Keynote 7 | What inputs from coaches get the best from children?

Title of the Keynote Presentation:

What inputs from coaches get the best from children?


Daniel Gould, PhD.

Director, Institute for the Study of Youth Sports

Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University

Outline of the Keynote Presentation:


Identifying the most effective ways to coach children and youth has been of interest to children’s sport researchers for over four decades. Much has been learned from this research and has shown that specific coaching behaviours and actions are associated with important outcomes such a as children’s motivation, liking of the sport, self-esteem, sport retention, and anxiety (Conroy & Coatsworth, 2006; Horn, in press; Smith, Smoll & Curtis, 1979; Smoll & Smith, 2002).  

Application and Implications

Children exhibit optimal motivation and achievement striving when their coaches create mastery climates that focus on self-referenced improvement versus ego-oriented climates that focus on beating others (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). Additional findings show that coaching actions associated with optimal child and athlete development include exhibiting affirming, instructional, supportive, and autonomy-supportive behaviors while avoiding punitive, hostile, and controlling coaching behaviors (Smoll & Smith, 2002). Coaches should also be giving plenty of “sincere” praise and encouragement, praising young children frequently and rewarding children’s efforts as much as their athletic outcomes. Using a positive “sandwich” approach when correcting errors is also efficacious. Finally, in line with self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) coaches should focus on employing strategies that enhance children’s feeling of competence, autonomy and relatedness during every practice and at competitions.


We know much about the best ways to coach children. The challenge is discovering how to package and disseminate this information to youth sport coaches.

On the web

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