We like to share articles, research, anecdotes, and other stories talking about the need to make youth sports fun again, well how about some actual tips on doing just that.
It can be easy to get swept up in the professionalization of youth sports. We all want our best for our kids and the players we are coaching so why not teach them the things we see professionals do to excel in their sport? Well if you are reading this you know why, and if not perhaps check out our Facebook feed for more information on why youth sports needs to be fun!
Below are our first two recommendations, check back next week for ideas 3-5.
Learn about Physical Literacy
In a very brief nutshell, physical literacy is the ability to control your body. To perform any given sports action at a high level, there are always a series of movements our bodies must go through. For example in basketball an offensive player will come off a screen, catch a ball, then finally, shoot. A player who has has played basketball for 10 years can do this instinctively, but how do you teach a 9 year old? You may think “repetition”, but have you first checked to see if the player is capable of moving agilely around a body, can they catch a ball while moving, can they run-stop-jump in quick succession?
Physical literacy and functional movement are the building blocks of all sports movements, so spend some time reading about them then integrating into your practices. Simple things like throwing a ball while balancing on one foot; obstacle courses with running, hopping, and crawling; leap frogs (if the kids are old enough not to fall over each other. You can also add in cognitive games, too. My personal favourite is tic-tac-toe relay which I have successful used with kids as young as 6 years old. The point is to build up their movement skills with fun.
The best part of these drills is they are not standard, and in general, they are a lot of fun as they challenge kids (and adults, too) with movements we often do not try.
Have themed practices
In my kid’s soccer club, they play “sharks versus dolphins”. Essentially it’s a keep-away game. Every kid starts with a ball as a dolphin, then one shark hunts them down and tries to kick their ball away. If successful, the dolphin becomes a shark until there is only one dolphin left. Simple game. The problem is every single coach, from U5 to U8 use this drill, and most use it at least every other practice. Sure, it’s a practical drill that offers 50+ touches each round, but kids can get bored of being a shark or a dolphin.
You know what gets them excited? Being a zombie, or a reindeer, or a leprechaun, or whatever thing personifies the next big day. Do you run an obstacle course, well now it’s running through a haunted house. Have a “landmine” game, well now you can dodge the seashells at the beach. Do you have any striking exercises? Hitting a ball is great, but what kid wouldn’t like the thought of smashing a watermelon? It’s not about changing the drill, just changing the name.
Check back next week for fun warm ups, engaging a different kid each week, and remembering to have fun as the coach.
***Cover photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash