4 Key Considerations When Coaching Young Athletes

Coach Jamie with his final words to Weightlifting Youth Athlete - Celine Huynh at 9 years old - before her big lift (Photo Credit to Dean Kyritsis).

When it comes to coaching youth and junior athletes there a few key considerations that every coach needs to factor into their coaching philosophies.

At The Athletic Compound, our training philosophy is highly important in setting our culture. The biggest influence in younger athletes are their coaches and the culture they set. Coaches need to set a culture that will positively influence their attitude towards the sport which will in turn benefit their athletic development. Here are the 4 key considerations when it comes to coaching younger athletes.
1. Learning skill and developing efficient fundamental motor patterns always come FIRST!
The primary goal of youth athletes should also be developing sporting skill as well as efficient fundamental movement. At this young stage of an athlete, we should primarily be teaching them the core fundamental movements (brace, squat, hip hinge, lunge, push and pull) as well as focus their sporting skill development in a safe environment - which will have a huge carryover in their sporting careers.
2. Focus on personal achievement and NOT competition results.
When it comes to sports at an elite level the primary goal is to win, however, when it comes to youth and juniors, even though winning may occur the major goal should be development in the sport and personal achievement. Extrinsic motivation such as medals won’t sustain a young athlete’s motivation in the long run and they will eventually burn out from the pressure of having to win to be seen as achieving success. Kids are more often motivated intrinsically by achieving small personal best (mastering a certain skill or beating a new personal record) as well being recognised and praised for their efforts day in day out - this is what will keep them going, as we often hear youth athletes saying they “want to make coach proud”. Focusing on results rather than performance will simply burn them out, the key is to continually develop them until they reach the senior elite level.
3. Develop passion and love for the sport
This goes hand in hand with the last point. Kids are highly influenced by their coaches and peers. We should not have a culture that focuses on producing medals. We need to help kids develop a love for the sport, at The Athletic Compound we achieve this by having a large emphasis on the word “community” where our love for the sport brings us all together. Kids are not naturally drawn to the coach with the most technical knowledge but the coach who shows a passion for the sport and a genuine care for their athletes. It's not WHAT you coach it is HOW you coach that is important.
4. Develop “GRIT” within your athlete
Lastly but most importantly, GRIT is the characteristic trait used by many psychologists is defined as the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. Individuals and athletes who show high levels of GRIT are able to maintain determination and motivation over years - even after countless failure and adversity. Psychologist has found that all historically successful and influential individuals in all professional fields have shown great levels of GRIT. This passion and commitment to the long-term goal is the driver to success and will always override talent. There is yet to be known what the best practice is when it comes to developing GRIT within young athletes, however, we can start by helping develop an understanding of what GRIT is through hard work ethic.

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