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Coaching children

Children playing
Unstructured play and modified games are a great way to introduce new skills while keeping things fun
Coaches of children should remember that:
  • children’s sport should be FUN!
  • children need lots of opportunities for unstructured
  • play, a broad range of activities, and the opportunity for creativity
  • early sports specialisation is not recommended for young children the social aspects of sport are highly valued by children
  • coaches should focus on skill development and individual improvement, rather than winning as the outcome
  • all children deserve time and attention, not just the most talented

Children’s characteristics

Note: these characteristics may vary among children

Children’s social characteristics

  • concerned with themselves
  • learning social roles and skills
  • learning how to cooperate
  • come from different cultural and social backgrounds
  • learning how to cope with winning and losing

Coaches should:

  • promote cooperation, teamwork and fair play during activities
  • reinforce the contribution all children make to the group
  • provide a supportive environment and show sensitivity to individual differences

Children’s level of understanding

  • learning the best way to do things
  • unable to process too much information
  • do not do things automatically

Coaches should:

  • use role models to demonstrate good performance
  • introduce one thing at a time, keep instructions or questions short and simple
  • allow time for children to absorb information and practise skills

Children’s physical characteristics

  • very active
  • lack fine motor control
  • develop at different rates
  • have different levels of ability
  • growing rapidly
  • less tolerant of heat and cold
  • children develop at different rates
  • coaches may have both early and late developers in any group

Coaches should:

  • plan a variety of activities
  • allow time to learn skills
  • cater for varying ability levels
  • be aware that growth periods will alter the child’s coordination and skills
  • ensure children wear adequate clothing, drink enough fluids

Children’s personality characteristics

  • easily motivated
  • wide range of reasons for playing sport
  • sensitive to criticism and failure
  • short attention span

Coaches should:

  • listen to what the children say
  • be positive, compliment effort and the parts of the skill that were performed correctly
  • maintain interest with a variety of activities, maximum participation and limited talk

The ideal coaching session for young people will last between 45 to 75 minutes, depending on the age of the athletes.

Ideas for modified games to improve general skills of children can be found on the Australian Sports Commission’s Junior Sport website.

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Did you know?

Matt Cowdrey is Australia's winner of the most Paralympic medals, having won 23 Gold, 7 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

Quick numbers

141 thousand people have so far completed the ASC online coaching course.
10 current or former AIS athletes won medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
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26 thousand people have so far completed the ASC online officiating course.
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