Saturday, 22 November 2014

Creating Fun - 3 things to focus on when coaching kids in cross country skiing

In the coach training work I do, we talk about fun, we create experiences that are all about fun, we think about what do we need to do to create fun - research would tell us that fun is the most important reasons why children participate in sport - not going to the olympics, or making the national team - but fun.  If this is such an important component of engaging kids in sport, as coaches, our challenge is to get it right.

Here are a few ideas that I've learned work from my years as a coach and camp director and teacher.

1. Enthusiasm - hands down the number one contributor of a coach to creating some fun energy.  Fun after all is energy that is created by a group of people.  How you deliver your message about what you're going to do at a practice can be a huge determinant of how the session goes.  'This is going to be so much fun'; 'This is the best game in the whole world'; or 'I hope you're ready to have an incredible time' all set the stage for something incredible to happen.  Even if its not incredible, creating some positive anticipation of how much fun its going to be has a huge influence on how much it becomes.  This is hard for many adults - maybe a little too child like or juvenile - many adults forget how much fun it is to be a kid.

2. Play - join in - model what you want - especially with littler kids, playing along, not with adult apprehension about what other adults will think of you if they see you, but truly playing - kids love this stuff.  This is something I have done a ton of with kids - no matter what your age, playing is fun for you and its fun for kids.  Whether its a territory game of capture the flag or target game, playing along is fun for you and fun for the kids you're leading.  Play should include lots of laughter and interaction.  Kids know how to do this - join in.

3. Encourage - a timely comment, wink, smile, or pat on the back lets kids know that you care that they are as awesome as they are.  Kids know when an adult likes them.  They can tell almost right away.  Be the kind of coach that encourages kids and lets them know how awesome they really are.  Take an interest in them, learn their name - quickly - and be positive.  They be right with you.

Fun is hugely important to kids.  As coaches of kids, we need to figure this one out.  Because if we don't, kids won't stick around.  Aim to be one of those adults in a kids life that a child says 'he is so much fun'.  It doesn't matter what your background in skiing is - whether you were world champion or a novice skier - figuring out what fun looks like, and replicating each and every ski session is what you should aim for.

Let yourself be a kid.  Not for the whole practice, but a part of the ski session each week.  Kids will come to anticipate great times when you say 'This is going to be the most fun in the whole world'.

Happy skiing!

Roy Strum
Canmore, AB

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