Coaching Tiny and Mini athletes
This month, we are really pleased to have our blog guest written by the amazing Amanda Johnston of Unity Allstars! In this piece, you'll find she shares her best tips for getting the most from Tiny and Mini athletes...
In this blog, I am going to share a few things that I have found useful when coaching younger athletes. But firstly, I just want to say that in my opinion, the Tiny & Mini age groups are very special to coach. It is extremely difficult but SO rewarding. For the majority of the time, these athletes are completely new to the sport, and are therefore a completely blank canvas. This means that they are going to be building their passion for the sport alongside learning the “skills” -I feel it is extremely important to mould these athletes in a positive way, both for their benefit and for the benefit of your programme. If these athletes are taught and moulded correctly from the beginning of their cheerleading careers, they are going to be a driving force and asset to your teams later on; they will be your future worlds athletes/coaches and leaders within your programme.
Here are my 5 tips for success!
1- Set the “ground rules” for practices.
I like to ensure that my athletes always start the season with a circle session to talk about:
what the rules of the gym are,
the rules within training,
what is expected from them during training,
what they can expect from the coaches and also what we would like to see from them outside of training.
This is normally a generic discussion about wearing training kit, manners and treating each other kindly- all the ingredients of what a good teammate, and person, should look like. Coaching is more than just about the sport; it’s about the impact you have and how you shape them as people.
2- Ask them lots of questions.
Explain the rules and legalities to them (in a simpler way to help them to understand) and keep testing them on this, along with counts for their routine etc.
What I’ve found helpful is to make sure I have their full attention by making sure they're watching, as well as listening to me- I do this by “feeding” them the answers (for example if the answer is 3, I hold up 3 fingers) and rewarding them for getting it right. This will be much more useful when it comes to teaching them stunts and you want them to follow what you are doing.
3- Keep the energy up!
Athletes really feed off the coach’s energy and if you are keeping the session focused and moving with purpose they will respond positively. Younger athletes have so much energy so you can really move at a great pace with them.
4- Self Critique!
Ensure that you involve them when critiquing their personal, and team’s, performances. This way they learn to self-correct without having to have their hand held by you the whole time. You want to build smart cheerleaders, and humans, that can think for themselves.
5- Reward systems!
Whether this is in the form of sticker books or climbing up the ‘behaviour ladder’(you can really get creative here)! This provides a really good visual representation of their progress and can be a big incentive for them to put extra effort in.