Tips for Training Youth Athletes for Upcoming Sports from a Coach’s Perspective
The fall season is coming and with fall season, comes youth sports such as soccer and football. Training young athletes to get them ready for youth sports can be tricky because every kid is different and our youth can have very short attention spans. Here are some tips I have learned throughout my experience as a youth flag football coach, on how to properly train kids so they are ready for the season.
The number one thing I want to stress in order for you to properly train kids is to get them engaged and keep them focused on the task you want to accomplish. The best way to do this is to incorporate games into your training program. Games are a great tool because kids love them and they will keep them engaged and focused. However, these games cannot be without purpose. You have to design them in a way that is meant to develop a specific skill for their sport. For example, as a youth flag football coach, a specific skill that is important to develop is flag pulling. In flag football instead of physically tackling, each player has a belt with two flags attached to either hip. During a game, when the player with the ball has one of their flags pulled off by an opposing player, that is considered “a tackle” and the play is stopped. To develop this flag pulling skill I have my players play a game called “Sharks and Minnows.” The game is simple; one person (the “shark”) is placed in the middle of the playing field. The rest of the players (the “minnows”) are lined up on one side of the playing field wearing their flag football flags. The concept of the game is for the minnows to get from one side of the playing field to the other without getting one of their flags pulled by the shark. If one of the minnows gets their flag pulled by the shark before they reach the other side, they become a shark as well. The game continues until there is only one minnow left, then you restart the game making the surviving minnow the new shark. This game is fast paced, keeps the kids active, and develops a skill they need to acquire. The kids love this game and it can be modified to develop skills in other youth sports such as maintaining ball control in soccer or dribbling skills for basketball.
Another tip for training youth athletes is to put together fun drills. Kids don’t want to think of training as a boot camp and won’t buy into your program if it’s too challenging or complicated. I have found that putting together drills using fun training equipment is the best way to go. For example, if you want kids to develop agility, put together simple run through drills using an agility ladder. Kids love this unique approach and learning the different ways to run through them. It keeps them focused, engaged, and teaches them an important skill. Another thing to try is to create obstacle course styled drills. Kids love to run through obstacle courses and you can design it in order to help them develop different types of skills. Obstacle course drills will also add a healthy competition to your training program. Kids like a little friendly competition and practicing this during training will help them to face opponents during actual games. They will also get a good workout in by working hard throughout the obstacle course to win the competition.
The final and most helpful tip that I can provide is to always give the youth you’re working with positive reinforcement. Kids want to hear that they are doing a good job so if they’re working hard and doing the best they can, always make sure to let them know you’re proud of them.
Now that you have read these tips, you will be ready to train your kids in a fun and proper manner and prepare them for the upcoming fall sports season!
– Sean N., Exercise Physiologist at Dedham Health & Athletic Complex