How the Principles of Coaching Youth Sports Apply to Learning Design
October 20, 2022 | 1322 Views
Over the last three years, I’ve spent warm summer nights, chilly fall days, and even freezing winter mornings heading into a dome to coach my two young boys in baseball or soccer. Through all those seasons, it wasn’t until recently that I realized I was intuitively applying learning principles that are some of the pillars of instructional design into my coaching. I was doing this well before I actually learned what they were.
Even today, I don’t coach and teach kids by spending a bunch of time analyzing skills or knowledge gaps and then delivering a well-thought-out solution. I must think on-the-fly with 11 three- to four-year-olds staring at me, ready to explode with energy! So how do I do it? What are the learning principles I apply to coaching? Well, whether you’re going to coach youth sports or just want to improve the learning retention of the training you’re currently creating, you don’t need to be well-versed in instructional design, you simply need to ensure your training is abiding by the following key learning principles:
- Connect with the learner’s prior knowledge— How do you teach a three-year-old how to properly field a ground ball? Ask them to place their glove on the ground and show you how an alligator chomps its jaws. But how does this work with training? Use analogies or stories that the learner can connect with. Maybe when you’re teaching hospitality, you can describe it like having family over for a BBQ or friends over for the big game. For example, greet them immediately when they walk in, get them comfortable, offer them something to drink and eat, etc.
- Learner attention— Keep them consistently engaged through instant application of the learning. Don’t talk at them or have them wait an extended period of time to apply the learning for the first time. You’ll learn very quickly working with young kids, that if you’re not engaging them and getting them moving, they’ll be in la-la land and move themselves around. In the busy, instant gratification world we live in today, our learners are no different.
- Skill and knowledge retention— Practice, practice, practice! Just like youth sports, we need to provide our learners plenty of time to practice the skills and knowledge we expect them to have immediately after training. But unlike youth sports, we only have a set number of shifts to train them, so focus on the need-to-knows and not just a content dump that you hope sticks.
- Provide them as many opportunities as possible to learn and apply the skills and knowledge within the actual environment for which they will be in. You can teach a kid how to properly kick a soccer ball in your basement, but until they are able to be on the field and actually shoot on a goal or pass to a teammate, they won’t be able to properly apply the skills and knowledge necessary to play soccer.
- Varied Practice— Provide them the opportunity to learn, forget, and learn again. This will actually create a stronger retention of the skill. Don’t throw them 10 straight fastballs and then 10 straight curveballs; they’ll know what’s coming. Change it up to make them learn how to decipher what pitch is coming. You don’t have to have your learners spend a ton of time learning only one skill or one piece of knowledge until you feel like they’ve mastered it. Have your learners learn skill A and apply it for immediate application. Then introduce skill B, and apply that for immediate application. Finally, have the learner alternate between applying skill A and skill B.
Now, I’m guessing you didn’t read this blog hoping to pick up coaching tips! But whether you’re a coach, instructional designer, or someone who creates training for your organization, applying these key principles can improve the learning and retention you would like to see in the training content or programs you create.