When looking at the world’s most successful sports men and women, it’s easy to forget that they came from the very same small grassroots organisations that we know and love. They seem superhuman, godlike and just out of reach from people like you and I – not many people even know these sportspeople, maybe just a friend of a friend’s cousin. So how did they make it to the levels of sport that we can only dream of? Put simply: grassroots sports. If you want to get the best out of your young upstarts, read on and check out our tips for developing talent.
Developing Olympic level talent isn’t an overnight job and, more importantly, shouldn’t be the focus of training sessions for young players at grassroots level. The biggest task is engaging participants, promoting fun and instilling values that will last a lifetime. Afterall, the chances are that a child’s first experience of organised sport is with you, so creating an environment that they’ll want to come back to is essential. In this article, you’ll be able to find some key pointers on how to nurture that young talent and ensure their passion is sparked and grows.
Get Expectations Right
First thing’s first: the reality is that you’re training with children and your expectations should reflect that. While there might be some excellent raw talent on show, there might also be some players that aren’t quite as advanced in their chosen sport. At the very first level of organised sport, the ethos has to be to include players of all shapes, sizes and abilities – there will be time for talent spotting further down the line. If players are scared to turn up because your expectations of them are unrealistic, there will be an unhealthy drought of any kind of talent graduating through the age groups at your club or organisation.
Keep It Fun
Ultimately, and probably the most important out of tips for developing talent, the youngest players in any sport start playing because it appeals to them – they want to have fun and they want to emulate the pros they see on the television. To keep players coming back and to encourage maximum participation, fun is the key. Very few children will be turning up to sessions wanting to do drill after drill, they want to arrive and enjoy the sport for what it is. Drills and lectures aren’t going to grab imaginations at a young age, so think about how you tailor your session for the players you have turning up.
Feedback and Participation
Whilst fun is the goal for young talent, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a learning curve. Incorporating feedback into fun games is a great way encourage improvement, especially when players are motivated to participate themselves. Focusing on just a few key learnings for each session is ideal – not an information overload and not an insignificant amount of knowledge being passed on. Discussions in between games are a great way of ensuring information is stored, as it’s a two-way conversation with questions and answers to reinforce the points being made. Player participation is key here, as they then feel as if they are part of that teaching process and builds the confidence to go and demonstrate new found knowledge in a game situation.
Competition is healthy at every age group and can bring out the best in players, challenging participants to raise their game to secure victory. This isn’t about winners or losers and making anybody feel bad for not getting a win, but more about pushing youngsters to succeed in fun scenarios with their friends. This can be done in game situations, or over a longer period of time in the form of leader boards. The best elite athletes have that steely desire to win and developing a competitive edge in sportspeople at an early age isn’t a bad thing.
Expect Respect and Show Respect
Promoting core values in players is essential, and the best sportspeople out there are excellent role models because of the values they display. Sportsmanship, honesty, commitment, integrity and respect are values to display not just in sport, but throughout life in general. Displaying these as a coach will rub off on players, especially at a young age, so bear this in mind every time you step out onto the field to take a session. Regardless of the mood you might find yourself in, young girls and boys look to you for guidance and education – so make sure you’re being the role model they need you to be.
The final tips for developing talent: although we often feel inspiration comes from those at the top of their respective sports or fields, for youngsters inspiration can be found a little closer to home. At such a young age they are impressionable and look to their authoritative figures for the answers and influence. Developing a culture in which everyone feels comfortable, and one that you lead with positivity and encouragement, is the first step in breeding inspiration. Young talent needs a benchmark to look up to, one that is realistic and firmly within their world. The elite will always inspire people to take up a sport or hobby, or to start down a path, but being that first step on the ladder to success is your way of inspiring the next generation.
Ultimately, out of all the tips for developing talent, the underlying point to nurturing this young talent and providing the best coaching is that no matter the sport, the key is to keep the participants returning week after week. Without that consistency, there will be no talent to develop and no coaching to be done. Remember why you fell in love with your sport, and remember what inspired you to take the path you took – in remembering those reasons and inspiration, you will find the key to the next generation.
We are passionate and motivated to making the difference, and allowing all children to be the best they can be in their chosen sport. We value the importance of providing enriched opportunities that inspire and motivate both boys and girls, providing both intermediate & advanced learners pathways into broader participation, club or academy environments and future employability.
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