4 things you can apply in your training sessions with your youth athletes

Building Learning Power (prof. Guy Claxton) is about helping young kids to become better learners. In England (and now also in the North of The Netherlands) schools are successfully implementing this concept about learning and learning habits. BLP makes the comparison of training learning muscles and real muscles in becoming better learners. What can you apply as a trainer/coach of youth athletes?

BuildingLearningPower_Brain eng

The first question you have to think  about is ‘what does a good athlete demonstrate’? The obvious answers have to do with: showing a good technique, understands tactics, and probably things which have to do with mental aspects, such as perseverance.
In my opinion a trainer-coach has to reflect if he or she is willing and able to revise their own views about the way he or she trains or coaches? Can you monitor and review how things are going and can you see new opportunities? For instance, can you train and coach more in a growth mindset way? It means a lot in the way you have to communicate with young athletes. If you are not willing or able to change or adjust the way you train or coach, than no new learning will take place. You should be curious about new research or practices in sports and reflect on the possible value of it.

fixed en growth mindset

I will change Building Learning Power in Building Sports Power and give of the 4 dispositions areas some examples how you can use this in your training/coaching.

  1. Resilience; the emotional aspects in sports

Absorption is about being able to lose yourself in sports, becoming absorbed in what you are doing, in a state of ‘flow’.
How can you help your athletes train this? First of all your growth mindset language can help your youth players. Praise the effort not the result. See making mistakes as a essential part in becoming better (save environment). Get them out of their comfort zone (ask f.i. what would help to get out of their comfort zone?). Make clear that becoming better only works when they are in that stretch zone. For you as a trainer you have the make an ultimate balance between challenge and skill in your trainingsessions. Too much tension means stress and black outs, to less means boredom!

Language to encourage absorption:
– You look as if you are really enjoying this
– What makes you able to get so absorbed in it?
– What do you think might help you feel like that again?
– What can I do to help you?


  2. Resourcefulness; the cognitive aspects in sports

Questioning is about being curious and playful with ideas, asking questions of yourself and others.
This aspect has also to do with giving your players autonomy about how to play and train. It is also about being reflective about motivation, about tactics, being creative in play and visualize new possibillities. Why should you give more autonomy to your players? My answer is very simple: you are not playing the game, your are at the sideline. Your players have to execute the game; train them by allowing a lot of questions and feeding curiosity. In that way you will stimulate their personal leadership, their creativity and making decisions in split seconds etc. Language to stimulate questioning:
– That’s  a great / interesting question
– What would you do if you were the coach?
– If we had a player of our top team over here, what would you ask him or her?

3. Reflectiveness; the strategic aspects of sports

Planning is about thinking where you are going , the action you are going to take.
Planning is an important part of self regulation (self-regulation is the ability to act in your long-term best interest, consistent with your dreams/values). It is about your (sports)dream, setting goals, making schedules and monitor them constantly. Passion (intrinsic motivation), the fun of the game, is the strong motor of young athletes. There for ‘having fun’ is essential.
Language to stimulate planning:
– What is your big dream?
– What are wanting/trying to achieve
– What will help you to do this?


  4. Reciprocity; the social parts in sports

Interdependence is about knowing when it is appropriate to do things on your own or with others.
In team sports you know that you have to collaborate with your team mates, but it is also important to know how you can develop yourself as an individual and how you can contribute as an individual to the team performance. So how much autonomy do you give to your individual youth athletes? What are the team boundaries? You can find some tips in the ‘will – skill matrix’. Language to encourage interdepence:
– What do you enjoy about sporting with other kids?
– How does this help you become a better athlete?
– Who do you sport with best? Why do you think that is?

will skill matrix

A very good 2015!

Anton de Vries





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