Brian Grasso is the CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association and is considered one of the premier authorities on youth athletic development in the world. Access Brian’s free database of articles and exercises at Developing Athletics
Previously, I discussed the need to look at the personality traits of your young athletes when considering a coaching style. I do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach to coaching and work to make Trainers and Coaches understand that within every training session and team setting exists the need to conform and streamline your delivery style to fit the situation or athlete(s) – indeed, respect the ART of coaching.
I had one very insightful subscriber email me a great question based on the information I presented last week. Specifically, what do you do when you have more than one personality represented on a given team or within a given training session?
Points to Consider
This is not only common, but also almost impossible to avoid. Whenever you bring two or more young athletes togethers, you are bound to see more than one personality type (and therefore need to employ more than one coaching style).
When coaching a group of 2 or more athletes, restrict the tendency to have each of the athletes performing the same drill at the same time. For example, during a standard warm-up for me, my athletes will do some basic ROM activities (typically through the hips and shoulders) and then proceed on to technique skills instruction. Let’s say you have a group of 4 athletes. As opposed to each of them performing a hip circuit at the same time and then moving on to the next ROM activity, create 4 different exercises and segment them in such a way so that each athlete is performing a separate drill.
To the casual reader, that may sound like a chaotic mess!! In actuality, it allows for a much simpler training session, an individualized approach to coaching and an important feature missing from many basic training sessions – instruction and explanation time.
Here’s the Scenario
Athlete 1 (low motivation & skill) – requires a “direct” coaching method
Athlete 2 (low motivation & high skill) – requires “inspire” coaching method
Athlete 3 (high motivation & low skill) – requires “delegate” coaching method
Athlete 4 (high motivation & skill) requires “guide” coaching method
Hip Circuits – 2 sets/leg, 3 reps/exercise
Prone Bridge with Leg Lift – 3 sets, 5 reps/leg
Shoulder Circuit – 3 sets, 4 reps/exercise
Hurdle Walk-Over – 3 sets, 10 hurdles
Sequence & Flow
First off, bring the whole group together and explain what the task of the day will be. Address each participant individually by name and welcome them. Explain what the training session will look like for the day and encourage verbal and non-verbal compliance.
I have long maintained that every development program must begin with an introductory or assimilation phase for the young athlete. The bulk of your basic teaching should fall into this category. The teaching component at the beginning of each training session should be reminder-based or build off of previously taught skills.
Take 5 – 7 minutes to teach each of the 4 warm-up drills. Explain why the athletes will be performing these drills and why they are important (and yes… do this with even young pre-adolescents. You are building a long-term approach to their development and need to invest the time to acquaint them with your system. Even young kids are ‘teachable’ given the proper application of stimulus).
Once the teaching time is done, assign them each to an exercise.
Now, you have the time to flow and work with each of them individually and correct body alignment, movement habits and execise adherence. Because they are all doing different things, you can apply the proper style of coaching to each individul.
Athlete 1 (direct) – Hip Circuit
Athlete 2 (inspire) – Prone Bridges
Athlete 3 (delegate) – Shoulder Circuit
Athlete 4 (guide) – Hurdle Walk-Overs
Athlete 1 – Get down to his level (which would be on your knees given the ‘Hip Circuit’) and quietly let him know what a good job he is doing. Ask him if he has any questions about what he is doing. Chances are, if he did have questions, he would not have asked them when the entire group was together. The key here is the tone of your voice – be patient, relaxed and easy-going.
Athlete 2 – ‘Seriously Johnny, that is even better than last week!’. ‘Your making this look easy, let me show you a more challenging method, because I know you can do it!’. Remember, they have low motivation, but high skill – Encouraging and challenging are good methods to employ.
Athlete 3 – Ask him what he thinks. ‘How’s it feel?’ ‘You feeling good with that today or you want to switch it up a little?’ ‘What do you think we could add to it?’ Delegate some of the responsibilities of their training to them and help them make it work . Empower them to seek out and create new ideas.
Athlete 4 – Verbally reward their effort and work to make them understand the movement better. “That looks great, Sally! Now, you see how your left leg is pointing out to the left when you go over the hurdle? How can we fix that?”
This flow and sequence of coaching can be taken through the entire workout – even through your movement and strength skill portions. Just create and segment the exercises, include a teaching component preceding each portion and apply the appropriate style of coaching to each individual athlete.
Learn more about Brian’s complete system of developing young athletes – completeathletedevelopment