How to Coach Today's Youth

As an adult, it is really hard relate to children these days. They have iPhones, they have short attention spans, they want instant gratification. Very famous coaches tell us it is actually impossible to coach them.

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority They don't respect their elders and love chatter in place of exercise...They contradict their parents...and tyrannize their teachers."

But have children really changed?

Are 10 year olds, or 15 year olds or 20 year olds behaving differently to how they used to, or are they behaving as they have always behaved, it is just that coaches are getting older and the age gap between athletes and the coach is always increasing? Is it that we coaches are changing but the kids are actually alright?. 

All this is theoretical until you start looking for solutions. The very famous coach above sounds like he has given up on finding solutions. Which makes me wonder, does that mean is telling his employer that he no longer has the skills to coach? But back to solutions. If we are looking for solutions that put the blame on the children and require them to change so that they can be coached 'properly', then we have problems. If we are looking for solutions where the adult has to work out how to connect with the children, then we are fine.

The quote from above probably resonated with you. But it is actually from 2.5 thousand years ago and is attributed to Socrates, that famous curmudgeon. So lets move on from the idea that this is all new.

If we are looking for solutions, Self Determination Theory is a good place to start (thanks Loren). But it is actually even less complicated than that. I remember learning at university about ...erhm...35 years ago....that kids stay involve in sport for 3 main reasons (which haven't changed):

  1. fun - they need to enjoy what they are doing
  2. friends - they like being with their friends
  3. learning - they want to feel like they are improving
Note that there is nothing about winning. In fact, research on why kids quit sport put 'losing' outside the top 20 reasons.

So the solution to coaching these selfish and demanding children?
  • Make sure they enjoy it
  • Create an environment where they become friends
  • Ensure they improve.
The rest will take care of itself.


Popular Posts