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I am an assistant coach of a team of 7-9 year olds. One of my players, when I offer even the smallest correction or advice, and regardless of if it being preceeded and followed up by positive reinforcement of the things they are doing well, it is taken negatively and the player responds:

"I know how to do it" or "I don't need help"

I can see the frustration build throughout practice and the head coach and I have talked about how we might help. Neither of us has any experience either with this type of player or age group (other than being parents of this age group)

How can we help those who actively refuse help?

  • These are 7-9 year olds. They "don't need help." They may want to have fun. I suggest to let them be and not be too harsh as it will take the fun out of it for them. – user527 Apr 13 '13 at 16:44
  • Neither I nor the coach is ever even close to harsh. The player is trying to work on a skill, reinforcing bad practices and repeating - they get frustrated with their lack of results, but are unwilling to accept any help from coaches, at least. In writing this comment - it strikes me that maybe I should try letting the kids help each other and pair up. They might be more amenable to advice from their peers. – Thronk Apr 13 '13 at 16:52
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    I couldn't imagine you or the coach would ever be harsh...I've been a counselor at a youth camp for years and my competitive drive would push the kids further than they can bear. So, a lesson I learned was to let them have fun. That's a good start. I'm an assistant fencing coach, and we get good results from members getting into groups, watching one another, and provide feedback where necessary. – user527 Apr 13 '13 at 16:56
  • How is the practice organized now? – Bernhard Apr 14 '13 at 12:14
  • once the kids will know how much fun is there in what they are learning they will show interest, in smaller fact once they get something noticeable to be earned from the thing which they are doing they get lot more interested in it. Here are some suggestion written articles.submityourarticle.com/… – NetStarter Apr 15 '13 at 9:30
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  • Use a chart to keep track of the things your player is doing right. Rather than focus on improving the skill with which they are currently struggling, focus positive attention on the things they already do correctly to build their self-confidence.
  • Truthful and specific praise should be the focus, rather than telling them what to do or correcting their mistakes
  • Ask permission: Can I give you some advice to improve your catching? or Would you like some help?
  • When ready to progress, try a criticism sandwich (ALWAYS truthful and specific or don't use) 1) You are really doing well with your throw 2) try to remember to step forward with your left leg when you are throwing with your right arm 3) I can tell you have been working on your weak arm. much better!
  • If - Then approach: ex. If you box out your opponent, then you will make it easier for yourself to get the ball. This is a non-critical way to offer guidance which is phrased as a suggestion and may be received more openly by your players than corrective action - especially in front of teammates/peers.
  • The buddy system - have players work with teammates and have them focus on recognizing what the teammate is doing right and positive praise. NO CRITICISM or CORRECTION. The players with weaker skills will focus on what other players are doing when the look for complements and will see the coaches advise or other successful tactics working. They may adopt these practices themselves and can have them demonstrated without the need for frustrating/embarrassing correction from the coach.

There are a wealth of ideas on the Positive Coaching Alliance website and the "Talking Points" and "Momentum" newsletters you can sign up for there, as well as the NFHS coaching site.

  • Feel free to accept your own answer. Also, feel free to update us on how this works for you so we can have first-hand personal insight. – user527 Apr 18 '13 at 17:04
  • I found these ideas on several coaching resources around the internet, including Positive Coaching Alliance training program. I didn't want to accept the answer until I had the first hand insight. – Thronk Apr 18 '13 at 17:50
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    2 practices and a game later - I am confident enough to accept this as an answer. Especially the if - then approach and the buddy system with the caveat that buddy system requires much supervision so the buddy comments don't go negative and get counter-productive. Each success builds self-esteem and confidence. – Thronk Apr 21 '13 at 23:21
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My personal opinion is if a kid won't accept coaching tips then don't allow him/her on your team next year. It's always a bit difficult, often the parents are hoping you will as coach enforce a framework that they have been unable to enforce at home. But at some point you have to say "this kid is disrupting the whole team" and cut him/her. It depends how much progress you and the other coaches can make with that particular child.

I've quit coaching assignments due to unruly children (and parents). Not mid-season, but I have refused to go back.

There has to be some negotiation. If a kid is just asking for clarification or wants to understand the rules then fine. Sometimes during scrimmage I will often say "hey the ref (me) is blind, but he is also cranky and always right so everybody gets to run over to that goal post and back for arguing with the ref!" But other times I will stop and explain the rules. It depends whether there was an actual question or they are just arguing about who put it out of bounds.

  • Most town programs must be inclusive to keep the use of public fields and/or to receive any support from the town. I thing this answer would only be relevant for elite or for profit programs. Quitting as the coach is not an option as I volunteer in the first place and the other kids shouldn't loose a coach due to one kid who challenges me to get better and find a way to reach them. – Thronk Jun 8 '15 at 16:01

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