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A 1-2-3 of Coaching Young Children


1. USE THE 30 SECOND RULE


The 30-second rule works because children learn best by doing, not
listening, and 30 seconds is about as much as most of them can
take. So, with that in mind, let them do as much as possible and
listen as little as possible. After 30 seconds, many of your audience
will have stopped listening anyway, and very little if any of what
you go on to say will be heard, let alone understood.
Don’t waste your time!

2. WHEN AND HOW TO CORRECT MISTAKES


If a young player is making a mistake, we feel duty bound to do something
about it. However, we shouldn’t always step in. Young people learn
from their mistakes by themselves and from feedback from their peers.
They don’t want or need an adult telling them every time they don’t get
something right, or as good as it should be – they know!
You may notice as you start coaching young children that youngsters
can be intimidated by corrections. The action of correcting can be
counterproductive in itself, with some players not taking on board what
they need to change.

There are some things that we must correct. Anything that can harm the
player or someone else, such as kicking, punching, verbal abuse or any
other sorts of foul play. These are non-negotiable. Do not hesitate to blow
the whistle to stop play and highlight the actions of the offender, so that
everyone is aware of the issue and can learn.
Other areas we might correct are discretionary. Technical errors, such as
taking the ball behind the head for a throw-in, for example. More difficult
might be decision-making errors such as wrong options. This is problematic
because there are often a number of options.
Most people don’t like criticism or corrections at all, let alone in front of
others, and children are no different. If at all possible, take the player aside
on a one-to-one basis to make a comment. If parents are nearby, you might
feel it is appropriate to make the point in their presence. One or two words
may be enough, but the key is to “talk” and not raise your voice.

3. COACH BY GENTLE QUESTIONING


Research shows that learning comes from self-discovery. This means players realize how to solve
problems and react to situations by finding their own solutions. Coaches should try to reduce the
amount of time they spend “telling” the players what to do. Instead, through questioning, they should
look to empower their players.

To aid good learning the coach needs to communicate well verbally. The choice of words is often not
as important as the way they are told. Remember:
• Don’t use jargon or sarcasm.
• Promote positive comments.
• Backup criticism with a way forward.
• Keep sentences short.
• Don’t make too many points.
• Summarize at the end – some players may not have understood the first time around.

Gentle questioning


Asking questions is useful because it:
• Gains the attention of the players.
• Lets the coach learn what the players know.
• Involves the players in the learning process.
• Allows the players to express their opinions.
• Helps the coach check for understanding.
Asking the best questions
• Use open questions – questions that cannot be answered with just “yes” or “no”. Start questions
with words, like “what”, “how” or “where”.
• Don’t use “why”, because it can be construed as negative.
• Wait for the answer, don’t hurry the player.
• Listen, don’t anticipate the answer. Try not to rephrase the answer once given.
When to “tell” and when to “question”
Tell when:
• You have a short period of time to get your point across.
• Specific instructions are needed. For instance, health and safety issues or laws of the game.
• A larger group makes question and answer sessions unwieldy.
Question to:
• Check your players’ understanding.
• Gain feedback.
• Improve your players’ learning.
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