Getting Kids to Focus at Practice

Tips I've Learned Over the Years

When I was a student at the University of Alberta I took a class specifically on teaching children 12&under. the scary thing I ever had to do was lead a lesson for two and three year olds!!! Here are some valuable tips I learned from class and over the years of coaching kids that I think may serve you too.
  • Children at this age act distracted, hyper, and like they are not paying attention. Especially in an environment where there are so many distractions.
  • Children notice when there are breaks in the coach’s concentration and focus. This leads to the athletes losing focus. This includes coaches taking their eyes off the team for a second. So, as coaches you need to know your attentional control. Are you broad external, broad internal, narrow internal, or narrow external?
  • This age group needs to feel good about their self. Give lots of positive feedback.
  • They need to have their voice heard.
  • They can pick up when we are uninterested in what they are doing.
Does this sound like your team or swimmer?
So what can you do?


  • Need to give an appropriate level of challenge with a clear focus. Zero in on what the athlete needs to hear.
  • Ask the girls good questions about what they are doing.
  • Tell them exactly what you want them to do.
  • Use strong visual pictures.
  • Give each swimmer a focus and something they did well.
  • Have swimmers set personal goals.
  • Watch your tone of voice and delivery of practice. Is your tone relaying impatience, annoyance? You need to truly enjoy this age group. How do you feel around this age group?
  • When giving corrections make sure statements like not bad are not used. Swimmers only remember the bad.
  • Over plan. If you run out of things to do you'll end up with breaks in practice that lead to distraction.
  • Make practice fun so they stay engaged. Could be games, music, story telling, fun ways to explain drills . . . For example when you are training eggbeater the swimmers could say out loud what ingredient they want to add to make the cake.

Other Ideas:

  • If the group is smart, try to get them more self-directed goals. What can they do outside of practice to help the team?
  • Ask swimmers what would you want someone to tell you if you were goofing around. How do you feel when others are goofing around?
  • Have a catch phrase, sound or action the swimmers need to do when you ask for their attention. I have heard eyes on me. Or put your hands on your head. Goggles off. Hands on the edge.
  • If you have a child with problems keeping their hands to themselves you may consider giving them something to hold in their hands while they are waiting. Set clear guidelines about the object they hold.


Try some of these ideas at practice and let me know how it goes. If you have more tips please share them too.


Let's Learn Together!

Creating positive environments, purposeful practice and passionate people through coaching.

Yours in Synchro,

Leave a Comment

Top 4 Olympic Qualifier Tech Teams 2016

Get your FREE DOWNLOAD today!

Includes all pattern changes and swimmer positions.