Coach’s Corner with Coach Mike – Child Wrangling 101

So I have been told I need to write Coaches Corner this week, could be interesting… Given I am not an official TA Coach and base my own training on what fits with my family commitments, desire on the day and what an old friend (who happens to be a two times Kona competitor) told me when I first started out two seasons ago “racing is the best form of training”.

I will leave any pearls of wisdom in regard to triathlon planning and training to the qualified coaches and instead offer an insight into child wrangling.

As the “Pups” coach, our club’s junior triathlon program, I have developed a program based on fundamental movement skills, my experience a primary school Phys-Ed teacher and years of club and school squad swim training. So, what pearls of wisdom can I offer you? Well how about managing groups of children, you know for that next kids party or coaching the netball team?

Managing groups of kids is made easier by keeping some simple rules in mind.

Volume

You need to be the loudest, however this doesn’t mean yelling and screaming. It means gaining attention. Teachers use all kinds of means of gaining this from hand signals, whistles, bells and voice. Personally, I favour voice as it is always with me. The key point is having their full attention and being loud enough for all to hear.

Boundary

Kids have no spatial boundaries which as adults we accept as common sense. If you ask them to move away from each other and make some space because they are going to do some stretching, dancing or whatever, there will always be those who move all the way to the other side of the natural boundaries set by the court, oval, room or pool you are within.

To eliminate this and make your own life easier, set a boundary before giving the go ahead “I want you to come and sit on this mat”, “I want you to find some space away from each other inside these cones”, “we are going to play the game inside the centre third marked by these four lines”.

Distraction

If you are not the most exciting option you have no chance. Don’t try and give instruction while a lady is chasing a group of puppies across the oval, a plane is flying overhead, a rainbow suddenly appears, or they have something in their hands. All those things are more exciting than you, in fact I have found in a child’s mind pretty much most things are more exciting than listening to someone give an instruction. When it comes to equipment, always hand it out after the instruction, if they already have it from a previous activity have them place it on the ground in front of them until after instructions are given.

Redirection

This one is simple. Basically, it is easier for you if you redirect within a game or activity rather than stopping and starting. Just reiterate the point that needs attention during a game and have the children change mid task.

Kids hate stop – start and will lose interest if you interrupt the flow of an activity too often. It is important to make sure you are the loudest in this case. Bear in mind if there is major issues stopping the activity will be necessary.

Black and White/Short and Sharp

Make instructions clear and to the child’s level (black and white, no ambiguity). Don’t go on and on, remember you are only going to be the most exciting point of distraction for a short period before an ant or fart takes that away from you so make the most of it.

Praise

This may be the last point, however, it is the most important. Kids are learners, as learners we need feedback and this should be given in a positive form, be genuine and regular. Make change by pointing out something they are doing well first “great work keeping you head up Bill but try not to swing your arms across your body”. Do this and children will seek it out and absorb the information. Don’t do it and they will lose interest.

Seems simple and makes sense, right? Start being aware of this and you will notice those who do it well and those who don’t. It is about confidence and control. You need to be your best in order for kids to be theirs.

Have fun out there, Mike.

Coach Mike is a qualified primary school
physical education teacher and father
of two.