Keeping juniors engaged during group lessons

Keeping juniors engaged and  productive during group lessons

Coaching juniors can be a challenge – in this article we’ll look at some ways in which we can keep them engaged and productive during your coaching sessions.

Firstly – some golden rules:

  • Ensure you have a well thought out lesson plan – not only will this make your lessons run more smoothly but also provide reference of what you have done in the past. Once you have accumulated many lessons plans for each area of the game then you can re-use and adapt as needed.
  • Make sure you arrive in plenty of time –  so you are fully prepared and organised
  • Check you have all the right equipment for your group – BALLS MUST BE BOUNCY ENOUGH FOR YOUR STANDARD OF GROUP AND TEMPERATURE OF COURT – repetition is crucial so the ball must keep the rallies and routines ‘live’
    • 3/4 year olds – balloons/sponge/bouncy
    • 5-8 year olds – karakal big balls
    • 8-10 year olds – red dots/single spots
    • Goggles for all children
  • As a general rule you should decrease the playing area (hit above service line and move closer to the front wall) if routines are breaking down and increase the playing area (move further away and increase court size) as control improves

A sample lesson plan – volleys

Warm up – Use the warm up to bring them to life and also to engage the parts of the body needed to be a good squash player – balance, agility, stability. We have looked at running up and down with direction changes over each shoulder at the command of the coach, also the same with side steps. Then we tried the footwork patterns to improve agility and rhythm in movement patterns. Lastly we tried the balance routines with focus on posture, control and a relaxed foot during the process.  (Time: 10-15 minutes)

Introduce and demonstrate clearly what you are going to do. Example: simple volley ball control  (Time: 5 minutes intro)

Use a pupil or coach to demonstrate the routine – solo/pairs hitting close to the wall. The three main teaching points-open racket face/swing length/movement of feet. You will refer to these throughout the session.

Set up routines in solo and/or pairs of similar standards and set a challenge for each pair – eg 10 shots consecutively. (Time: 10 minutes – 5 minutes on forehand and backhand).

Drink break 2/3 minutes 

When you return regroup and review asking the pupils for the the 3 main teaching points and any other things they realised during the routine (as coaches we must remember to discuss with pupils rather than dictate too much, this breeds thoughtful and interactive juniors. (Time: 5 minutes)

Volley based game intro.

Demonstrate a high repetition game – e.g. a short game with all shots above service with volley option below the line. This can be progressed into the players needing to be in front of their opponent and on the volley to allow hitting below the line, this promotes good tactical awareness.

Again refer to the 3 key teaching points during the demo. (Time: 5 minutes for demo).

Volley based game

Now modify the routine to introduce scoring and king of the court to keep motivation and competition (Time: 10-15 minutes)

Review and stretch

More Q&A while stretching and reference to the 3 teaching points 

When you return the following week ask what happened last week and what did we learn?

We recommend charging – €5 per session payed per term. The bigger the group the more coaches you need so as numbers increase the €5 per person helps pay for extra courts and assistants. You should try to keep a maximum of 5 pupils to 1 coach ratio.

How to group your players

Aim for groups to be standard based and identify your potential players and look to create an extra/separate group for these players. Long term call the groups something like ‘junior potential’ and get t shirts printed with this on the back.
Use the court shapes and condition we looked at on court to ensure all players have a relevant challenge in each routine.