There are a few things that transcend age boundaries when it comes to developing athletes from an early age. What is good for 4- and 5-year-old athletes do not always equate to what’s good for their 8- and 9-year-old brothers and sisters. They are vastly different groups, motivated by equally distinctive plans and thingamajigs.

Twelve year-olds, though chronologically close in age, are, biologically wired differently than their 13-year-old best friends. In the process of coaching, which is putting an athlete in the position where he or she can have the most success, we need to treat the two independently.  But, in the practice of running a successful youth program, there are ideals that need to permeate the thought process of every staff member who comes in contact with the young athletes.

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I have been fortunate to work with a lot of young athletes in the past 25 years. What follows are the archetypes of movement enticement. They are methods, or modalities, that work with all athletes, no matter the age.

We go into the whys and what-fors of controlling the outcome extensively in the TPI Junior Level II class and Level III seminar. At Dynamic Golf, we teach the practicality of this. In October, the youth training certification from the Coalition for Launching Active Youth, will have entire classes and lessons on controlling the outcome. If you want to get more in to this - especially if you are into golf - I urge you to check out both: and

There has been a lot l more than this learned, but these are the 10 biggest things - at least they are as of this typing! I might train an athlete today who changes an aspect of my perspective. In other words, I have the right to add to and take away from this list at any point. In other other words, if you talk to me five months from now, and this list has changed, I’m going to tell you, “ahhhhhhhhh…you gonna catch up with the rest of us!?! C’mon! That’s old news!"

That said, here is the list. It is not in any particular order either, because I think they are all important.

  1.      MAKE IT FUN

Now that you have the list, starting today and going every week for the next 10 weeks, I’m going to go into a bit more detail with each sentiment. If your list is different, cool! Share it! If you think I am crazy, call me out, and let us both learn something.

Remember, this is in no particular order. I believe they are all important and are all related and dependent on each other.

Control the Outcome

When we control the outcome, we as coaches know the proper steps in our athletes’ maturation process. The athletes have little clue about what’s supposed to happen next and are merely following our lead and instructions. It is our job to get them to do what we know they need to do, but make them think that they are the ones who came up with the solution to do it.

If it sounds like trickery, it is! But it’s not disingenuous. We’re helping them take the next step.

Humans learn in several ways: by being told what to do; by being shown what to do; by doing it and by teaching other athletes what to do.

Young athletes, 6-9 biologically, best learn physical skills and coordination through a process called discovery. Coaches, we set up the parameters of the practice or the drill. Then the athlete plays or practices, discovering the best way to practice or complete the drill. Whatever the athlete decides gives the athlete ownership of that attitude, movement, skill or coordination – at least for that practice. It will take numerous practices for the “ownership” to become a learned behavior.

And, let us not forget that in getting the athletes to that ownership role, we have simultaneously make sure the young athletes are having fun.

Controlling the outcome should be done both globally and locally. Globally means in perspective, constructing a drill with the thought process of the outcome as the primary focus. Locally is specifics. The mode used to reach the outcome is important when thinking locally. Understand, this is not as simple as an “ends justify the means” or a “means justify the ends” phenomena. We are guiding, not validating.

In both situations, coaches benefit by constructing drills such that the only possible outcome is the only one the coach wants or the one the athletes need. We, however, must make sure the athletes are motivated by something that gets them to complete the task.

An example: One of our coaches was dealing with a particularly spirited group of 4- and 5-year-olds. They were on a tear, not listening the first, second or third time they were talked to. He could not do the drills he wanted to do with them because the athletes were not motivated to do those drills.  Our coach found motivation elsewhere. He got their attention, telling them: “Hey, we’re playing in the big game and we’re getting beaten 21-0!” The young athletes quizzically looked at him. Coach kept at it. “We’re down 21-0 because we’re goofing off and are not focusing on the drills in each station. Maybe if we focus on the drills, we can score some points. But, I don’t know if you all want to win or want to score any points. Do you?”

Of course they did. Nobody wants to lose.

The rest of the practice was a breeze because coach, thinking globally, got them to do the drills by enabling them to create a positive attitude toward the stations. Focusing and completing each station was essentially a necessary evil to get the prize possession – a victory. They wanted to win. But on the way to winning, which they did, 22-21, the athletes did exactly what the coach wanted them to do. The coach controlled the outcome and did so in a fun way for the young athletes.

The athletes got better that day.

Another example: Lower-body stability was the goal. Past practices proved that some of the standard vertical balance matrices got too boring too quickly for these 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds.

Catching small objects, such as tennis balls, was still a challenge for many in the group. So, balancing while tossing tennis balls back and forth (one way of removing the boredom) was out of the question. This coach liked the idea of the ball toss. Instead of tossing to each other, the coach had the athletes toss into an open bucket. But, they had to do it while balancing.

Coach used a stability disk, a Bosu ball and a stability block. The use of each tool was designed to exacerbate the athletes’ stability issues, forcing each to fight the instability to remain stable enough to toss the ball into the bucket. Making a ball into the bucket far exceeding anything else in the athletes’ thought process.

They did not worry or care that their neuromuscular system was being trained to provide more stability. They just wanted to get the ball in the bucket and were having fun with each attempt.

The only outcome the coach truly cared about was training them to increase the lower body stability. The coach did that.

Those athletes got better, too.