Why we should stop telling children what to always do in sport

Be the coach, mentor and role model your students and children deserve by being encouraging and suportive rather than falling into these common traps.

In this sports education based infographic we detail why we should stop telling children what to always do in sport.

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In sport we often observe coaches and parents who constantly like to instruct young players in games and training. We have all been to that Sunday morning game where players are always being told what to do and how to play. Have you ever thought what impact this has on a child’s psychological development?

Step 1 – Coach/parent is constantly instructing and telling their player what to do and how to plan.

Step 2 – Young players really rely on adult feedback. Constant feedback will cause a child to act on what is being told.

Step 3 – When a child is given repetitive instructions, this will have an impact on their problem solving and decision-making skills. How can we expect young players to solve their own problems if everything is being solved for them?

Step 4 – At this point a young player relies on you to make their decisions. They have become used to you telling them what to do. What happens when you can’t make a game or training session? What will happen to the players decision making abilities?

Step 5 – You start to realise that you need to stop telling players how to play and what to do. You decide to sit back and enjoy a game. However, you start to notice that your parents are struggling. They keep looking at you for answers. They don’t know what to do when they are faced with hard decisions. They don’t know if they should pass or run with the ball. They look confused. Constant instruction on the side-lines will lead to decreased decision making and problem solving, which will lead to decreased physical, technical, tactical and psychological performance.

Tips to take away

  • Silence is a powerful tool. Use it to elicit powerful responses. Stop criticising and start praising.
  • Give young players the freedom to problem-solve and make their own decisions. Believe in their abilities. Don’t forget to ask lots of questions – what, when, why, how.
  • Stop living your sport dreams through your child. Remember they are playing and not you.
  • Know when to instruct and when not to. Every young player needs support and instruction when learning but they do not need to be told consistently what to do.
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