Positive Coaching Workshop Highlights Youth Development in Sports

coach with young swimmers

Last month, NRF partnered with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to offer a workshop for our grantees focused on making youth athletic programming more meaningful for participants. While PCA’s work is generally focused on sports, the lessons outlined in the workshop are relevant to any group working towards positive youth development goals.

In the April workshop, PCA asked attendees to think about creating an intentional culture with their youth. Clearly establishing norms within their communities will allow organizations and leaders to create environments that are safe for all kids. Not everyone needs the same things from a program, but leaders can set an example of meeting youth where they are that encourages a culture of acceptance and support among everyone.

youth baseball players

One of the core lessons PCA offered in the workshop was the idea of double goal coaching. Double goal coaching emphasizes the importance of measuring success not just in terms of points scored or a season record of wins and losses, but also in terms of the personal growth of players and the development of lifelong skills like teamwork and resilience. 

One way to do this is to celebrate growth and learning over easy success. Not all youth athletes will master a new skill right away but calling out strong effort and identifying areas of progress helps young players see that working hard through challenges is more important than natural ability. That kind of lesson will serve kids well not only as athletes but also as students and members of their families and communities.

soccer team in a huddle

Workshop attendees from Girls on the Run (GOTR) even shared examples of their “TLC” method for fostering a growth mindset among young runners. When GOTR coaches offer praise, they “tell it,” then they “label it,” before moving on to “celebrate it.” For example, instead of saying “Great job, you ran really fast and beat everyone else,” the TLC method encourages coaches to say, “I noticed that you helped your teammate up when she fell, that shows a lot of care. Way to go!”

Coaches who invest in the social-emotional wellbeing of their players, are well positioned to respect boundaries, engage in transparent communication, and foster positive mental health. These are all areas that have become especially important over the past year as young people reckon with traumas associated with the pandemic and social and political unrest. More than ever, youth need adults in their lives who listen to them and have the tools to offer meaningful support. NRF is grateful that PCA was able to provide training to our grantees that allows them to be even more effective and thoughtful in the important work that they do.