Archive for “coaching kids” Tag

Mike Boyle – Coaching Kids

A while ago we had a great thread on the forum entitled Athlete Engagement and Behavior. Anthony had suggested that I expand my thoughts from the thread into an article.

The thread began with this question:

“Would really appreciate if anyone could share their experiences or direct me to some good resources regarding engaging young athletes (13-15 year old female athletes) in structured strength and conditioning sessions.”

My response ( expanded on here) began with this:

Training kids is a balancing act. Kids are kids. They should be having some fun training. However, at 13 -15 they should also be learning that there is a serious aspect to training. If you are having trouble controlling a group, I strongly advocate removing those who are most disruptive, or at least threatening to do so. The threat of getting kicked out adds a bit of “what if” to the equation. What if I have to go home and explain that I got kicked out of a training session?

This “threat” gets the message across. You are the boss and this is a practice. What you really have to learn is to be “tight but loose.” You have to establish the boundaries. With kids it’s a constant push- pull. Sometimes you are pushing them forward from an effort standpoint and other times you pull them back from silliness. With females you can be pushing them to try a heavier load, with males you might be pulling them back from trying to impress the other boys.

Start with simple organizational stuff. Put them in lines, keep them in lines. Call out those who distract the others. Always lines, no circles. Keep everyone where you can see them. Kids behind you is like an invitation to screw around

With kids we want to be light on science and heavy on structure. You can keep them busy as the loads are light and the work is primarily technical. Rest between sets is not nearly as critical as it is with older, stronger, more experienced athletes. I use their energy as a guideline. If they have time to screw around, we are probably going too slowly.

On the flip side, develop relationships with the problem kids and realize that winning them over is the goal, not kicking them out. Kicking them out should be the last resort.  In truth, develop relationships with all the kids. Learn all the names, ideally learn about them. Do they have siblings? Do they have two parents? Do they have two moms or two dads (more common than you think these days).  In truth, the relationships will end up being the best part of coaching. You will be changing lives for the better.

I advocate a John Wooden style of teaching for everything we do. This works particularly good with kids. Wooden had a simple, do this, not this, this approach.

Show them three times (while telling them). Give a good demo followed by the most common mistake, and finish with the good demo again.

Remember, the demos mean much more than the words. Kids today are powerfully visual. Keep the talk to a minimum and let them learn by doing.

Training kids can either be the best experience or the worst. You just have to remind yourself that you are the facilitator, the culture creator. You will get what you ask for.  Ask for more.

Michael Boyle is one of the foremost experts in the fields of Strength and Conditioning, Functional Training and general fitness. He currently spends his time lecturing, teaching, training and writing. In 1996 Michael co founded Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, one of the first for-profit strength and conditioning companies in the world.  Go to StrengthCoach.com to interact with Mike on his popular message boards.

 

Mike Boyle – What I Learned From Coaching Kids, Again

In the past few months I have gone back to coaching kids. It’s something that I haven’t done in quite a while, really since the early MBSC days 15 years ago. The sad truth is the higher level you work at the more spoiled you get.  I’ve been spoiled by training primarily professional and Olympic athletes. I’ve always said that coaching great athletes can give you a false sense of your coaching skills. Dealing with athletes that have a higher training age and more athletic ability inevitably makes you take some things for granted.  Dealing with better athletes can also make you think you are a lot better coach than you might be.  Coaching kids brings you back to reality.

coaching kids at MBSCPresently I am working with players on my daughter’s hockey team that vary in age from 13-18. They are all reasonably good athletes but have a wide range of ability and experience. The majority had never been in a weightroom or picked up a weight prior to the start of our experience. As always though experience is the best teacher. And as always, the best laid plans go wrong. I must admit, I had grand visions. I am such a great teacher/ coach that I would whip this group into shape in no time. Well, maybe not. Instead, coaching kids taught or re-taught me some valuable lessons.

Things I Learned or Remembered

In-season Training– In season is a tough time to introduce any group to strength training. I was not fortunate enough to have a pre-season period. Because we were starting in-season both the girls and their coaches were worried about soreness, about muscle pulls, and about decreased performance. As a result we went with our old stand-by, the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. Trust me, it was me that looked stupid. Thank god no one watched the first few workouts. It was like herding cats without a whip. All I could think of was “thank god no one is watching this mess.”

