In September I wrote a blog on the making of a good coach. This article will be part 2 of the same topic. For those of you who have not read the first part I highly recommend you do so. You can find it by clicking here.

      When working with young athletes one of the most important concepts to remember is that we are teaching habits (good or bad) to these young athletes in front of us. A very important skill that all coaches and trainers must have is the ability to teach proper technique, whether it is proper multi-directional speed, or proper lifting technique in the weight room. This is why every coach or trainer who works with young athletes must posses the knowledge on proper form and technique of the skills that we are teaching. After all, if the coaches don’t know the proper technique how can we expect the young athletes to know how to properly execute these skills that are being taught. 

      Another important concept is that as coaches we must understand that when teaching new skills to young athletes there is a process in the way young athletes learn a new skill. Below is an excerpt from Brian Grasso’s text “ Complete Athlete Development”. Brian Grasso is the founder of the International Youth Conditioning Association. He is considered to be one of the best in the field of developing young athletes.

      1. Basic Learning – The learning of a new technique should be done at a
slow pace. Especially with younger athletes, coaches must refrain from
‘drilling’ a new technique at ‘normal time’ rates. That is, simply showing or
describing an exercise or technique once or twice and then asking young
athletes to replicate what they have just learned at a quickened or ‘game
speed’ tempo is counterproductive to learning that technique on an optimal

Remember, when dealing with young athletes QUALITY OF TECHNIQUE
is inherently more important than performing a certain number of drills. I try to
equate developing a young athlete to progressing through the academic
levels of a school system; a teacher simply would not give an example of
advanced calculus to a third grade class and expect them to understand it
nor be able to solve calculus-based problems. Basic addition, multiplication,
subtraction and division is taught at a young age and progressed upon with
advanced conceptual understandings of mathematics as the student progresses
in both age and intelligence. The same should be promoted with regards to
developing a young athlete. In this example of ‘Basic Learning’, Coaches and
Trainers should teach new techniques in a controlled manner, making sure that
the athlete understands the concepts of body mechanics and angle of force,
thereby increasing their awareness of movement economy.

2. Controlled Application – Once the athlete understands the skill and can perform
it at an increased pace during isolated practices (i.e., NOT game situations), the
Coach should now incorporate ‘opponents’ into the next phase of skill/technique
learning. This would entail controlled practices or scrimmages in which the techniques
are practiced against another team or competitor. This phase of learning should
also be based on quality of repetition, again refraining from ‘drilling’. By drilling,
I am referring to the Coach or Trainer who uses the common phrase ‘Do it again!’
at regular intervals during a practice. Remember, learning a technique is a process
of which this is phase two. The Coach or Trainer should continue to provide
feedback and instruction that supports the athlete in learning and refining this
technique to an optimal level.

3. General Application – The Coach has very little influence over this phase during
the actual event/game itself. The athlete will react and succeed based largely
on how well they were taught. Quality, positive and constructive feedback should
still be offered to the athlete either after the game or at the next practice.

      At Athletic Revolution Matthews all of our coaches must and do posses the skills it takes to teach and develop young athletes to be the best that they can be. In our next News Letter I will give you Part 3 on “the Making of a good coach” which is understanding how to communicate and build an interpersonal relationship with the different personalities that we will be facing when coaching a group of young athletes.

Til next time… Coach George

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