Coaching youth athletes: An introduction to effective communication techniques for grassroots coaches
Posted by Dean Holden at March 11th, 2013
by Drew Lipsky, 4 July 2012
Most kids play some type of organized sport at some point in their childhood, but by age thirteen 70 percent of kids drop out of all youth sports. Why do so many kids quit sports? One major reason is the fact that their coaches made them feel incompetent and even worthless athletically through the communication and feedback they delivered to the players.
This phenomenon stems in part from the fact that too many youth sports coaches foolishly coach with the sole goal of winning, and in the process communicate to their players that winning is the only thing that matters. As a result of these coaching behaviors, many kids stop playing sports because it is no fun at all when the coach is pouring incessant criticism on the players after every mistake.
However, if more coaches used a gentler, corrective communication style and worked with the players interactively to help them develop, many of these kids would still be playing and some even excelling in sports. An in-depth look at what past research has shown concerning the most effective coaching techniques will help all coaches of youth athletes focus on using only the effective techniques in the future.
Coaches of youth athletes that communicate with players by fostering choice and by correcting rather than criticizing the players are more effective at developing the players and keeping them involved in sports than those who openly criticize the athletes and give strict, unyielding directions. This is because correction and fostering choice breeds more intrinsic motivation in the players, which in turn leads to more interest in continuing to play the sport. Moreover, undesirable coaching communication techniques, especially criticism, can even have long-term negative implications on the athletes both inside and outside of sports
At first glance the issue of communication between coaches and youth athletes may seem inconsequential, but upon closer review the true significance of the issue becomes clear. Since sports can serve as a venue where children develop friendships and learn valuable life lessons such as teamwork, unselfishness, and discipline, children that quit sports due to negative feedback from coaches miss out on these benefits.
Also, sports are one of the best ways for children to get exercise, which is why keeping children involved in sports is essential, especially since there is no sugarcoating the fact that America has become an overweight nation. All bad puns aside, the communication between coaches and young athletes is an issue that has many serious implications. Be sure to check back for the next installments of my series on coaching youth athletes.