Coaching should be approached from many important angles such as:
- What age are the players?
- What skill level are the players, as a group and as compared to their competition?
- How much of a commitment do the players (and families) involved make in terms of time, money, and travel?
- What level is the team (recreation, traveling, etc.) and at what level does the team wish to be?
In this issue, we will discuss the age factor and point out some useful themes for coaches to keep in mind for their own team and for future teams.
A coach’s training environment, teaching techniques, and expectations from the players need to be age-specific.
Fun, Technique, and more Fun!
This group has tons of energy so keep the practices very active, game-oriented, and encouraging. (Parents will be satisfied if the kids come home smiling and exhausted!). Also use contests and other “games” to keep the interest and effort levels at a maximum.
At this level, kids can begin to understand the game at a slightly higher level. Still emphasize technical proficiency. Encourage the bigger and faster players to continue to work on fundamentals so they don’t become dependent on their physical advantages (which will often be nullified as a teenager).
Still rotate player positions from game to game. Have more discussions with them to see where they feel comfortable on the field. Also begin to put more of the responsibility on the players’ shoulders in practices and in games to make more decisions. Help them learn the game by asking about options (“What could you have done differently when?”)
Teenage years include puberty with all of the emotional and physical “improvements”! The players will need more rest, stretching, and water as their bodies won’t be as flexible or quick to recover. At this age, doing some physical conditioning (plyometrics, light weights, endurance work) will begin, especially for the intermediate to advanced levels.
The technical emphasis needs to continue, as always. Encourage the players to honestly confront and attack their weaknesses. At the same time, the players need to recognize and harness their strengths.
Tactically, the players need to be able to see more from a complete game situation. They need to have a solid foundation of offensive and defensive principles.
Emotionally, the advanced older players recognize pressure and appreciate challenges. They are self-confident, but realize they are a piece of the puzzle. They enjoy the game and have placed it as a priority in their busy lives.
At any age, respect the players and be positive!