I don't have a lot of coaching experience. How can I be successful as a Whitepoint coach?
Just be yourself. Don't try to be something you're not. Many of our best coaches are not the most experienced. Since the way we have structured the program is contrary to some of the "old school" ways of coaching football, some of the more experienced coaches actually have a hard time adjusting. Great teachers know they can't really teach anything. They can only create an environment that facilitates learning in a fulfilling way. Creating a safe and challenging environment is the most important thing you can do.
How do I create an optimal environment for the kids?
Kids learn best in groups when they are focused, fully engaged and have a clear intention of what to do. This is best achieved by using simple, clear language to explain drills, demonstrating drills as much as possible, and keeping the kids active with as many repetitions as possible. Don't talk too much. Give them a chance to learn from their own mistakes and by watching other kids do the drill correctly. The short time frame of each drill helps to create a high energy environment.
Why is this the best way?
There is no one right way to teach. But this method is effective because it directly addresses the way kids (and adults) learn. Kids take in information and learn through three primary senses: visual, kinesthetic (feel), and auditory. These are called the three modes of learning. Explaining drills (hear), demonstrating them (see), and giving kids a lot of repetitions (feel, see, hear) covers all three modes. Research shows that the vast majority of people are visual and/or kinesthetic learners yet most coaches use verbal instructions as their primary way of teaching.
Is that why some kids don't "get it" right away?
Yes. Many kids can't handle or process a lot of verbal information. It may be clear to you but it may not be clear to them. When you wanted to put together the new bike or table you bought were the instructions that came with either of them easy to understand? They're often very confusing the first time we read them. This is why most computers now come with an illustrated instruction sheet with large pictures showing what goes where. Seeing pictures along with the text makes it easier to understand and do it. That is our ultimate goal for working with kids: make it as easy as possible for them to learn.
What is the best way to give verbal instruction?
Keep it simple. Don't get lost in the details. A good way to give verbal instructions is to focus on the end result rather than the means. For instance, in demonstrating one of the blocking drills there is often no need to explain all the details and technique necessary to perform the drill. Just tell them the purpose of the drill (e.g. to keep the defender from getting the running back when he runs to the left) and then show them how they would block the defender to achieve that. Let them figure out the details on their own. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words!
Lastly, you can be more effective if you can connect what they need to do with something they already know. For example, after being taught the breakdown position one of the volunteer coaches had a light go on. "This is the position you would be in after jumping off a chair." She started using this analogy and found the kids understood it immediately. To summarize: Giving kids a clear task that they feel confident they can perform is extremely important.
What should I do when the kids do the drill incorrectly?
This depends on the circumstances, but we have found that the most successful coaches don't spend a lot of time teaching and correcting mistakes. It simply takes up too much time. The best coaches typically handle this problem in the following ways:
A. If one or two kids aren't doing the drill correctly, then…
B. If a large number of kids are doing the drill incorrectly, then you need to start over. It is probably because of the way you presented the drill to them.
C. Also, take this as an opportunity to become a better coach by reflecting on what you could have done differently in your presentation.
Is there anything else I can do to help the kids learn more quickly?
Yes. Learning is accelerated with focus and feedback. Once you gain more confidence and familiarity with the coaching process or if you are already an experienced coach, you can try the following:
A. Have the kids yell "YES!" or give you a HIGH FIVE if they have done the drill correctly. This simple act helps accelerate learning by creating what is called "conscious competence." They pay more attention to what they are doing while they are doing it. You also receive important feedback about their internal experience. You can now compare what you observed with what they think they did.
B. You can also single out the most important part of the drill and have them do the same thing. For example, if the correct way for the player to perform the upcoming drill is to block the defender's right shoulder with his own right shoulder, he would yell "YES" at that moment. Again, this increases focus and aids memory recall.
What do I do when the kids do the drill correctly?
Praise. Praise. Praise. Praising kids when they do something right is important to the development process and a wonderful way to build their confidence. It makes them feel good and lets them know they are on the right track.
What is the best way to praise someone?
Praise their behavior as quickly as possible so they can recall their experience. Perhaps the best way to praise someone is to single out a specific behavior and let them know they did it correctly. "Hey Johnny, you really got your hands up on that block! Good job! or "Way to keep your head up on that tackle, Johnny. Nice one!" Saying just "good job" or "way to go" can make kids feel good, but being specific aids their learning.
When you have more time, a great way to praise someone is to do it through a third party while they are present. For instance, when speaking to another coach after the drill is over you might say, "Hey coach, did you see how well Johnny blocked with his head in the correct position? He really has a lot of talent!"
What about discipline? What do I do when kids are acting up or disturbing others?
Hopefully the program director has set the ground rules ahead of time so the consequences of poor behavior or sportsmanship are clear. The best coaches don't get angry or yell at the kids, they simply pull the child out of the drill
Are there any advanced coaching techniques I should know about?
A good coach helps a player become more aware of what they are doing while they are doing it so they can learn from their own experience. With this style of coaching, the coach does not need to be an expert in the field in which he or she is coaching rather they are adept at facilitating the learning process.