3 Common Mistakes of Youth Sport Coaches

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Coaching youth sports can be a very difficult task. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect coach’. Every coach has developed their own set perspectives on what they think is best for their group of participants.

O’Sullivan (2016), discusses how many coaches of youth sport today,  may have the right intentions, but may not be very effective coaches (as cited in Thomas, 2016). This results in many of today’s youth being poorly coached and therefore becoming disengaged from their respective sport or activity.

Here are a few common mistakes made by some coaches. Making some simple adjustments can help you improve your coaching habits and be a better role-model for your young athletes:

Using Corporal Punishment

In youth sport it is important that as a coach, you remember that kids and teens are there to ‘Have Fun’! When they’re having fun, kids tend to learn more effectively (Willis, 2017).

When you use exercise as a form of punishment, children may associate the activity with punishment, which can have negative effects (Lebolt, 2015). Therefore, it is better to avoid having the players do laps and sprints when you are upset with their performance or attitude.

As a coach, if you are upset at your group or individual, instead of using corporal punishment, try talking to the players about your expectations (O’Sullivan, 2016). Having kids misbehave can be due to many different factors, some of which could stem from situations outside of the sport or activity (O’Sullivan, 2016).

Understanding your players can help you get closer to the root of the problem which, can help in resolving any issues (O’Sullivan, 2016). Therefore, it can positively contribute to their improving habits and attitudes during practices and games.

Prioritizing Winning & Ignoring Progression

As we all taught, winning isn’t everything! This is especially true when it comes to youth sport. Having the mindset centers around an end-goal can be detrimental to the development of an athlete. Learning how to play a sport is a process that has many steps.

By making youth believe that winning is everything, they can start to feel like they have failed if they do not win. This can result in the group ignoring all the positive progress they have made and the good things they have achieved, for example, working as a team and becoming better skaters and passing the puck during a hockey game. Therefore, it is important to recognize hard-work and progression in your athletes as regardless of the score (LeagueAthletics, n.d.).

As stated in  O’Sullivan (2016) article, “The objective for every young athlete should be to learn, as it promotes a growth mindset and prepares them to win later on in life, when it matters much more.”

Being Narrow-Minded

Things constantly change in of youth sport coaching, there is always new research about the improvements in effective ways to  coach, and the way players can improve themselves both physically and mentally (LeagueAthletics, n.d.). Many coaches tend to believe that if it’s worked in the past, then there is no point in changing it (Sullivan, 2017). The problem with this ‘old-school’ way of coaching is that like assigning laps as punishment and using threats as a form of motivation, it’s been proven that this method can lead to more problems than solutions.

The best coaches are lifelong learners, they are the ones who believe that they can learn just as much from their athletes as they can learn from them (O’Sullivan, 2016). By allowing yourself to learn, you can consistently strive to better yourself as not only a coach, but as a friend, mentor, and member of society (O’Sullivan, 2016).


Therefore, by staying in the past and using solely “what worked for you”, you are likely leaving a lot to interpretation and are not effectively doing your best as a coach, which is to give your learners the best experience possible.