20 Youth Coaching Tips - Part 2 of 3
Updated: Jan 20, 2022
In the first part of “20 Youth Coaching Tips” I listed several significant points to consider in youth coaching. Maybe these triggered some further questions within you on how you can become an inspiring, impactful and high-performing youth coach. Maybe you’re not a youth coach, but you’re a youth worker or youth mentor and are wondering how to apply these to your work. Hopefully some of the following insights may begin to answer your questions.
· Avoid jumping straight into a coaching conversation focused on feelings and emotions. Many young people aren’t taught about emotional intelligence. It may feel quite overwhelming the first few times they open up about their feelings, thoughts and emotions. Ease them in gently. Check in to see how much the young person understands about what you’re doing as their coach and why. Explore what their understanding is of emotions, along with any other new areas of learning for personal growth.
· The young person may value a ‘keepsake’ of the sessions e.g. a quote, affirmation, drawing, written goal, image, mind map of their dreams etc. It always takes me aback when a young person I’ve coached tells me they still have their ‘dream thinking’ or ‘positivity poster’ pinned on their wall, which we created in one of our earlier sessions. Your coaching sessions may be more valuable to a young person than you could ever imagine.
· Clearly communicate the end date of your coaching sessions. Prepare the young person for this ending. An ending can be similar to a bereavement; aim to make it a healthy one. If you suddenly end the sessions this could come as a real shock to them. If you spring it on them that you’re finishing in a few weeks and they didn’t know beforehand they may even stop attending right there and then, especially if they feel strong emotions of rejection and even loss. The final session can be very emotional, as well as a great space to share achievements, favourite moments, make a coaching memory poster and to celebrate your journey together.
· Be authentically you. Don’t try too hard, never attempt to change the way you speak to sound more “young” and don’t act like a teen or pretend to be “hip” or “cool”. It may end up being embarrassing and young people will know if you’re not acting how you usually do. A good tip for life in general – be you and only you. You’re unique and the only version of you in the world.
· Never ever make any promises you can’t keep. That’s a sure way to potentially break any relationship and even to let the young person down massively. Don’t say it just to be liked or to avoid an uneasy situation. If you can’t promise it 100% don’t say it. Be the person who actively listens with unconditional positive regard, congruence, empathy, safety and who keeps their promises.
· Avoid cancelling any sessions, unless absolutely necessary. You may be the only consistent person in their lives and you never truly know how much they may have been looking forward to your session all week, or how often they’re let down by people around them. Be a role model and inspiration. If you must cancel, ensure that you help the young person to understand why and make up for it to show your commitment to them.
· If you’re having a bad day or week leave your ‘stuff’ behind. The young person has their own weight to carry, they don’t need yours too. Pull yourself together and show up with positivity, energy, enthusiasm and the full coaching presence the young person deserves. Never offload onto a young person. Energy can be infectious, just like a smile, so keep your energy positive and encouraging. On that point, don’t share your personal stories and experiences unless you know they’re appropriate, they’ll be useful, are not upsetting and not leading in any way.
· Boundaries are your secret weapon. Co-create them from the outset and stick to them. Clearly communicate these and ensure the young person has ownership of them by contributing to your coaching agreement. Also, be aware of your professional boundaries when working as a coach and with young people. Coaching codes of ethics are there to help your clients and you, and if you’re working with under 18s then you’ll have mandatory child protection and safeguarding procedures to adhere to as well. You may even want, or need, to follow the Code of Ethics for youth work in your local area, like: https://iyw.org.uk/code-of-ethics/ if you’re in the UK. If this topic is making you a little nervous, or you don’t know your local safeguarding laws and ethics then I highly recommend you gain child protection and safeguarding training prior to starting youth coaching and to check out the facts, ethics and legal responsibility you have for working with young people in your local area. The support of a professional and experienced youth worker and to gain youth coach supervision is imperative to navigate and understand such mandatory requirements.
Keep an eye out for part 3, where we’ll dig even deeper into the 20 top tips of coaching young people; completing the full set of youth coaching tips that I’ll present during 2021.