Make the sport fit the child, not the child fit the sport — thoughts on iCoachKids

Really interesting video from the iCoachKids project, on “making the sport fit the child, not the child fit the sport”

Some of the concepts discussed might appear obvious, but I thought it was very helpful to see how the video (and the associated activities on the MOOC) provides a framework to think about why and how to adapt and differentiate activities in children’s sport.

Two elements from the video that I thought were especially relevant to coaching children’s cricket were:

  1. the concept of chronological, biological and training ages, and how unlikely it is that any two children in our groups will be at the same developmental stage on all three dimensions — this has huge implications for how activities need to be differentiated.
  2. the SPEC model of child development — Social, Physical, Emotional & Cognitive — and the implications of the various development levels on how activities will be received by children (and, by implication, how activities can be modified to support development, engagement & enjoyment).

Typically, children might display the following characteristics:


  • Self-centred; children may struggle to co-operate…but can be helped to progress to working as a group.
  • Form small friendship groups — we need to manufacture opportunities for them to interact with others, without fracturing existing friendship groups.

SOCIAL — adaptations

  • Work in small groups (as small as possible) but mix the groups frequently.
  • Share responsibilities as soon as possible — “you are the leader for this game — organise your team”


  • Different growth rates.
  • Physical development tends to be “top down, centre out” i.e. they can control body parts closer to brain & midline first — practice might need to consider what is physically possible for some children, rather than where we hope to end up (i.e. approaching an idealised technique).
  • Energy systems are under-developed — kids get tired (and disengaged) quicker than adults.

PHYSICAL — activity adaptations

  • Differentiate by Space & Task — hitting or throwing over longer/shorter distance.
  • Choice of playing implements — size appropriate to physical development.


  • Children often struggle with disappointment & order.
  • Little emotional awareness.
  • Children don’t get delayed gratification…”can we play a game”…”later” might be too late!

EMOTIONAL — adaptations

  • Whole-Part-Whole — start with a game (challenge), then “coach” the skill, then play again.
  • Re-define “success” — “the best you can do”.
  • Keep it moving — don’t dwell on an activity, don’t expect retrospection


  • Children generally learn best by doing & trying; less well when following instructions.
  • Concentration span and information processing ability is lower than adults.
  • Struggle to differentiate between cause & effect and between effort & ability — learning doesn’t happen overnight, but for some children it takes time to develop that growth mindset.

COGNITIVE — adaptations

  • Have lots of go’s; don’t expect results first time (but be sure to celebrate any that are achieved); celebrate effort as much as outcome.
  • Repeat an activity week on week — at the very least, once to learn the game, once to learn how to win, once to try to win.
  • Lots of variety — don’t allow an activity to run for more than 10-15 minutes, before moving on to something different.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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