In order to get the workouts done after practice at the rink we went as basic as possible with nothing but sets of dumbbells that we brought to the rink and stored. We had about ten minutes after practice to get our lifts in. On the bright side, we needed no warm-up as the players came almost directly from the ice. The program consisted of two sets of squat jumps, 2 sets of split squats paired with two sets of push-ups followed by two sets of 1 Leg Straight Leg Deadlift paired with Dumbbell Rows. Ten reps for everything except squat jumps which were 3×5.  

Even in this simple setting it is tough for one coach to teach 20 girls in 10 minutes.  On day two we established a rule. Don’t talk. Try to keep quiet and do your work for 10 minutes. It worked. Things began to slowly improve. Nothing I was proud of, but a system started to fall into place. After a few workouts we amended rule 1 to read “no talking to anyone holding a weight.” This meant they could talk between sets, but not to the person lifting.

We managed to string together 1-2 workouts per week and at least get acquainted with the basics.

Big lessons? Small goals, small victories. Rome was not built in a day. The big key for me was to not get frustrated and to keep the girls improving and engaged. I had my eyes on the off-season.

Off Season

Fast forward a few weeks and we began our off-season workouts. I always say in-season training is like going to the dentist. Being an in-season strength coach is like being the dentist. People dread seeing you. You represent extra work, extra time, extra rules. Off-season is entirely different. Now, as a strength and conditioning coach, you are viewed as a person that can make a difference. We stayed with our KISS concept and continued to attack basic patterns. I quickly realized that pairs were going to be good and tri-sets bad. We could not focus on two things at once, much less three. Tri-sets were designed to get more rest between heavy sets on major exercises. Tri-sets allowed us to stay research based and get 3-5 minutes between heavy sets. If the workout challenge is neural/ motor learning, this isn’t an issue. For beginners, pairs make more sense. As coaches we can concentrate and focus on point 1 above, Keeping It Simple _________.

Basic patterns matter- we work on clean / front squat combos nearly every day. I don’t know if there are two more important exercises for young athletes. Please note, we have 15 lb bars and 5 lb training plates. Most of the girls are just getting to the 45 lb bar after about a month.

Three Big Lessons

Lesson 1- KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. In my case the stupid one was me. In order to get any learning done we needed rules. Enforce rule 1- “You can’t talk to anyone else.” As I said, after day two I softened slightly and I amended rule one. “You can’t talk to anyone who has weight in their hands.” With kids you need to really work on focus and attention. It is a constant battle. Be positive, but keep emphasizing focusing on the work and minimizing chatting with kids.

Lesson 2- Design the program for the group, don’t fit the group to the program. Ask yourself  questions like “ are they learning or lifting?” Learning takes lots of repetition. Lifting needs control of things like volume and intensity.  Ask yourself another simple question. Is the motor pattern the challenge or, is the load the challenge.  Fro most kids the challenge should be the motor pattern. You are working on teaching exercises, not strength training. There is a difference.

Also, forget mobility work and stretching if you only have an hour or less. Time is king and basics take time. Splits squats are mobility. Squats are mobility. A good basic routine is a mobility routine.

Lesson 3- When coaching kids, you might really need two programs. Program 1 is a learning program for beginners with a limited number of basic exercises done for more sets. Program 2 is a strength program. We have tried one-size-fits-all, and it doesn’t work. This summer our program will be based on proficiency and training age. Those who have been with us for multiple summers, and are proficient, will have one program. Beginners will have another. Proficiency in my book means “can they do a clean and a squat.” If they can’t, teach them. Limit variety and increase the number of sets. Nothing teach like repetition.

Side note- repetition and repetitions are not the same. We want more perfect sets. Not a few high rep sets. Create motor patterns, not stress. Three sets of five gives us fifteen quality reps, and three opportunities to coach. Two sets of ten might provide more volume but less coaching opportunity and more opportunity for technique to deteriorate.

The big takeaway? Coaching kids is tough. They will challenge all your coaching skills, and that can be really good for you.

Mike Boyle is the owner of Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and runs the popular web-site StrengthCoach.com.  He has been the strength coach for the Boston Red Sox and Boston University.  Mike has been called one of the most influential coaches in the industry for his ability to teach, coach and explain training processes.  He has written multiple books and has spoken all over the world at conferences, clinics and seminars….and he also loves coaching kids.  Mike was a guest on Episode 3 of The Impact Show – the official podcast of the IYCA.

 

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