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Keys To Keeping Your Young Athletes Focused

By Gary Schwind

So you've signed up to coach youth sports. That's a good thing, but don't expect it to be easy just because you're not coaching a professional team. Youth sports poses an entirely different set of challenges. One of those challenges is keeping your players focused - particularly if you're coaching a younger age group. It's not unusual to see players sit down in the middle of a game, or look for bugs, or to do something that looks like yoga. Here are some tips for maintaining the focus of your players no matter what sport you coach.

Learn About Your Less-Focused Players

This one seems like a given, and it is. You won't have any choice but to get to know your players throughout the season. However, with those players that are easily distracted, it is even more important to find out about their habits. Find out their favorite characters or superheroes, and tell them that they are saving the day by doing what they are supposed to do. Find out what piques their interest and gets them engaged. More importantly, when you find out what engages those players, incorporate those things into practices and games.

Remind Players Of The Reward At The End Of The Season

A lot has been said on the topic of participation trophies. The debate about participation trophies has been hashed out endlessly on sports-talk radio. One thing that you will find - especially with players younger than 10 - is that the trophy or medal at the end of the season really does mean something. Younger players are excited to get to the end of the season to collect the trophy. Use that end-of-season award (pizza parties are as good a motivator as medals and trophies) as motivation for your younger players. Remind them that if they want that award, they have to keep playing throughout the season.

Be Creative

It is especially difficult to keep players focused during practice. Even if practice only happens for an hour once a week, players can easily lose focus because the competition is less intense in practice. Creativity will help to keep your players focused during these practices. Come up with drills that seem more like games while still getting your players to practice the fundamentals of the sport. If you find your players are having a hard time focusing in practice, then go off script. Come up with some activity (races always help in this case) that will engage your players again.

Let Your Players Find Their Natural Position

You've probably had a job where you were misplaced, whether you were with the wrong company, or just in the wrong position at your company. In that case, you probably found yourself much more motivated when you felt like you were in the correct position to make the most of your strengths. The same goes with youth sports. With older kids in particular, you'll find that certain players are good at certain positions. They may even tell you the position they prefer to play. Take that to heart, and let your player excel in a position where you see his or her strengths. You'll see that the motivation of a player is greater if his or her skills are being optimized.

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