Coaches Plan - 2017 Year in Review

27 2017 | YEAR IN REVIEW 1. Let’s remember that children are not mini-adults. The children in the ‘FUNdamentals’stage are not quite ready to put losses in perspective or learn life lessons. Coaches should simply start to encourage the use of mental skills, particularly imagery, at this stage. Coaches and parents should provide simple debrief techniques to focus on a specific experience in sport. For example, if there is a failure, the adults should ask the child or participant how they feel, acknowledge that feeling, and then help them to think of a positive event that happened as well. There is no need yet to ‘put things in perspective’. Administrators need to provide workshops to coaches and parents about how to help children cope with failures and how to move forward in a positive and healthy fashion. 2. Psychological literacy skills need to be practiced and encouraged throughout development. Once children are in the ‘Learning to Train’ phase, they are developing coping skills and starting to understand perspective with joys and disappointments. They need to continue to develop their mental skills. Coaches can continue to teach imagery skills but also need to build the participants’ ‘mental tool box’ including self-talk awareness in practice and competition. Coaches and parents can continue to learn debriefing techniques that could include links to life skills development. Finally, sport administrators should hold yearly meetings with coaches to provide information about mental skills and coping as well as support. 3. There is no need to “re-invent the wheel”. The classical theorists, like Piaget and Vygotsky, have already done the work years ago. The information about child and youth development is there but it is up to us to apply it to sport development. We need to know more about what children and youth are going through at various stages so that we can help. Coaches have a number of resources available to them. There are a couple web-based, free resources developed by Canadian researchers that could help coaches teachmental skills  (www.sportpsychologyforcoaches.ca ) and youth develop­ ment  (www.projectscore.ca ) . Learning the appropriate time to introduce psychological concepts in sport is a crucial piece to athlete development and coaching education. Understanding what children and youth are ready to learn at each stage can help develop specific strategies within sport andamoreholisticandhealthyapproachtosportdevelopment. Given the increased realization of the importance of mental wellness in sport, psychological literacy is essential for both peak performance, but also long-termmental health. Our hope is that discussion of this concept will help coaches, parents and administrators engage in processes to assist athletes with the development of psychological literacy; an essential skill for both sport and life. Although the concepts might be old, a new and fresh approach is needed so that sport participation can truly be a vehicle for teaching positive life skills.  n

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