This page has various resources for coaches. You can find resources on how to run a practice, how to coach your own child, skills and drills information, dealing with common challenges, behavior management, and external coaching resources that may additionally help volunteer coaches.
External Coaching Resources
Keeping children and teens healthy and safe is always a top priority. Whether you are a parent, youth sports coach, school coach, school professional, or health care provider, being knowledgeable about concussions will help you recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussion or other serious brain injury. We require all coaches to take a concussion course each year to keep kids safe!
Here is a free Concussion Course offered by NAYS:
Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA)
PCA is a foundation dedicated to transforming the culture of youth sports so that kids have a positive, character-building experience. They offer free tips for coaches, parents, and athletes as well as workshops and online courses.
LA 84 Foundation
The LA 84 is a nonprofit foundation that is committed to serving youth sports. They provide information for coaches and also provide various coaching clinics
Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation
The Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation offers important facts about hydration and what can happen if you are not properly hydrated.
US Youth Soccer
US Youth Soccer has drills for all age levels and other coaches’ resources.
USA Basketball has drills and other resources for coaches.
Junior NBA has practice plans for all ages and skill levels. It is a great resource for coaches new and experienced alike
Tips for Coaching Your Own Child
- Examine your motivation for coaching. Don’t coach your child if your sole intent is to “create a star.” You should be willing to do what’s best for your entire team’s development—not just your child.
- Realize that your child’s teammates (and their parents) may become jealous—and rightfully so if you give preferential treatment to your child. Nothing poisons the well with other parents and players as much as when a coach unfairly favors his/her own child.
- Some coaches go out of their way to be harder on their own children than other players so that no one thinks that the coach’s child is getting special treatment. This doesn’t solve problems—it just creates new ones. Do your best to treat your child the same as other players.
- Don’t compare your child to other players. Let your child develop at his/her own rate.
- Have a discussion with your child before the season starts to talk about your different roles as a coach and a parent. Give your child a chance to ask any questions or voice any concerns, for example what he/she should call you at practices. Be sure to explain to your child why you want to coach the team and how you will coach the team.
- Remember that equal treatment of players includes time during and away from practices and games. Don’t be a parent during practice and don’t be a coach on the car ride home from a game. Tell your child that when you are coaching, you will need to treat him/her like everyone else on the team, but things will go back to normal when you are wearing your “parent hat” again, Resist the temptation to talk with your child about the other players’ performance or about what positions other players should be playing.
The goals on any practice session, with children of all ages, should be based on having fun, creating success, and generation a team environment. To do this, a coach will need to spend time planning practice sessions, but also be willing to be flexible when necessary. Before you can plan your practice, you must first decide the purpose of the practice. Is it to get to know the skill level of the players, to improve a particular weakness, or to introduce a new skill? The factors that influence this decision may be
the time frame within the season, an upcoming game, or the current mental state or attitude of your players. Early in the season, you’ll typically introduce new skills and topics. Later, as you think your players have begun to master some of the basics, you can challenge them with something new. After the team has played a game or two, you can cater your practices to a specific weakness you observed during the game. On occasion, you may discover that you and the participants just need a break. Be realistic about how much information your players can handle. Choose 2-4 key points that you want
to make and choose activities that reinforce these points. Plan the progression of your practice to include five parts: past skill warm-up, new skill training, team training, scrimmages, and cool-down. Water breaks are recommended after the new skill training and after the team training and should follow the COP Youth Sports Heat Advisory Guidelines. Each break should be about 1-3 minutes. These breaks provide time for the youth to rest and not have to follow directions and they give coaches time to set up the next drill.
Warming up for 5-10 minutes is an important part of getting your practice started. For young players, the mental aspect of warming up is just as important as the physical benefits. The intensity level should be fairly low at the beginning and then should slowly increase. Start the warm-up with 1 or 2 activities that the players are familiar with or that require little instruction such as dribbling, shooting, or passing. After the activities, lead the players through a brief, light stretch.
The skill training part of your practice is where the players get the most out individual skill development. Typically, this part of practice should last 10-20 minutes. For younger teams, this part may be the longest and may include several drills. Coaches should have a equipment for every 1-2 players. Coaches should pay close attention to the players’ technique.
Team training refers to the stage in practice where the skills are put into play in game-like drills and situations by introducing a defender, working in a specific direction, or utilizing the help of teammates. For these 10-15 minutes, maintain a strong emphasis on proper technique and reiterate the points introduced earlier in the practice.
