These days, there’s a great deal of focus on the methods that sports coaches use to engage with children and young people. This is largely about safety and appropriateness of course, but there is more to it than that.
It all starts with protecting one of the most important aspects of childhood hobbies, past-times and competitive activities, which is that there should be a big emphasis on fun! No matter how advanced the coaching sessions are, and no matter how ambitious the child is to develop new sports skills, coaches must ensure they find their activities enjoyable.
Not only does this keep the child engaged and happy, but it’s also a scientific fact that having fun is important for a child’s ability to concentrate on and retain new information and abilities.
Building in a high level of fun is not the only essential strategy for effective sports coaching though.
The best sports coaches use emotional intelligence
It is vital that anyone who works with children – in formal education or leisure activities – demonstrates the highest possible standards of emotional intelligence. In other words, an acute awareness of each individual child’s mental as well as physical well-being.
Using emotional intelligence when coaching children in sports activities ensures that activities and instructions are relevant to each participant, and positive outcomes are more assured.
An illustration would be a coach becoming aware that a child is getting frustrated, feeling left out or anxious. Local sports coaches who are adept at working with children pick up on this quickly and find new ways to involve and support that individual child.
It is amazing how a few words of individual encouragement, or a gentle re-direct, can bring huge smiles to replace little frowns!
Inclusivity and mixed ability
This leads smoothly to another essential strategy, which is authentic diversity in sports coaching for children. The ability of each child should be nurtured and supported in a highly inclusive manner.
For example, it is too easy for children (and let’s be honest parents) to constantly compare abilities. “I’m not as good at scoring goals as Jessica” or “I can’t run as fast as Nathan.”
Competition can be a healthy part of developing skills and confidence, but only if children are placed in age-appropriate activities and encouraged to set realistic goals. Then, no matter what their ability level, children should be encouraged to find their own personal improvement goals.
To make sure this happens, Little Foxes Club puts in place extra support for children with additional needs too.
Every child is a winner
Effective sports coaches emphasise that being a winner is not always about score sheets and trophies! Personal goals and achievements are important and come in many shapes and forms.
Every child can grow in confidence and self-esteem if they do something better, faster or more accurately than THEY did it last time they tried!
Also, achievement doesn’t always have to be about being the ‘star’. Effective sports coaches for children guide them on some of the more subtle, but vital aspects of sporting involvement. This could include, for instance, fair play, respect for opponents, good team spirit and being a strong communicator.
For example, the child who encourages and praises others – even in defeat – has developed a skill on the sports field that will be invaluable throughout their life!
The Little Foxes’ ethos on effective sports coaching
Clearly, the best sports coaches give children a sense of fun, many reasons to celebrate their achievements and multiple ways to gain new levels of self-esteem.
This is certainly something that The Little Foxes Club takes extremely seriously – from advanced Football Masterclasses for Foxes FC players to creative play in our open-access holiday camps in London.
By carefully designing and delivering sports games and activities, our coaches make every session a good experience. That ensures every child goes home with great memories and new confidence.