Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kids Talk Too Much

   In my recent post Kids Don't Talk (and What to Do About It), I discussed teaching your kids the importance of communicating with each other while playing. You want your players to talk on defense and shout out plays. Your kids should also feel free to ask questions when they don’t understand your instructions.

But you also want them to understand how to control and prioritize their communications. Especially with younger children, it’s typical for them to launch into a long-winded story on the point they are trying to make. These stories often come at an inopportune time (e.g., during instruction to the entire team or while a game is going on). You may also coach children who ask excessive questions in an attempt to gain more attention from you.

So how do you handle the overly talkative kid who disrupts your practices?

You must gently, but firmly, indicate to your players when their questions or talking is inappropriate. Help them better understand how to prioritize their communications—when to talk, and when to be quiet. If the situation permits, try to help the child recognize the essential point of his question and how he could have asked it more quickly. ("So John, what you're asking is....")

The Disruptive Child

If you have a child that is particularly disruptive, first consult the child’s parents to discover any special circumstances that may explain the problem behavior. The parent may either talk to their child or provide you with additional information that will help you better deal with the situation.

Here's one personal example. A few years back, I coached a fifth grade boy named Darren who had a hard time sitting still; he constantly asked me questions—many of them not related to the specific topic I was covering. Darren was a nice kid, but his behavior was hurting my ability to instruct the entire group. After a couple of practices, I discussed his behavior with his mom. She mentioned that doctors had diagnosed him as having a mild case of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and said that she would talk to him. For my part, I decided to try an approach where I would grant Darren one question per practice. Whenever he would raise his hand or begin to blurt out a question, I would quickly say: “Darren, are you using up your one question?” He would pause; his brow would furrow slightly as he pondered the moment; and then usually say “No, not yet.” I think Darren actually enjoyed this process and treated it like a game. The number of questions went down and it appeared that Darren began to internally filter his questions prior to asking them.

Balance Talk and No-Talk

It's a challenge for any coach, especially volunteer ones, to deal with these types of situations. Based on your personal coaching style and experience, you likely have your own approach. For younger players, try to balance discipline and fun, talk and no-talk time. Encourage your players to speak up—especially while playing. But also help them to tighten their questions and comments, focusing on topics specific to a game or practice.

If you've got any good ideas on this topic, please share them with other Inside Youth Sports readers!

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

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Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Wendy LeBolt said...

Great thoughts, Jeff. I decided early on that I had a whole team of "special needs" kids - diagnosed or not. That perspective made me a whole lot more patient - and strategic.

I think coaches and players benefit from the: edit down to "just the important stuff" advice. for the player: "are you using up your one question?" For the coach: perhaps "say it clearly once"? Or better yet, demo it well and let them give it a try.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Yes Wendy, every kid is unique! Finding individual paths to success for each is part of the youth coach job description. I like your idea about coaches managing their expectations to improve their patience.

I also agree that all of us probably "talk too much" at times. Less talk, more concision, and action. On the coaching side, as you say, the demo and try approach is the way to go with younger players.

Still, in terms of behavior, there are kids on the extreme ends of the spectrum. Some are a coach's dream, others not so much. Dealing with the more challenging kids is difficult. I've had a number of long seasons because of just one or two of these kids on my team!

Kayleigh Harvey said...

Communication will also help them be more social and be more goal oriented in dealing with people. I had always recommended sports for children with ADHD as focus of stimulation will help their mindset adapt a relaxed yet discerning mind.

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