Keynote 2 | The Whole Child in Sport – Key Messages for Coaches of Children

Title of the Keynote Presentation:

The Whole Child in Sport – Key Messages for Coaches of Children


Daniel Gould, PhD.

Director, Institute for the Study of Youth Sports

Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University

Outline of Presentation:


When dressed in the latest sport kit, children look like miniature versions of elite adult athletes. However, children are anything but miniature adults. They differ developmentally on a number of cognitive, physical, psychosocial dimensions. Effective coaches of children understand these differences. While coaching children on the pitch, in the gymnasium or in the pool coaches can also fall into the trap of viewing children only through an athletic lens. However, it must be remember that children are more than just athletes but complex developing human beings and what happens in the athletic venue can have important and long-term effects on them.

Application and Implications

The cognitive, physical, social and psychological developmental characteristics of children under the age of 15 will be compared and contrasted in children 6-8 years of age, 9-12 years of age and 13 to 15 years of age (Gould & Nalepa, 2016). Because coaching is context specific, recreational, developmental and elite sport contexts must be considered (Trudel & Gilbert, 2006), as well as the major life settings considered in athlete career development models – athletic, academic, psychological and social contexts (Wylleman & Lavallee, 2003). Examples of how this knowledge can be applied to achieve the 4 key outcomes of youth sports – competence, confidence, connection, and character/caring (Côté et al. 2010) will be presented.


Coaching the whole child is not only the best way to produced children that can be healthy and active for life, but for those lucky enough to have the talent and drive, it also provides the foundation to become successful adult athletes.

Twitter: @YouthSportsMSU



Gould, D. (2013). Effective education and development of youth sport coaches. President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Research Digest, 14(4), 1-10.

Gould, D. (2016). Quality coaching counts. Phi DeltaKappan, 97(8), 13-28.

Gould, D., & Nalepa, J. (2016). Mental development of the young player. In Colvin, A. C., & Galdstone J. N. (eds.) The young tennis player: Injury prevention and treatment (pp.37-53). NY: Springer.

Knight, C. J., Harwood, C. G., & Gould, D. (2018) (Eds.). Sport psychology for young athletes. NY: Routledge

Adrian Byrne