With kids and teens, you have the opportunity to shape their entire idea of fitness. You can show them that fitness is fun — it doesn’t have to be a chore. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes gyms make, you can keep kids and teens happy and make the most of each class.
Have a Lesson Plan
Having a lesson plan for each and every class is essential to running a successful kids or teens program. If you show up to a room full of kids and try to “wing it” with a brief outline, it will be much harder to make the class valuable and to keep the kids having fun. With kids and teens, there is a tight margin for error — and things can spiral out of control quickly. Each class needs a clear structure and must flow smoothly and efficiently, with as little transition time as possible. That can only happen when you use a well-thought-out plan.
Keep Classes Shorter
If a class is too long, kids will get bored and burn out. We want kids to be excited every single day for class, and this means we need to leave them wanting more. For kids (ages 7-12), 30 minutes is usually the right amount of time, and that can extend out to 45 minutes for a teen class (ages 12-18).
Always Include the Game
The game is how we create a link between fun and fitness so that kids see the gym as a place they want to be. ALWAYS play a game to end a kids class. Games don’t have to be elaborate, just fun and challenging! Some great examples are dodgeball, waiter tag, sprinting tic-tac-toe, musical med-ball chairs, and spinning angry birds. Games are also a great opportunity for the kids to learn good sportsmanship and build camaraderie within the members of the class.
Keep It Fun
Making sure kids are having fun while getting some exercise is our top priority. We want kids to increase their fitness, learn better movement patterns, and reach their greatest potential, but if we make that process an unenjoyable one, none of the kids will stick with it long enough to see those results. For kids classes, weights should be light to none (definitely no prescribed weights) and never pushed on them. Competition should not be highlighted. Workouts are almost always run as an AMRAP and aren’t recorded so that all kids begin and finish together and can focus on their form rather than finishing before other kids. For teens, there still aren’t any prescribed weights (as the emphasis should be on proper technique) but we do track their workouts and weights to see progress.
Make Time for Study-Time
Immediately after rigorous exercise, kids are primed, focused, and ready to learn. That is the optimal time for them to work on some homework, especially in subjects they are struggling with. Have kids and teens bring some schoolwork with them to class so they can capitalize on this great opportunity to get their work done. We have witnessed first-hand how encouraging kids and teens to do their homework, or to study, immediately after a session can have a profound impact on a family’s nightly routine and the child’s academic success!
A few more guidelines for kids and teens classes
In adult classes, the coaching focus is usually centered around intensity and making sure each client gets an appropriately difficult workout. But when you’re coaching kids/teens, intensity needs to be one of the last things that is dealt with, instead prioritizing safety and quality movement above speed or load. You, as the coach, need to establish a culture in which better and safer movement is highlighted and praised, and more weight or more reps is not glorified.
Some other strongly recommended guidelines:
- Have all necessary equipment set out before class begins.
- Anytime there is hanging or climbing, ensure the proper matting is underneath the athlete. No steps or boxes under the athlete at any time.
- Spacing between athletes should be adequate, usually double what adults would need.
- If weight is on the bar, clips are on the bar.
- Individual weight choices for athletes are fully dependent on the coach – which is why there are no recommended weights for the workouts.
- When teaching components, organize the athletes into a circle or semi-circle so that athletes can see each other for visual affirmation.
- When coaching the athletes, try to position yourself in a way that you can maintain all athletes in view at all times, thus minimizing having your back turned to any athletes.
- Utilize the last minute of class to quickly discuss/review the movements of that class and basic nutrition topics (such as: What is a an example of a vegetable?).