Be The Coach Kids Love!
Kids are a unique bunch in that they move, act and respond to things much differently than adults.
In fact, I’m convinced that it takes a very special type of coach to be able to coach children and to be able to coach them in the most effective way without getting frustrated.
The thing is kids will test you every step of the way. Sometimes they walk in and it’s all sunshine and gumdrops. Other times it’s like a grumpy little gremlin walked in the gym. They occasionally listen, often try to negotiate and always try to test you to see just how much leverage they can get out of you.
The reason it takes a special kind of coach is that any amount of pride or stubbornness with kids will quickly destroy you as you have to learn to go with the flow and always be thinking one step ahead of them. For example, everyday in the gym kids try to negotiate with me to get around a seemingly difficult set or movement. I’ll humor them and give them a deal that is MUCH MUCH worse than anything I had planned for that day.
Once we finish the negotiations and they do the new set I gave them they quickly realize that they should have stuck with what we had originally intended them to do. We do this very lightheartedly and I never get frustrated with them, because in the grand scheme of things. WHO CARES IF YOU WIN an argument or if you finally get them to do what you told them after you get upset.
You as the coach can be the shining light that gives them something to look forward to every day. That one coach that makes all their other sports seem not so fun because all they want to do is hang out in the gym and work with you.
Or you can be the coach that yells and screams, only cares about winning, belittles the kids and provides them with enough fear to keep going long enough until they break down and can’t take it anymore.
I can recount a specific moment I witnessed the horror of a coach who takes things too far and doesn’t care about anything, but winning.
In this specific moment, we were at USA Weightlifting Youth Nationals in the 35kg 13 and under category. One of our girls had one lift left to win her category (she was 11 and under). There was also another girl who had a single lift left and it was between the two to see who would win it.
The other girl was up first and was in the corner with her coach who was visibly upset and yelling at her that she better make this F#%^ing lift. I believe this put her under an insurmountable amount of pressure in an already high-pressure situation. She went out and missed the lift and came off the stage sobbing and seemingly broken from the pressure, missing the lift and disappointing her already a visibly upset coach.
This left our girl with one last attempt to make it. Bumping her up to win first for her age and first in that lift also meant going a couple kilos higher than her all time best.
We sat down with her and told her what she needed to do to win it, but explained that we were also very happy with how she performed at her first national meet and there was nothing wrong with playing it safe, we were still so proud of her already.
She told us she wanted to go for it! We gave her a big hug, walked her out on that stage as proud (and nervous) as we could ever be of her and she MADE the lift!
Winning it and making us so incredibly happy we still have pictures of us jumping for joy and ready to run on that platform to give her the biggest hug ever!
The moral of the story is, we we’re supportive, didn’t put unnecessary pressure on her and she came out on top. I firmly believe that if you can always create a positive experience for the kids they will love what you do forever.
It takes a little bit of time to learn and understand how to react and respond to kids, but once you do you’ve got yourself a miniature little army that will follow you to the ends of the earth!