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Top 7 Ways to Manage Behavior in Youth Sport

Chris Idun
Having control of a training session is one of the pillars of a good coach. Good structure and organization will facilitate that but sometimes challenging behavior will cause a practice to derail.

Here we’ll look at some of the root causes, tips for prevention, and ways you can take back control when unruly behavior threatens a session.

1. Use Positive Reinforcement

All players enjoy praise. So, when there’s an opportunity to point out something positive that someone has done, use it! Create a culture where positive actions create positive reinforcement. This will be contagious and the whole group will try to have their efforts noticed.

2. Create a Positive Learning Environment

Make your sessions and matches a positive experience that players want to be involved in. If you have a solid session design that keeps them engaged and entertained with less time waiting around, they’ll have less time and desire to act up. Make sure the players feel included as part of the practice rather than it just going on around them. Make sure the language used is clear and consistent.

3. Remove Your Stresses

Arriving at a session or a match with your own worries and troubles is inevitable but look to control these while around the group and not burden the players with the negativity built up during the day. By managing your behavior and looking inward, you’ll sometimes find the root cause to be something you can control.

4. Communicate Clearly and Effectively

Be consistent in your communication and language. Make players feel comfortable in the environment and make the most of opportunities to praise over criticism. Over time find out more about your players' likes and dislikes to create common ground and know what triggers their good and bad behaviors.

5. Design Club or Team Rules

Does your club have them? Do they enforce them? Let players create and have input in their own set of guidelines and behaviors and they are more likely to follow them. Maybe there are rules and punishments around arrival times, kit, playing time, whatever it is having their feedback on what they think is fair is a surefire way to keep them on board.

6. Set Boundaries and Stick To Them

Let players know the non-negotiables and ground rules for sessions at the start of the season and what's required of them. Keep the framework consistent so they know what to expect from you and set the example by turning up on time, in the correct kit, keeping your equipment organized and tidy etc.

7. Be Player Centered In Your Coaching Style

Player or athlete-led coaching involves giving more responsibility to your players over behaviors and decisions. Empower them to develop their own ideas and guide them to find solutions to problems rather than giving them the answers.  Allow them to speak and voice opinions and create discussion amongst them to help facilitate this.

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