For Younger Coaches: Tips to successfully manage kids
June 06, 2017
Is possible to manage a group of youngsters? Yes, here's how!
From Big Brother/Sister to Coach - How to Handle a Crowd
As a young coach you're probably excited about the chance to get a job in gymnastics coaching. After all, if you've been selected as a coach, you probably started your gymnastics training at a young age and kept at it. What do you think inspired you? Was it a love of the sport or a memorable coach? It was probably a combination of both, and that's why, when you have a chance to coach gymnastics at the youngest level, you are really playing a huge role in how these girls and boys will view the sport.
But this age group can be particularly challenging. After all, they may see gymnastics or tumbling time more as a playdate with their friends than a chance to build the fundamentals of their skills. So how can you start your gymnastics coaching career off the right way and manage a group of 5-7 year-olds effectively, ensuring they have fun - and learn?
It's important to remember when coaching younger kids, that they have the tendency to view you as a babysitter or a big brother or sister - and perhaps not respect your authority as a coach. But you don't need to go in whistle blowing and shouting to assert your authority. With a little preparation you can effectively manage a group of diverse abilities and personalities.
It's especially important to come to your class prepared. Winging it really isn't an option when you're trying to oversee a bunch of little kids. It's easy for one or two kids to set the tone for the whole group - and it usually isn't the 'best' behaved child who does that. It's typically the one who's able to command the center of attention.
You need to bring the center of attention to yourself in your coaching routine. Here are some simple tips to set the stage and make sure everyone has a positive experience.
1. Have a lesson plan. Know what activities you're going to do - from warm-up, to which moves you'll work on, to the cool down. Know how long you're going to allocate for each activity and make sure you have more activities planned than you might need.
2. Avoid down time. Nothing causes kids to "get out of hand" more than a little free time - you don't want to be searching for equipment or setting something up with ten pairs of eyes looking at you during a tumbling class. Those eyes and feet quickly start to wander.
3. Have a "Quiet" or "Attention" signal that everyone knows. It could be a clapping sequence, an arm raised or hand on the head. You start it and the kids who are paying attention will follow - and hopefully so will the ones not paying attention. Go over the signal at the start of every class.
4. Know your class - don't be afraid of splitting up talkers and pairing them up with quieter or "better behaved" children.
5. Don't be afraid to separate from the group. When you have a child who just won't listen or follow the rules, you can separate them - have them sit off to the side and watch while others continue to participate.
6. Praise the positive and remind against the negative. Praise the positive behavior of 'model students' while gently correcting that not so perfect behavior of others. You can also use a little low key competition and split the class into teams to see which ones do a better job of 'following the rules.' You can award the winners with stickers or stamps as positive reinforcement.
7. Stress safety. Have the kids sit when it's not their turn. If a student is doing something unsafe during your gymnastics coaching, that might be the time to raise your voice. This way the children will learn to respond to raised voice rather than tuning it out. Make sure your students know what's safe and what's not.
With a little bit of preparation and the willingness to think like a teacher, your gymnastics coaching career can be off to a great start no matter how challenging the age group.