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What Coaches Can Do to Create a Positive Youth Sports Experience

  • Redefine success.
  • Be knowledgeable about the sport you are coaching.
  • Be knowledgeable about the age group you are coaching.
  • Understand the unique developmental skill patterns of that age group and make adjustments for that skill level.
  • Remember that the inability to perform a certain skill may just be a lack of developmental timing, rather than a true lack of ability.
  • Reinforce and refine the skills that are achieved without pushing too quickly for other skills.
  • Give kids small tasks to learn to increase chances for accomplishment.
  • Be enthusiastic and genuine.
  • Make kids feel comfortable so they are not afraid to try new skills.
  • Let everyone play and substitute players frequently.
  • Focus your verbal support on what skills they do right. Then your coaching support can more easily be directed at making constructive corrections in other skills.
  • Understand chemical development so you do not train a child like an adult, risking overtraining and injury. 
  • Know the limitations of aerobic development so you can maintain a solid aerobic base without overtraining, and concentrate on technique. 
  • Use caution in warmer conditions and hot environments and take frequent water breaks.
  • Know when the circumstances are appropriate for weight training.
  • Make your rewarding statements sincere.
  • Have realistic expectations and communicate them so the active youngster can see improvement and acknowledge accomplishment more frequently and be more protected from societal pressure to perform for an ultimate prize.
  • Be alert for signs of overtraining and burnout.
  • Keep kids motivated with positive feedback.
  • Remember the importance of positive effects on early psychological development.
  • As kids progress, give meaningful input on winning and losing and emphasize that every practice and competition is an opportunity to learn and improve.
  • Teach how to learn from successes, disappointments, and everything in between.
  • Do not coach by intimidation.
  • Be a good role model.
  • Instill good sportsmanship (they are watching your example).
  • Teach good fundamental skills that the child can use to build on with the next coach or activity.
  • Foster a sense of self-worth and confidence in the child or teen.
  • Emphasize effort and accomplishment more than winning.
  • Gear the activity toward fun and a positive experience.You may be the very coach that helps inspire a child to stay involved in a sport and truly maximize his or her potential for reality success.
Paul R. Stricker, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Sports Success Rx! Your Child's Prescription for the Best Experience (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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