Should you feel the calling of working with vulnerable young people in order to help them, firstly; thank you, the world needs more people like you. Secondly, you’re probably wondering how best to get into this challenging but rewarding field. You’re going to be encouraging personal development, life skills, respect and responsibility in those who need it most, and that’s great, but it requires planning and foresight before you begin. We’re here to help you get started, with these; our 5 IDEAL skills needed to become a youth coach.
We were all young once. As such, we think it’s fair to say that many of those adolescent years were defined by shyness, self-consciousness and a sense of not quite belonging. Ironically, we all felt that way.
Because of that, this is an age where positive reinforcement is absolutely essential to get the best out of people. As a youth worker, it’s a skill you’re going to need, and it’s one you’ll notice elicits the most engaged response from your mentees. Though positive reinforcement often takes the form of ‘rewards’, strong, direct and truthful praise can often represent the most effective tool in your armoury. Use it wisely.
We’re certainly not imploring you to lay your life on the line and talk about your deepest fears in every session. But, an openness to honest conversation is a must for successful youth coaching, as teens may often at first appear reticent – monosyllabic, even – they are more often than not simply waiting for the right moment to open up. So, make sure your door is always open, metaphorically and physically, and ensure it’s well known that yours is an ear they can trust.
If you’re to gain the respect and, most importantly, trust of your mentees, then you’re going to need to behave in a responsible, inspiring way at all times. This is achieved in many ways. Firstly, your strength of character should be something that adolescents aspire to; leadership, confidence and humility are all vital personality points to demonstrate and instill in others.
Possessing unique, applicable skills is also crucial. Having another qualification prior to entering the world of youth coaching can really help set the tone of your sessions. If your background is in singing, then the potential performers out there will naturally be drawn to you. Should you be skilled at shooting hoops and have previously qualified with a major in sports coaching, then for god’s sake, let it be known! Even if this involves pitching up with a portable hoop (check this post for some of the best on the market) and showing off your skills first hand.
It’s not all sunshine and good times here, make no mistake. Nope, youth coaching involves a lot of difficult conversations, tough decisions and tensions to untangle. As such, you’re going to need a clear, reasonable approach to disputes because a huge part of your role is helping to mediate and meditate over conflicts which may emerge in your mentee’s life. Providing balanced, impartial and ultimately useful advice is one of your key responsibilities; don’t shy away from it.
Nothing is black and white in this life, particularly when teenagers are mentioned. What might seem like the perfect guidance one day might not work in quite the same way the next. Everyone is unique, with their own set of goals and grievances, and as such, your flexibility is crucial to eek with best out of every one of your mentees along their journey.