Players are put in true game situations for 10-15 minutes (at the most). Don’t be quite as concerned with proper technique, but still reinforce the same points brought up earlier in practice. Make sure that the coach controls the scrimmage and that everyone benefits from it – possibly by limiting ball touches or rewarding players that successfully demonstrate what was taught in practice.
The main purposes of this part of practice are to warm down the players, congratulate them on a good practice, and possibly assigning a take-home challenge. Design it so the players are slowing down their pace and then finish it with stretching.
A sample practice may look like:
- Ball skills with a partner until everyone arrives
- Warm-up and dynamic stretches
- Team meeting
- A drill to practice the new skill that was learned at the last practice (Review)
- Focus drill to learn and practice a new skill
- High active lead up activity, to use the previous skills practiced
- Water Break
- New skill drill or continue to work on previous skills
- 12-15 min game, scrimmage, or game simulation drills
Other General Practice Tips
- Keep in mind the age group you’re coaching.
- Keep players active during practices. Avoid having players stand in long lines. If you need more equipment to accomplish this, ask! Stations keep players moving
- Have players handle the equipment (ball, stick, etc.) as much as possible so that they become more comfortable with it.
- Change activities every 5-7 minutes. The guideline for attention span is about 2-5 minutes per year of age (20 minutes max – even for adults).
- Keep instructions short and sweet. Be careful not to over coach. Try to demonstrate what you want them to do as opposed to telling them. Involve the players in the demonstration
- Players will revert to old habits in stressful situations, be sure to practice new skills in game like situations. Create opportunities to be successful. Balance challenges with reality. When players feel successful, they’ll be more likely to try something new or scary.
- When planning a practice be determined to find ways to have fun. Change the pace. Mix walking, jogging, running, and sprinting.
- Create more than line of the same drill by using assistant coaches and parents.
- Games such as tag, follow the leader, and others can be used for almost any skill.
- Defining boundaries for games and drills by using cones and natural boundaries.
- A safety signal that you and your players practice will always help when you need to get their attention immediately.
- Use logical consequences for behavioral problems. Logical consequences are outcomes that relate to the child’s behavior. For instance, if a player is not listening and interferes with a drill, then he/she has to go last or have to sit out of practice for a little bit. Punishments such as making players do laps doesn’t teach proper behavior and makes players look at running as negative, which it isn’t!
- Players should learn every position in the game! This makes them well rounded players as well as giving you plenty of players to sub in for every position when people do not show up.
Common Challenges found in Youth Sports
Coaching different personalities
Working with players with challenging personalities can be difficult, but also rewarding. Below are some tips for working with some of the most common personality traits that coaches may struggle with.
The Shy Players
These players will not want to participate in some of the drills or interact much with the other players. Let these children work things out at their own pace. Ask the children and the parents what would help them feel more comfortable. If the children want to sit out, allow them (where the coach can still supervise) and tell them to join the team when ready. Generally, they will join the team when they have warmed up to the group a bit. Coach enthusiasm will help speed this up.
The Talkative Players
These players always have something to say. Try to channel this energy into something positive by encouraging them to communicate with their teammates. For example, they should tell their teammates “Good Job,” or talk on the field. Coaches will not be able to stop the chatter, so they should try to put it to good use instead!
The Scared Players
These players seem to like coming to practice but don’t want to risk falling down or getting dirty. Let these players participate on their own terms and do not draw attention to the “wimpy attitude.” Instead, be sure to praise these players when they do take a risk. After enough positive reinforcement, they generally come around.
The Helpful Players
These players are always at the coach’s side, offering to help. Let them! These players can always pick up balls or lay down cones. Keep them busy and they won’t seem like such a bother.
Challenges During Games
Some players who do great during practices suddenly don’t perform during games. Below are some common issues that coaches may face.
Players That Just Want to Sit on the Bench
The pressure of games really affects some players. Some players may love performing in front of a crowd, but others become shy. Talk to them about the importance of helping teammates and how fun it will be (just like practice). Don’t bring up the fact that parents/grandparents are there to watch – that just puts more pressure on the player. This may be something to bring up with parents as they may not realize that their child is feeling this way and will need to understand why their child isn’t receiving the same playing time as the other children.
Players That Want to Be in the Game, But Don’t Participate
Talk to these children about why they aren’t active in the game and see if anything is bothering them. In future games, coaches may need to direct the player to pass to this player to get them involved (although make sure that times are picked for all players to be passed to so these children aren’t singled out).
