Youth Sports Coaching is more than helping them Do It
I often find myself saying this when coaching youth, “I don’t want you to just do it right, I want you to understand the correct way, so someday, you can teach the correct way to your kids and others.” Of course, there is a more important reason for that coaching philosophy and one that learning studies back up. The studies make all the sense in the world with the ability of athletes to adjust.
Studies on how people learn show that people who understand the basics of an action, and the why for it, are able to adjust in the heat of the moment, especially when things are not as they expected them to be. A complex way of saying that knowledge of the fundamentals helps players adjust in games, when unexpected challenges present themselves. The study suggested that in a controlled environment, as in a sports practice, adjustments are easier or unnecessary, but in a more uncontrolled environment, as in a game, more than just physical adjustments were necessary, as mental ones become needed.
Youth Sports Coaching – Developing Future Coaches
It may seem obvious, but many coaches do not, or forget to, help players understand the fundamentals and the why, and just focus on helping them do it correctly, without insisting players understand what they are doing.
Many examples exist in the baseball arena.
Scenario 1 – Two players of the same ability and with equally sound fundamental swings encounter a pitcher that throws unusually fast. One of the players has a good understanding of baseball swing fundamentals and of what a compact swing is, while the other player does not know hitting fundamentals, even though he is a very good hitter. The referred to study tells us that the player with a good understanding of swing fundamentals, especially of a compact swing, will have a much better chance of figuring out how to adjust to the fast pitching.
Scenario 2 – The pitcher is throwing pitch after pitch above the strike zone. Pitchers, who have an understanding of pitching mechanics, run those through his head and figures out the adjustments necessary to get the ball down into the strike zone.
Of course, I could go on and on with numerous examples in sport, but the point is obvious that knowledge leads to players, who learn to make self-adjustments in the heat of the moment, leading to success.
Youth sports coaching is more than helping ballplayers perform the skills, it is also necessary that players learn the fundamentals, and the why of doing those fundamentals. No one said that youth sports’ coaching was easy and the good coaches go beyond just the physical aspects of coaching.
Good coaches coach by treating all players as future coaches by:
- Assuming nothing when coaching youth, giving attention to the minutest of details
- Continually reinforcing the fundamentals and why they are necessary
- Asking players questions to see that they understand
- Encouraging questions from players, when they are unsure
- Encouraging players to make self-adjustments based on the knowledge you (the coach) taught them
Finally, as a coach, knowing I helped a player learn the fundamentals, even though they could not do them very well, is a satisfying feeling.