My Philosophy on Coaching Youth

Someone asked me recently what my philosophy was of coaching youth. It was a question that I haven’t thought about for a very long time and a question that I wasn’t really sure how to answer. If you would have asked me this when I started coaching young people, which was about 18 years ago, it probably would have been easy for me to answer and I probably would have spewed out the coaching philosophy that I’d been trained in – which is reality would have made no sense to anyone.  However 18 years and hundreds of young people later my philosophy of coaching is so much more complicated than it ever was in the beginning. I have learnt that coaching is a tool more than a philosophy and really what matters most is the person doing the coaching – what do they think a coach is – which tells you much more about what they believe about coaching and humans than anything else.

So what do I believe a coach is? What is my philosophy of coaching?

In order to coach humans you have to understand humans


I think I could sum my philosophy up by following in the great steps of the amazing coach James Flaherty who said that in order to coach someone you must first understand who they are. Coaching is, in my mind at least, essentially finding out who the human is in front of you and then asking questions that challenge and grow that perspective of them.

It’s all about the relationship

In order to understand who they are you have to have a relationship with them, and while some would disagree, I believe that in youth coaching the relationship between the young person and the coach is fundamentally one of the most important things. So you must have a relationship with that young person where that young person trusts you implicitly and wants to share with you.

We are always working towards an end result

I have endless discussions around outcome-based coaching and if we should or should not be doing it. Some believe coaching is a dance between clients and coach, with the clients leading. In youth coaching I am firmly of the belief that this doesn’t work so well and we must have clear outcomes to work towards.  We must be working towards something concrete and we have one job and one job only as a coach and that is to:

  1. Help our clients self-reflect on their current behaviours
  2. Help our client self-correct their behaviour.
  3. Help our client self-generate new behaviours.

How each coach does this will differ (that is the tool part); for me it is based on helping the client understand why they may have behaved that way and helping them move towards their ultimate goal. With other coaches it may be different. However, in a session we have just had a nice chat that while lovely and helpful, and I often do it, it is not coaching if it has not helped the client achieve one of these points.

I think we must also remember that coaching is only one part of the equation; sometimes I am coaching my clients, sometimes I am teaching them, sometimes advising them, and sometimes just having a laugh. They are all valid, when I show up for a client I show up as Sarah not just Coach Sarah.

So if I was to sum up my philosophy of coaching?

Coaching is a relationship where the coach helps the client self-reflect self-correct and self-generate new behaviours to get them what they want.