Young Athletes: Individual and Team Training – Mutually Exclusive?




Young Athletes Coaching

I have seen a fair amount of discussion on the merits of individual long term training vs. team long term training.  I will submit a later entry to compare short term vs. long term training.  My question is:  Why do any of these things have to be mutually exclusive?


All I want to do here is share some approaches I or associates have used in the past with my young athletes:


Whole team long term training:


The positives: There is a long term relationship where the team can get used to a certain approach.  You get to interact with the kids possibly throughout the critical athletic development years.  Additionally, kids get to train with each other, and build team camaraderie.  This approach can make training more affordable, and possibly result in more revenue.


The negatives (dependent on number of coaches and approach):  Less one-one attention and some movement difficulties can fall through the cracks.  There is less flexibility of routine and adjustment to routine when training a whole team (though the long term part of it helps to ease that a little).


Individual long term training:


Positives: There is a long term relationship where the coach can closely monitor the student.  Movement difficulties can be more easily addressed.  There is total freedom in adjusting to what makes this particular child “tick”.


Negatives: No team camaraderie.  Sometimes training can get stale, so the coach must be a little more attuned to mood, etc.  There is a lack of competition / interaction in training with peers of similar size and abilities.   Must charge higher prices, and possibly less revenue overall.


The point here is that each approach has its positives and negatives.  Neither is wrong, but knowing the features, positive and negative, of each, can help the practitioner make decisions.  In fact, both models can be used within the same group / facility.  These models can actually feed into one another.


I would like to hear thoughts on how you each would/do use either or both approaches.


Brian Grasso young athletes coach and expert


– Dr. Kwame M. Brown




You see that big button over on your right ———————>>


The one that says ‘Youth Fitness Specialist Level 1


Ya… You need to click on that right now.


How to train large groups or teams is just ONE of the topics covered in great detail.


You’re confused about training groups of kids.


I know you are because I get emails about it every day.


Your answer is right there waiting for you.

——>> www.IYCA.org/FitSpecialist1


11 Responses

  1. SoCal Brian says:

    I agree 100% with what you have written. I feel that the positives and negatives you’ve listed can not be disputed!

  2. Garrett Arndt says:

    In either case preperation will make the session flow better. With either groups or individuals I teach my staff to set up each protion of the session up as time increments. Much like Brian indicated there is a time allotment for the warm-up, technical training, conditioning, and cool-down. At the end of each time allotment you move onto the next area. This also helps to end sessions on time so the next can begin on time.


    Positives for Group training: Athletes can be seperated into groups. While one is doing the drill the other is resting. This allows for proper recovery during technical training. While the athletes rest they also visually see other athletes do the same drill they have completed. They can learn both intrinsically and extinisically this way.

    Negatives for Group training: Youth athletes mature at different rates. Creating a general program that a large group can benefit can become difficult if the discrepancy is large.

  3. Jason Harley says:

    I agree and can relate to Garrett. There are obvious pros and cons for both setting but it is up to the athlete to realize with setting they thrive best in or fits best with there personality.
    (Youth mature at differnt ages) Attention spans also vary from person to person and ages as well.
    Another challenge that can arise in forming a group training is getting enough participants that have a similar athletic abilities and/goal.

  4. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    Great comments, guys!!! Agreed on all counts. Where is everyone else? Let’s have some thoughts from the 155 people I saw comment on another recent post. This kind of discussion is invaluable for us all.

  5. Leigh Ashton says:

    It is great to understand the implications of working with both individuals and groups, and I suspect the lack of posts on this thread is because Kwame you have summed it up so well there isn’t a lot to add 🙂

    Fundamentally I approach both in very similar ways: teach skills and movement principles, engage the athletes in what they are doing, plan blocks of activities (& change the plan as required), incorporate loads of variety, and use many fun games throughout to make it fun.

    At our centre we predominantly work with small groups (3-8 athletes) which really does give the best of both: maintaining close supervision and quality delivery, plus interaction with peers and the ability to play ‘team’ games. If we have a larger group we get more fitness coaches involved to maintain low ratios, and for 1-on-1s we ourselves get amongst it and train/play with the athlete (a staff pre-req is the ability to practice everything we preach).

    I agree mostly with Garrett, however I don’t believe a planned time structure should rule the session. I think it is more important to change and adapt the session to how the athletes on the day are participating or ‘getting it’. One block can take twice the time planned and others may have to be cut short; with a long-term focus there is no problem catching things up later and the athletes will be more engaged in the whole session.

    I recognize that this does depend on structure so if you have e.g. 30 kids in smaller groups rotating through stations time would be important but we don’t often organise classes in this way and find the flexibility described above is really beneficial.

  6. Anthony Scire says:

    Some of the negatives with team training: I see that sometimes clicks form over time. There is always a small group of girls or guys who tend to joke around or their the team clowns, So you have to stay on top of them and separate them as much as possible. The best laid plans can always go downhill fast, if the large group is not mentally, emotionally and physically there during the session. that’s where I have stopped the session and addressed their focus and asked the team captains to speak. With large groups, you never know what your going to get form day to day sometimes or week to week. One week the focus is fantastic, the next you really have to ge on them regarding their focus. That’s where the learning of how to judge what’s going on in their lives and being able to pick up on it and talk to the athletes. It really is a science and and “art” to be able to ride the roller coaster ride. But at the end of the day, to be able to educate kids, and make a difference will always out way any of the small negatives.

    I see that I make mistakes along the way/process and I’m always asking myself what can I learn from any good or challenging sessions with the kids. It is always a learning experience. What worked well with one group one year, might not work as well with the next incoming group, so you have to change many times on the fly.

  7. Janila says:

    Dr. Kwame Brown,

    You couldn’t be more correct about individual long term training. It is very one-on-one based but can get, like you said, “stale.” As an athlete, I get first hand experience on team and individual training. One of the bigger downsides that I’d like to address toward long term team training are problems with committment– when players don’t show up at matches or practice. That has always been something that affected me and the team as a whole.

    What some of my fellow coaches have done is offer extra days of conditioning and/or technical training to those (as a small group) who are willing to take the extra step. Techinal work isn’t necessarily one-on-one training with the coach and player; it’s all about the individuals’ heart to train their hardest during these sessions. It works nicely as it allows for both team and “individual” training.


  8. Rob says:

    Having worked with both I’ll start with groups. The first thing is to establish that you are in charege but not in a domineering way that causes them to hate you but lay out a game plan for what you want to accomplish. Also gauge the individuals becuase you won’t be able to use a one size fits all since each kid will be different physcially,emiotionally and even economically and so its up to you as the coach/teacher to gauge your audience. Group do promote camaraderie which is great for kids who are seeking to belong or be a part of something. The individual on the other hand requires an all together different approach because its just you and the youth so everytime you meet you need to make sure that your energy is high and have a an agenda the keeps his/her interest peaked. I don’t believe there is a down side to either because its an opportunity to impact one or 20 young lives! Just one mans opinion.

  9. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:

    Now, with all of these great comments, how could anyone believe that my original post was enough?!? Great guys, thank you so much for your input.

    Also, how the hecck are people making those little smiley faces?

  10. Rodney Lawrence says:

    I need to know the address of the IYCA so that I can send in my re-examination.

  11. Jeff Nicastro says:

    status of my order

Leave a Reply

Comment using: