I have started on the iCoachKids online course Developing Effective Environments for Children in Sport.
This is the first of three “MOOCs” from the iCoachKids project, an international, collaborative, multi-agency project aiming to support the development of a Specialist Children and Youth Coaching Workforce across the EU, funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.
Thought-provoking content (lots of it!), enthusiastically presented, and addressing an area of coaching that is too often dismissed as “just coaching kids”!
The role of the coach in children’s sport is widely misunderstood— are they performance coach, guru, task-master, child-minder? — when perhaps the most important thing that a coach in children’s sport can do is to help the child to develop a love of sport (any sport) that will carry on into adult life.
To help to develop that lifelong engagement with sport and physical activity, the coach must first engage the child by addressing his or her particular wants and needs (of which the most important, as identified in the course, include fun, friendship, confidence & competence), alongside the developmental needs that can successfully be satisfied in the sports context, such as socialisation, cooperation, healthy competition.
And although competition might not be near the very top of many children’s lists of reasons to play sport, sport (and Life) is also about winning and losing — sports coaching with children should include an introduction to these “two impostors”!
Children (mostly) already get this — they (mostly) play games in the playground, and there will be winners & losers.
Interestingly, however, as more and more play moves online, and increasingly becomes a solitary occupation (solitary but for the AI of the video game), it is now possible for everyone to win, most of the time — earn (or buy) the upgrades, and just carry on winning.
This is perhaps not entirely healthy.
And that is why children’s sport, and the role of coaches in children’s sport, is more important than ever before.
The biggest challenge for coaches might just be to educate parents, dedicated to smoothing their child’s path through life, to let go, to allow the child space to learn how to win, how to lose, how to carry their own bag…
I do thoroughly recommend the MOOC to anyone who works, or has an interest, in coaching children.
Be warned, however — the MOOC is chunky. To complete in full just the first “chapter”, you would have to:
- carry out a survey or focus group with a group of children you coach, and their parents;
- compile the responses, and deliver a feedback session;
- create a case study of your own club/school/community group, including an assessment against Andy Abraham’s “Who, What, How” model and present this to fellow coaches and/or parents for further discussion;
- assess your own coaching against the iCK 10-point Pledge and show this to the coaching committee and/or the executive committee of your club/school/community group to discuss and rate the club against the 10-point Pledge;
- self-evaluate your own coaching in the 6 primary functions — Vision and Strategy; Shaping the environment; Building Relationships; Conducting Practices and Preparing and Managing Competitions; Reading and Reacting to the Field; and Reflecting and Learning
- present a 500-word reflective piece on the role of the coach in youth sport and specifically on what this mean for you in your current environment;
- agree, with the coaches you work with, the role of the children’s coach, based on the iCoachKids Pledge – 10 Golden Rules, and then create a Coaches Code of Conduct in your club, school or community group.
Fortunately, it is possible to skip ahead through the MOOC, watching the (excellent) videos and completing only the tasks that are of immediate relevance to your current coaching situation.
But be warned — all of the tasks will have some relevance, and it is easy to get drawn deeper and deeper into reflection & learning…and we probably all need to actually do some coaching!