9 essential tips for coaching young people

8th May 2019

9 essential tips for coaching young people

What makes a volleyball session enjoyable for children? On last month’s Volleyball England Coaching Newsletter we shared a resource from UK Coaching about ‘What makes your session unmissable for young people?’  

Coaching young people comes with different challenges and responsibilities to working with adults. Being a mentor to young people is also an amazing opportunity to have a positive impact on their lives and help bring through the next generation of volleyballers.

So we decided to speak to some of the most experienced coaches of juniors players to get their top tips for engaging young people with volleyball.

The line-up includes Carlos Johnson who is a long-time servant of Malory Eagles and has worked with junior players for years; Matt Rhymer who is the head coach of the England junior beach programme, as well as a PE teacher with vast experience of developing players for volleyball and beach volleyball; and Lauren Tucker and Sue Jollands who established a junior club from scratch in South Bucks which has players who are now part of the England Talent Pathway.

They came up with lots of essential tips for working with young people:

1.       Understand how important your role is

Matt: “You are more than a coach. You may be one of the few trusted adults in their life – what a privilege but also a big responsibility.”

2.       Consider their confidence

Lauren: “Lots of kids are lacking confidence. Especially when their bodies are changing and growing so rapidly, and others may not be. They can be uncoordinated and awkward for a while so it is the coach's job to give them all skills and activities they can master successfully and help them overcome this.”

3.       Kids want to play games!

Carlos: “Be mindful of the reasons that young people are there in the first place: they want to play games. When working with our year 7 athletes the focus is to encourage them to do most of the learning through the use of adapted and conditioned games. Within 10 minutes of starting their first ever volleyball session the kids are playing a point scoring game.”

Sue: “No matter what level of experience, and even if they only want to play socially, young people like competition over training, which is why game-based training works well.”

4.       Introduce the sport with a game

Carlos: “There is a game I use in children’s first ever volleyball session. We call it ‘Dan’s game.’ It is initially played on a very small court, 2 Vs 2 and there must be 3 touches on each transition. The first touch underarm catch and throw, 2nd touch overhead catch and push, and 3rd touch a volley over net. We play this game at the start of every session and gradually introduce new adaptations and conditions.

“Over a period of half a school term we would expect the athletes to have progressed to starting each rally with some sort of striking skill and maintain control on their side of the net using a combination of digs, volleys or catches depending on their confidence and or competence in each situation. Our focus is problem solving and decision making rather than skills in isolation. We have found that athletes are engaged and on task and more importantly having fun.”

5.       Let the players take control

Matt: “Give young athletes ownership of their development. They need an opportunity to come up with their own route to achieve, which may not match yours.”

6.       Struggling to get their attention?

Lauren: “When my kids are really squirmy I get them to smack balls against the wall or serve as usually pounding balls for 10 minutes means they will listen better!”

7.       Avoid fear of failure

Matt: “Sessions need achievable targets, with opportunities to explore the process to achieve. So create time to debrief your athletes. Young athletes need a safe environment to fail in. FAIL= First Attempt In Learning.”

8.       Understand your players as individuals

Matt: “Take time to learn what makes your athlete tick, and what turns them off! There is nothing more powerful than knowing your athlete. Don't assume the young athlete who walks through the door is the same athlete who walked in last week – don’t hold a grudge.

“I feel like the content you deliver is often second to the environment you create and the relationship you have with athletes. Get this bit right and your young athletes will thrive!”

9.       Give them the right competitive opportunities

Sue: “Young people like competition over training, so getting them as much competition at the right level is the key to keeping them involved in volleyball.”

9 essential tips for coaching young people