What makes physical literacy unique is the emphasis on developing not only kids’ fundamental movement skills, but also their confidence and joy of moving. The recipe of skills, confidence, and joy is the secret to giving children what they need to be active for life.
The same recipe applies to developing any skills, whether at home, in sports, or at school. For example, if your purpose as a minor hockey coach is to help develop “hockey players for life,” you need to develop these three pillars through your coaching.
Developing skills and having fun
In general, coaches know how to develop skills and there are a number of great resources to help them do so. Actually, coaches often emphasize developing skills because that’s what they know and are comfortable doing. That’s why most coaches build their practices around drills.
The same can be said about having fun. The majority of minor sport coaches today know that making practices fun is a non-negotiable. If the kids you coach are developing age-appropriate skills and having fun, you are doing a great job.
But there’s one ingredient missing. Developing kids’ confidence is the piece of the puzzle that is most often left out. So how do you help kids develop confidence?
The confidence formula
In my role as a sport psychology coach, I have often been asked by coaches of all levels how to help kids and athletes develop confidence. To make it easier to understand, I have come up with my “confidence formula”:
Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” In other words, confidence comes when kids can actually realize that they have learned, practiced, and improved a skill.
Here’s what you need to know as a coach (or a teacher) to apply the confidence formula:
For kids to develop know-how, a coach must shift from telling to teaching. You need to engage kids in an educational process by sharing age-appropriate cues, demonstrating how to execute the skills, and having the patience to allow kids to discover through experience and doing.
As kids practice the skill, it is best to give short, simple, and constructive feedback. It is also most effective to ask questions that will help kids discover how to improve on their own. For example, you can ask them, “How can you make sure that your pass stays low?” This will lead kids to find their own answers and solutions – to go from imitating, to actually creating the skill in their own mind.
Child’s purposeful repetitions
The goal here is to have kids engage in an age and skill-level-appropriate drill where they perform a high number of repetitions to the best of their ability. One way to do this is to ensure that many kids perform the drill at the same time rather than one-at-a-time while others wait in line. (This also helps to make sure that the kids spend more time moving and less time waiting.)
Precise, constructive, and encouraging individual feedback is essential to helping each and every child improve, as well as dividing each skill into a progression of smaller cues.
In this formula, the realization by kids that they have worked hard and improved at performing a skill (while having fun) is a true multiplier. It is the secret ingredient in the recipe that amplifies the experience of improvement for kids. It is the cherry on the sundae that makes them happy with, and proud of, their own effort.
To help kids become aware of how much they have learned, worked and improved, praise their effort, resilience, and determination. Also, point out their smiles and enjoyment. Finally, help them realize the progress they have made. For example, say something like “You’ve worked hard and improved your passing skills by two levels today!”
It’s for life
Kid’s self-confidence will be dictated by their inner voice. If they tell themselves that they can or can’t this will have a huge effect on how they learn and grow on and off the playing field. And that inner voice will be shaped by what they heard from you and other influential adults.
If they hear truthful and encouraging recognition of their own hard work and effort from you, that’s what will stick. They will use the same kind of truthful and inner language when they face a challenge, learn a new skill, or go through tough times later in life.
Starting with the youngest players, coaches today can serve up big helpings of this wholesome recipe: skills, fun, and the magnifying effect of confidence. It’s a combination that will help kids learn to enjoy working with purpose and realize the fruit of their effort. It will help kids grow up to be active for life.