and nation don't value the positive impact on the whole child. I loved that in USA it was cool to do sport, it was associated with a positive self image, health and peer recognition. Their culture works around it, starting school earlier, allowing greater time post class for school sport or club sport. In Spain, local coaches are allowed flexi-time to go and coach at their local school. The UK couldn't be further from these nationwide attitudes and as such it impacts on our children in a negative way.

  • MatteJHart

    Definitely, Liz. I completely agree. 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.

  • MelissaJMarshall

    I find with the teens that I work with, letting them get invovled with some choices made within the session is always a good way of engaging them. I think when they think that they've had some imput in the session it makes them want to come along more. My main 13+ session is a drop in session so keeping them engage 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 like they are making it there session. 

  • eyerite
    1. Remember that what you are doing is (should be!) a means to an end, not an end in itself.  You are preparing them for sport/competition in their adult years and the coaching/training should focus on that.  Don't try to develop the end or finished product before they leave school!  Let them move on from you and still have plenty of scope for much further development in your sport by laying the foundations that will enable this.
    2. Treat them as people not athletes or commodities for your own, or your team's own gain.  Show interest in their lives away from sport and find out what motivates them to do what they are doing.  Then enable that motivation to be fulfilled in your programme.
    3. Teach them to take responsibility for their own development, progress, behaviours and actions.
    4. Teach them to embrace challenges (whatever the challenge may be), overcome setbacks, understand and utilise feedback (in all its forms), and continually develop their self-awareness, and self-reflection capabilities.
    5. Teach them humilty and selflessness.  I've met too many who are much too selfish!
    6. Let them have fun in the sport, learn how to win and lose, make and keep friends, and honour opponents.
    7. Show and let them appreciate the bigger picture of sport globally, how it helps you learn life skills/lessons, and prevent them from only seeing the sport as they know it on their doorstep/in their club/in their local region.
  • LizBurkinshaw

    No 2 Let them be creative and change things in the session. set challenges for themselves. Consider including music. Organise part or whole of the session. Choose what activities / what to learn next.

  • batty

    in my limited experience of coaching team sports and in this age bracket, ive found the following are my top tips:

    1. keep it active
    2. make everything based around a game but try and introduce Sport Specific elements early on.  for example, in Flag Football within a warm up we play Sharks and Swimmers (basically bull dogs charge, but we all know we aren;t allowed to call it that these days)  first couple of goes is as normal with the call "Down, Set, Hut" instead of "bulldogs charge" after a couple of goes, I introduce football stances, one for offence (one foot infront of the other, knees bent, elbows in, hands up, head up) and defence (feet side by side and the rest as above)
    3. learn to see when the kids are getting "bored" and change it up
    4. break things down to critical features (Mr Messam will be proud of me for this one) and teach step by step - don't forget these guys are still honing their motor skills
    5. always give praise, i'm continually saying, "great job guys" "awesome"
    6. give constructive feedback and show the pros and cons - let them explore the skill and understand what needs to be done to improve it
    7. challenge them with questions, rather than saying "this is an overhead pass" say "can someone show me the overhead pass"


  • RachelWhyatt

    There's some great advice already on here and as Ian Wright alluded to - this age group needs to start taking responsibility for their own development.  For the younger age groups (12 and under), they need more constant supervision, guidance, mum and dad taxi service etc. However, 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 do they want to see how far they can go.  There are such things as late developers too, just because they are new to the sport at 15/16 - if they work hard you will be surprised at what they can achieve.

    This age group should be starting to think about gym work, fitness and conditioning, nutrition, psychology and we as coaches can help them with that. However, the onus is totally on them - I'm thinking of sending the link to the IOC athlete courses in these areas (http://onlinecourse.olympic.org/).

    For the u16s 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 4/5 games I took them through key exercises, (runs and stretches - very basic), I even did it with them. The next few games I watched... so far so good. One game I got held back 5 mins and went to see how they were doing - just chatting... ok. The next game I really got held back doing the paper work 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 - we came 3rd in the league!!  Would be great to hear how other coaches would have dealt with that scenario - cos I hated babysitting them, but I felt like I needed to do it. Plus I was the only coach that season - we now have 2 or 3 per team.

    For the last few season's I have coached the u12s - I've now moved up to the u18s for this September, so I will be reading this thread with interest over the coming months.  I will 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.  It would be great to let them own their pre-game warm-up too.

    Ultimately I'm really looking forward to coaching these guys, its going to be very different teaching them systems and plays rather than basic skills.



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