Ways to Instill Good Habits in Young Athletes
The time spent playing youth sports is such an important and formative time in a young athletes life. From the experiences and friendships to the lessons learned, a child can benefit greatly from playing youth sports. It is often forgotten that these players are just kids and are experiencing a lot of new things in each season that passes! They are trying to learn, develop and figure out who they are, all while having fun playing a sport they enjoy. While winning is fun, developing your athletes to be better people both on and off the field is the continued main goal of youth sports.
Athletes go to practices or games to have fun with friends and improve their skills in the sport they love. Without athletes realizing it, coaches are teaching them many lessons. Here are our tips on ways to instill good habits in young athletes:
1. Communicate Effectively
A simple conversation with your athletes can go a long way. Chatting with them about anything and everything can have a major impact on your relationship as player on coach, but also on their communication skills as they get older. Your players will see that their coach is someone they can feel comfortable with, and who can be trusted to help them with their problems. As they get older, the ability to communicate effectively and openly will increase in importance as they go through school, develop new relationships, move away from home, or continue to play high level sport. Regular communication about injuries, hard games or tough plays will create a safe space around difficult conversation, and continue to be useful throughout their entire life.
2. Prioritize Accountability
Holding athletes accountable teaches them that there are consequences for their actions. Most commonly, we see this practiced in time management within youth sport. With proper communication of expectations, coaches can educate athletes on how important it is to be accountable to yourself and to others around you by showing up on time. It will quickly be understood that not only is this important now, but also to future teams or even jobs one day. Other ideas are to rotate water bottle responsibilities, change who leads stretches, or assign someone to come up with a new pre game song. Be sure to praise when needed, and show players that you are seeing the work that they are putting in. Celebrate the successes!
3. Give Your Athletes Control
By thinking outside the box and extending control to athletes, many good habits will be learned. For instance, giving your athletes control over warm-ups prior to a practice will teach them leadership, confidence, and the importance of teamwork and support. By allowing athletes to step into a leadership role, some will rise up and thrive in this environment, while others will simply learn from the experience they were given. Allowing young athletes to work as a team encourages collaboration, decision making, conflict management and time management. Other suggestions would be allowing your athletes to choose where to go for a team meal, or coming up with a pregame routine for the team to follow for the whole season. These are habits that will go a long way for your team and make them better as individuals and as a unit.
4. Practice What You Teach
Kids are always watching and observing how people act and behave around them. Have you ever heard a kid use an old expression perfectly in a sentence? They didn’t learn that on SnapChat or TikTok, they likely heard it from observing and copying the actions of the adults around them! With this in mind, focus on practicing the actions you ask of your athletes and stick to them throughout the season. Be on time, well prepared, a good role model, and treat all those around you with respect.
5. Have Fun!
Sports are fun, so show it! Your athletes will enjoy playing their favourite sport even more if practices make them have fun. There is a good chance that their work ethic, listening skills and actual playing abilities increase if a practice does not feel like a chore. Although there is a time for serious competition in every season, take the opportunity to enjoy moments with athletes and learn from their zest for action.
Ultimately, the goal of youth sports is to improve in both skill and mindset. Instilling good habits such as time management, communication, leadership and honesty in athletes will set them up for future successes wherever their sport journey may take them.
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