20 Youth Coaching Tips - Part 3 of 3
Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Your professional development doesn’t stop here; these are simply “20 Youth Coaching Tips” out of many, many more. For you to continue to grow as a Youth Coach, professionally and personally, keep reflecting in-action and on-action and never stop learning. Strive to gain inspiration, insight and guidance from others in the field and attend relevant conferences, workshops, training and events. Maybe you’d also find it useful to ask yourself powerful youth coaching questions, such as: What else do I need to learn to become an inspiring and highly-effective youth or teen coach? What do I need to improve on to be the best youth or teen coach I can be? How can I take my youth coaching business, or project, to the next level? What do the teenagers or young adults I work with need from me? What makes my youth coaching unique? The ‘being’ of a youth coach never stays still. Youth coaches flow and grow over time in a life-long learning journey. Let the following six tips evoke many more questions within you.
· You’ll need around six months of regular coaching engagement to make a real impact! Those one off ‘impact or insight’ sessions that coaches sometimes offer adults will not be very helpful with young people, neither will a short package of sessions. Through my experience, when working with under 18s, change tends to happen around sessions 8-10, but we don’t stop there as we build upon change to create lasting impact. This engagement may continue upwards of 16 sessions. Sometimes, young adults (18-25 years old) may only need six sessions if they have a specific goal to reach within a short time scale, but many need 12 sessions or even longer support. Progress may be slow if youth coaching sessions are only held once monthly, so I’d always recommend regular contact with the young person. If you only meet once monthly the young person is likely to forget what they’ve learnt from the previous session, or may have even lost motivation and accountability to achieve their goals. Building a relationship with a young person takes time, regular engagement and trust. You may think things are going well from the young person’s feedback; interpreting what they say as progress. However, it’s possible that the young person may just say what they think you want to hear possibly to impress you, to be nice or to take away any awkward feelings, as they haven’t been able to form that trusting connection yet.
· Initial, midway and final assessments aren’t just great for you both to see how much the coaching sessions have helped the young person progress, they’re proud evidence for the young person to see all of the achievements and forward progression they’ve made. Take your time on these, complete them together, and let the conversation flow on each of the areas in the assessment. Ask for examples of where improvements have been made and explore how the young person feels about this progress, or lack of progress if that’s the case. Each category of the assessment e.g. career aspirations, school attendance, hobbies and interests or family relationships, can stimulate deep and eye opening coaching conversations. Where gaps are present the young person may like to alter their existing goals or develop new ones. I like to create my own individualised assessments with tailored fun images and designs, but some people just use the wheel of life. The wheel of life isn’t always appropriate for teenagers and young adults though, so a little adaptation may be required to make the categories more relevant to their age, developmental stage and situation.
· You’re the young person's coach, not their friend. The coaching relationship must end. If it goes beyond 18-months, I’d ask you: Why are you still working with them and who is that actually helping? How can you reduce contact to start ending the relationship effectively? Where possible, I tend to hold the first six to eight sessions on a weekly basis, then evolve to alternate weeks. After five months, or so, I aim to reduce our sessions to once monthly meetings and end within 6 to 12-months. With over 18s, I find that fortnightly face-to-face (virtual or in-person) sessions work well, alongside written and ‘voice note’ email engagement on the alternate weeks we don’t meet. However, this approach is not for everyone! The pattern and frequency of coaching sessions will depend on your client’s coaching and personal needs. No one package fits all, but it’s very important to prevent dependency and to build independence.
· Group coaching with young people is very different to group coaching with adults. You’ll need to explore various things you may never have thought of before like safeguarding disclosures in a group setting, supervision ratio of adults to young people, how to handle conflict, bullying or strong emotional responses in a group setting, group dynamics, one-to-one meet ups before, during, after etc. Get some training in group coaching, read up about working with groups of young people and seek mentoring guidance from an experienced professional in managing groups of young people before you start. It is extremely important for youth coaches, who wish to run group coaching with teenagers or young adults, to observe and get experience as a co-facilitator or group assistant first. This is best done alongside a professional and experienced youth worker and group leader. If you’re new to youth work or youth coaching, then start off with one-to-one sessions until you’re ready to learn more about group coaching.
· If you’re providing teen coaching for young people under 18 years old, then you must be prepared to engage with their parents or carers and the professionals that work closely with them e.g. social workers, probation officers, school mentors etc. There are many aspects to consider when working with the wider support system of a teenager. I will cover these in a future blog. In the meantime, check out my blog ‘books for youth coaches’. Some of the top five books listed on there may help you navigate this topic. It’s important to know that to make real and sustainable impact through youth coaching, we should aim to take a systemic youth coaching approach whenever possible.
· Young people are going through some big changes physically, mentally and personally. Along with puberty in the earlier teen years, young people also experience significant stages in brain development, up until the age of around 25 years old, which can affect their behaviour, focus, social interactions, sense of belonging, risk taking, motivation and actions. It’s imperative for youth coaches to understand adolescent development before they start coaching young people. You may find courses on this topic to study online or in-person. There are also some great books you can read on the teenage brain, videos and TED Talks I’d recommend. Aim to work with young people alongside experienced youth workers or coaches first, seek mentoring and gain regular supervision from youth professionals to help you through your youth coaching journey.
How have you found these tips? If you’d like me to write a blog on a specific topic, let me know. I strongly believe that all young people would benefit from coaching and mentoring in their lives. I always think of what the world would be like if every teenager and young adult had a youth coach or mentor like you. Keep up your amazing work as a youth coach and continue to “be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi).