Why I like working with young players
I was thinking about this the other day. I have a mix of students ranging from the 9/10 year old range all the way up through HS seniors. So I thought it might be fun to look at what’s good (and not so good) about working with those different age groups. Starting with the youngest players today.
What I like about working with them is they tend to be open books. What I mean by that is they usually haven’t acquired the bad habits (or ingrained bad teaching) that some of the older players face.
Very young players are usually eager to learn. Most of the time they don’t resist new things but instead try their best to do whatever you ask of them. They don’t need a lot of background information on why you’re trying to get them to do something, although I have had a few who have that natural curiosity (which I like, by the way).
They also tend to be a lot of fun to work with. Some are shy, so if you can get a smile out of them you’re doing well. Others are chatty. They’ll tell you whatever is on their minds, from news of their new puppy to something that happened at school. When I’ve had a bad day at my day job, just being around them can pick me up. They really are the Fountain of Youth.
The downside is sometimes it’s tough for them to pick up on how to do what you want them to do. They haven’t mastered their bodies yet, and their bodies may have already started going through some changes. Also, the attention span can wander quickly. You’ll be rolling through a half hour lesson when suddenly you realize you’ve accomplished all you’re going to accomplish for that day, and you still have 10 minutes to go in the lesson.
As a result of all that the learning curve tends to be a bit slower. It can take a lot of repetition for them to get a skill down because they just aren’t capable of the deep practice older kids can achieve. And every now and then you get one with an attitude, but those are pretty rare. And I doubt it has much to do with their age.
Some don’t like working with young players because of all the heavy lifting you have to do. It isn’t easy, and it does require patience. But if you can get past that it really is fun, especially when they do get the hang of it. You really feel like you’ve accomplished something.
So those are my thoughts. What do all of you think? I know there are a lot of coaches who read this blog. Let’s get some dialog going on the upsides (and downsides) of working with young players. I’d love to learn from you too.