Players that Don’t Play as a Team Member
These “ball hogs” will sometimes make other teammates upset, but generally are some of the better players on the team, so don’t get too much flack if they perform well. However, this needs to be addressed immediately so everyone gets the same chance to play and succeed. Speak with these children individually about the importance of passing. Coaches should give positive reinforcement when these children pass to other players. Coaches may need to enforce restrictions on touches during practices if the first two suggestions have no effect.
The Team Just Swarms the Ball
Encourage players to spread out using phrases like “move to the open space” or “find your position.” Players generally start playing and then will spread out on their own so give them a few minutes before you start yelling this to them. If they continue, work on passing and positions in practice.
Everyone Takes Too Many Shots/Just Kicks or Throws the Ball as Hard as Possible
Encourage them to pass to other players and specifically recognize this so all of the players can hear. Just like in a drill during practice, tell the players that they have to pass the ball to a teammate at least 2 times before going for the goal/basket.
Let the parents know your coaching philosophy and the COP Youth Sports philosophy from the beginning of the season in the form of an email or quick talk to parents before or after your first practice. Encourage parents to let you do the coaching while they do the cheering. Remind them that if the players hear instructions from too many sources it can be distracting. Give parents examples of specific things they should say, especially if you’re trying to reinforce something specific like passing.
To ensure the safety of all youth under our supervision, the COP encourages a positive approach to behavior management. Effective behavior management has three purposes:
- To encourage self-esteem, self-control, and responsibility
- To discourage irresponsibility and inappropriate behavior
- To lessen time spent dealing with behavior issues and allow more time to be spent on the goals of the program
CLEAR - Be specific about what you want to see from youth, whether it’s demonstrating a skill or explaining a rule. Remember that there are other ways to convey what you want than just saying it. Make sure that you are visually demonstrating things while verbally describing them as well. When in doubt demonstrate! Don’t just say “Good job!” say “Great effort rebounding! Your ability to box out is really getting better!” Likewise, if you’re trying to discourage a behavior, don’t say “Stop that!” You should tell the player/team exactly what you don’t want them to do, then tell them what you want them to do, and if necessary, give them a warning about what the consequences will be if they do not listen. Also, use language that each age level can understand and when in doubt simple/layman language is the best!
CONSISTENT - If you don’t want youth to act sporadically, you can’t act that way either. The more consistency that you can bring, the better your team will behave. This not only means that you should be consistent with your rules (and your consequences—making sure to consistently follow through with them), but also with the way that you run your practices and games. If you always start a practice in the same way, players will know what to do the moment they enter the gym as opposed to goofing off and causing trouble while they are waiting for you to tell them what to do.
CALM - There are many occasions in a coach’s normal routine were getting excited, loud, and pumped up are encouraged, however addressing behavior issues is not one of those times. Youth will model your behavior, so if you raise your voice, they’ll raise their voices. Getting into an argument with a child is a lot like playing tug of war. If they pull, you’ll pull harder. If they can’t beat you on their own, they may enlist some friends to help them out. The only way to avoid this process is to refuse to play and just “drop the rope.” If you’re used to using your authority as an adult to get youth to listen to you, this can be hard to put into practice, but keep trying. You’ll soon learn that when you calmly state exactly what you expect in clear terms and enforce it consistently, you’ll quickly earn respect from your team and will eliminate many problems before they start.
Correcting without Criticizing
When correcting skills, we should use correct without criticizing. To ensure that this happens, below are some tips to follow when giving corrective feedback.
- Focus on only one behavior/skill at a time.
- Ask before giving corrections. Instead of telling players what they did wrong, ask them “What just happened there?” and “What do you think you should do differently next time?”
- Praise players and then provide corrective instruction. Don’t focus as much on what’s not right and more on “how to do it right.” Make sure to specifically tell them what they’re doing right and then tell (and show) them how they can improve.
- We should use the feedback sandwich – give praise followed by corrective feedback, and then more praise.
- Do not give praise where they do not deserve praise. If they are doing something incorrectly then say something! Do not say good job just to say something.
- Feedback should be immediate.
- More feedback is not usually better. Quantity is not the key, ensuring the feedback is heard, understood and actionable is more important.
Situation: You see a child during your soccer practice not kicking the ball with the inside of their foot.
Criticizing feedback: You suck at kicking the ball.
Criticizing feedback: You are not kicking the ball correctly.
Corrective feedback: You kick the ball really far but, it would be better if you used the inside of your foot next time.
Corrective feedback: Hey, make sure you use the inside of your foot next time you kick the ball. It will help you get the ball where you want it to go better.