Parents who have been through the joy of kids football over the years will testify that whether their child loves a sport or not, the experience will be largely dependant on the coach and how they build their confidence. How coaches interact with and behave around our children is something that can shape their development not just in sport, but also in life skills.
Many parents will arrive at a kids football class or toddler activity session and feel that they have no choice but to accept who the coach is. There are however, some tips that I would recommend before committing to a particular class. Below are some pointers to reflect on as you enter any kind of kids or toddler activity session…
What are Your First Impressions of Your Coach?
How does the coach or instructor welcome you and your family to the class? Does the coach address you and any family? Does she or he communicate with the child at their eye level on arrival? Does the instructor put you and your family at ease on arrival and settle your child’s nerves?
Can the Coach Communicate With Each Age Group?
Parents know instinctively that children of different ages need different types of communication. In a toddler activity class, a child may become distressed at sudden loud noises, while a child of 5 years of age might laugh and buzz with excitement. The way that the coach adapts to different children within each age group is also vital. Remember, for many of us, this is our little ones’ first experience of a structured setting – it is vital that our coach can adapt to deal with a shy child that’s hiding behind your leg. Equally, can the coach entertain a group of 15 children and have them hang on their every word?
Is Your Coach a screamer?
Tone of voice is perhaps the most vital attribute to any coach. In competitve sports there are a large number of screaming coaches. Being loud and assertive can be a good thing, especially when controlling 20 teenagers, but yelling instructions for smaller children can really damage a child’s confidence. Changes in pitch, pace and tone can grip the attention of even the youngest toddler, while an emphasis on positivity and praise when coaching a kids rugby match is vital to the well-being and confidence of the children participating.
Does your coach Nurture all of the children?
Does the coach spend time with only the most talented children and leave the rest to pick dandilions on the side lines? A good instructor has a genuine interest in the development of every child in their session. Whether your child is destined to be the next Lionel Messi or Tiger Woods, every child is capable of improving their own abilities – with the help of their coach.
Does your coach have a win at All Costs Mentality?
Is the coach obsessed with winning? Many individuals move into coaching as a way of continuing with a sport and try to use it as a method of fulfilling their own ambitions from when they used to play. A good coach is somebody who will applaud a pass based on the idea, not just on it’s success. They will encourage a child to try a skill that they have been taught during a game scenario and not just during the safety of practice time.
Is your coach a good role model to children?
Coaches need to be role models to our toddlers and children. We need coaches that are articulate, well-presented and conscientious in their approach in order to provide our little ones with a positive introduction to any activity. Kids will often go home and pretend to be their favourite coach when playing acivities around the home – the behavior of the coach is therefore crucial.
Is your child enthusiastic about coming back?
Children are very easy to read and you will soon know whether your child has had a positive experience with a coach or instructor. Perhaps the best way to see this is whether your child is bounding towards the car with excitement before the journey for their next class? If they are reluctant, this may not be exclusively to do with the coach, but a coach that is an instant friend to a child provides a strong reason for them to return.
How does the coach behave during matches or shows?
For our older children, they will often take part in competitive situations or demonstrations. Whether a dance recital or cricket match, the role of the coach is vital to the confidence and belief of your child. Does the coach or instructor criticize players or performers in front of others? Do they praise the children and try to build confidence and self-esteem?
Does the coach tolerate team-mates criticizing each other?
An insight into the environment that you and your child are walking into can sometimes be seen by the way that the coach reacts to players criticizing each other. Children can often lose their temper and vent their frustrations at a team mate, but a good coach will step in and mediate the situation. They will ask the children why they are frustrated and explain to them that they are team mates and need to stick together.
Does You Coach Give you Feedback?
An insightful coach watches the progress and development of each and every child. Your coaches feedback is invaluable for you to guage how your child is coping at the level of skills and how they are progressing. It will re-assure you that the coach is watching for areas to work on and picking up strengths. The best coaches are able to analyse and provide context for the journey you and your child are on. It is also crucial for building confidence and a feeling of belonging for the child. They will feel noticed, cared for and valued.
Many of us will reflect on our time playing sport and remember the winning times – which are certainly fun for everyone. However, our favourite coach or teacher might not necessarily be the one who was with us when we were winning. The coaches that valued and supported us when we worked hard, when we were team players and gave everything we had.
The vast majority of kids won’t go on to play professionally in their chosen sport or activity. They’ll remember their youth sports experience for a host of reasons—again, good and bad. But when it comes to those that coached them, what they will likely remember most of all is the individual who taught them valuable skills, helped them get better and who found joy in the day to day process of working with youngsters rather than the result of a game.
If you find a coach that behaves like an adult in the relationship, applauds and praises the behaviour and attitude of the children throughout a class or competitive situation, treats your family and child with respect and engages them through fun and energetic activities – you have found the best coaching environment for your child.
He has a PhD in Psychology and is a champion of women’s sport, with over 10 years coaching experience.
This post was written by Sport4kids and is a sponsored post.