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By Leah Roelich

Leadbetter Kids INSTRUCTOR & PGA Professional

I have been coaching juniors for more than 10 years. During that time, it’s been interesting to observe how junior coaching has adapted to suit the wants, needs and demands of children, parents and society. This year in particular has shaken up the status quo more than most, and it’s important to note the effects COVID-19 has had on coaches, parents and kids during and after lockdown.

Children change rapidly from ages 2-5. Each child progresses at a different rate, but for most, the ability to rationalise, communicate, negotiate and solve problems is still developing, which is often quite challenging for coaches. By the time children reach ages 6+ these social skills are more fully developed, and these factors become less important in planning out games and activities.

Since returning from lockdown, I have noticed a shift. For example, teams tasked with establishing a “batting order” in which to hit their shots can usually reach a consensus within 30-40 seconds. Recently that has not been the case, with many teams falling into arguments and unable to come to agreement.

It’s my opinion that COVID-19 and periods of extended lockdown have had a massive impact on typical behavior patterns. Children, having not been in school since March, have lost vital time for developmental activities and socialization with peers and teachers.

It’s more important than ever to incorporate life learning in our sessions, for example by spending 5 minutes on defining a “word of the day” like communication or tasking groups with creating a team name. This forces children to talk to each other, share ideas and come to consensus… and the results are often hilarious! My personal favorite: the Fluffy Pink Unicorns.

In summary, don’t underestimate the importance of coaches in a child’s development. In times like these, our actions have never mattered more.