December 17, 2013
When it comes to coaching youth there are two major characteristics necessary to do the best job possible: be current on your knowledge of physical fitness and have excellent communication skills. It’s one thing to have a thorough understanding of exercise science, but it’s another to have the ability to communicate that knowledge to others.
What type of communication is most critical for safe and successful youth exercise and resistance-training programs? In addition to providing precise demonstrations, clear explanations and simple instructions, you need to focus on the main task.
Question-and-answer techniques are great with kids, because this creates a two-way communication and you can be more certain that your participants understand your instruction and are engaged in the exercises. Eye contact and the use of first names is another great way to clearly communicate and create a good report with your participants.
When teaching a new exercise or skill, it’s important to keep things simple and present one step at a time. Help your participants master each skill or movement before moving forward to the next phase. Keep your instruction moving in a progressive sequence of simple learning steps that are easy to follow and understand.
Here are 10 instructional guidelines that are highly effective for providing every class participant a positive and productive exercise session. When you are teaching kids or leading a youth fitness training session, following these guidelines will give you the greatest chances for success.
- Clear training objectives
- Concise instruction with precise demonstration
- Attentive supervision
- Appropriate Assistance
- One task at a time
- Gradual progression
- Positive reinforcement
- Specific feedback
- Careful questioning
- Pre- and post-exercise dialogue
Here is a sample dialogue using appropriate communication and teaching skills during a training session to a group of youth participants.
Hi, Kids. (Use names of each participant when they come to class.)
What did everyone have for breakfast today? Can someone name one healthy food they can eat for breakfast? Okay, let’s get started! (Pre-dialogue)
Today we are going to learn how to perform the perfect squat. The squat is the most important strength-training exercise you will learn and it requires a few simple steps to master it. I want to be able to finish today with each participant showing me the perfect squat. (Clear training objective)
Watch as I do the squat and listen to each step along the way. (Concise instruction and demonstration)
Now I want you to follow each step with me until we perform the entire squat together. First, start with your feet hip-width apart. Next, I want you to look up toward the sky. Then, I want you to stick your butt back and put your weight into your heels. Next, I want you to bend your knees until you bring your elbows to touch your knees (keep your heels on the ground and keep your head and chest up toward the sky). Then come back into a tall upright position! You did it! (One task at a time and gradual progression)
Now I’m going to watch you perform 10 perfect squats as I keep instructing you along the way. (Attentive supervision)
Let me guide you through your next squat so you can feel the correct movement pattern. (Appropriate assistance)
Excellent form, everyone. Keep following the steps—you are getting so much stronger. (Positive reinforcement)
I like that you are all keeping your heels on the ground and your chest and head up. (Specific feedback)
Where do you feel the effort in your squat? You want to be sure they feel it in your back and quadriceps. If not, let’s work on your form and try again. (Careful questioning)
Kids, (use names of each participant if possible) great job today. Your effort was great. I want you to be sure to hydrate later and eat a healthy dinner. (Post-dialogue)
Remember that great communication is the key to being a great coach and leader, so follow these guidelines and maximize your connection with your kids!
Anna Renderer has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Northeastern University. She is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and certified Youth Fitness Specialist with the International Youth and Conditioning Association (IYCA). Anna is the co-founder and CEO of KFIT Health (www.kidfitnessandhealth.com), developing high quality nutrition and fitness education for children and their parents. She is also the host for POPSUGAR Fitness TV, sharing her fitness expertise with thousands of online viewers and interviewing other health professionals. She has developed and starred in fitness videos, Jumpstart Your Health and SHED 2 WED. Anna is currently the Fitness Director at Burn 60 in LA. She specializes in weight loss and optimal performance training. She has developed over 50 educational online fitness videos seen on www.fitsugar.com and is passionate about educating and instructing others on ways to stay fit!