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Coaching Senior vs Youth: What are the main differences between the two? | Coaching Adults

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Posted in: All other topics on coaching adults

Coaching Senior vs Youth: What are the main differences between the two?

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  • saranicolehilton

    For those coaches out there from various sports and backgrounds, I would be eager to hear what the main differences you have foud between coaching senior/adult and coaching youth/children?


    I have my own experiences in each age group and it would be interesting to see if these differences are a generic difference and also whether is changes depending on the type of sport you coach!

  • BillB

    I've come to learn that maintaining the motivation for a group of children to play handball is just as challenging as getting a group of adults to be excited about handball.

    I enjoy watching players grow and improve throughout our time together. Yet, coaching adults is vastly different than coaching children. Similarities

    • Both adults and children know that sport is good for you, yet still aren't that thrilled about it.
    • Both have better workouts when you get out there and do it with them.
    • Both hate the physical element.
    • Both don't take constructive criticism very well. You must provide the feedback sandwich or else risk failure.


    • Adults have preconceptions of what a coach does, children "The coach is the coach".
    • Adults are interested in the theory. Why do we do this? How do we do that? Children want to put in exactly zero thought into their training. Just tell me what to do so I can do it and get on with my life. I'll come back tomorrow and you can tell me again.
    • Adults want to set their own goals. Some are ambitious. It is the coach's job to help with reality and to see them through, children basically have one goal- win. All other goals are set for them.
    • Adults appreciate data. They want it all, children want to know if they won. If not, what place did they come in? All other information is completely useless.
    • Children have training for 2 hours and want each and every minute completely filled with something, Adults expect to get fit in as little time as possible.

    Both groups, adults and children are uniquely rewarding. I love the opportunity to learn and grow with them. 

  • From my personal experience, I mainly find that adults are participating in my sport (skating) because they want to and are motivated to be there, whereas children can sometimes be there because their parents want them to be. 

    I also find maintaining motivation for children can be difficult as they are easily distracted with things going on around them and training in groups can be beneficial to break up the monotony of private 1:1 lessons. I find adults also enjoy the group setting but equally relish the information given during a 1:1. 

    With kids, I break the skill down simply and in small parts - particularly with kids  who have difficulties processing instructions. Adults seem to want to know the why, when, how and what - really indepth so they get that understanding and can figure out a way they can do the skill to suit them.

    Kids are more adventurous and generally without fear ... whereas adults can be more cautious in their approach to the ice. 

  • saranicolehilton

    Hi Danielle,

    That's interesting. I think with most sports the really young children are highly motivated, then plateau during their early to late teen years and then become motivated again as adults.

    It's is interesting to hear about a sport that can have an element of danger e.g. Ice! How do you try to help the adults overcome their cautiousness?

  • JonWoodward74

    Great question Sarah - and one I hear lots of coaches talk about.....myself included!

    I wrote this blog a while ago that might be of interest:Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

    Always happy to hear thoughts and commments!




  • leebooth

    I have always found these differences very interesting. A lot will depend on the circumstances that the coaching is taking place. For example, there is a huge difference between children being left somewhere they do not really want to be or do not understand why they are there to children that actively want to take part in an activity because of past experience etc. With adults, more often than not they have made an active decision to be there and so can sometimes be easier to engage. However, this can go the other way if the adults do not receive the coaching they expected to receive or an unexpected barrier is put in the way. I think overall, regardless of the age of the participant, the most we can learn about their motivations, needs and lifestyle will helpful to engage them and keep them active!

  • Hi Sara,

    It's time and patience that is needed to help build an individuals confidence on the ice. Its very rare for an adult to start, having never skated before and be completely fearless. They tend to focus on the 'worst case scenario' and understandably so as injury can affect jobs and family life!

    I find explaining everything in depth, being on hand and positive helps alleviate some tension although fear tends to remain, if only in the background! The longer they skate, the better they seem to be :)

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