Jan 01

Why Are Tweens Leaving Youth Sport – Part III

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Make Sports More FUN – Use Various Learning Styles 

The importance of implementing various teaching/coaching styles (Spectrum of Styles) was discussed in the November Newsletter. In addition, coaches need to incorporate different learning styles for a more enjoyable learning atmosphere, to motivate athletes, and foremost make learning more FUN (Lack of Fun is the main reason for sports dropout, October News). 

Why are learning styles important? Because most people have a preferred way to learn. Some learn best by listening; some have to observe every step, while others have to do it to learn it. The fact is that individuals need all three modalities to truly commit information to memory: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Most common learning styles

How many of you are truly aware of the learning style spectrum, and how many of you are actually applying that knowledge on a daily basis? As stated in the earlier discussion, the attentiveness to teaching styles in order to keep athletes’ attention is vital along with consideration for individual learning styles, which makes teaching/coaching much more complex. It is easier to group younger athletes 6-10 years old under one style umbrella whereas teens and older athletes can establish their learning preference through available testing tools.

Pedagogy Experts have established the following Learning Styles: 

Visual Learners: … Athletes learn through seeing  

This group functions well by seeing, observing and watching demonstrations; often have a vivid imagination, need something to watch, and like visual stimuli such as pictures, slides, posters, charts and graphs, and skill demonstration.

Visual learners need to see the teacher’s/coach’s body language and facial expression to fully understand the content or meaning; they tend to be close up in order to avoid visual obstructions (example in swimming, coach should bend down at pool site when talking to swimmers instead of standing high on deck); they may use mental pictures, and learn best from visual displays, including illustrations, diagrams, overheads or transparencies, videos, DVDs, flipcharts, and handouts [notes], computers. 

Print Learning: Athletes learn through printed or written words  

This group prefer charts, whiteboards, handouts, notes or articles to enhance the learning 

Auditory Learners:Athletes learn through listening

This group does well with brief instructions; they are usually excellent listeners, and can learn concepts by listening to tapes; they can reproduce symbols, letters or words by hearing them; they can repeat or fulfill verbal instructions relatively easily. Auditory learners operate best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking it through (with others or by talking to themselves), and listening to others; they interpret underlying meanings of speech through listening to the tone of voice, pitch, speed, and other nuances.

Tactile or Kinesthetic Learners:Athletes learn through moving, doing, and touching (Refers to whole-body movement), and feeling 

This group works best with direct involvement in tasks; often fidget or find a reason to move; often find success in physical response activities; use movement to help concentrate; usually poor listeners, and not particularly attentive to visual or auditory presentations. 

Tactile or Kinesthetic learners are successful through the hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them; they may find it difficult to remain still for long periods of time and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration (an important consideration when providing drill instructions). I use a variety of techniques to manipulate athletes in the learning of various skills no matter the sport (example: spotting a gymnastics skill, using body manipulation in the water with younger swimmers when teaching the backstroke body position and rotation, butterfly head and arm position, body movement and kick action, sprint action in athletics like arm movement, hurdle leg position, and fencing lunge, etc.).

‘Feeling of something or about something’ is important to some athletes. They associate that ‘special feeling’ with the quality of their movement skills. I asked an 8-year old swimmer ‘what she likes about the water.’ Her answer: it feels like velvet on my skin and I feel good when I move in the water! Interesting, swim coaches often tend to use the slogan ‘feel the water.’ Great! How do you teach that concept? And there is feeling the water with the hands and the feet!

Interactive learning: … Athletes learn through verbalization  

This group prefers to discuss tasks with others, enjoy question and answer sessions; they like to use other people as a ‘sounding board,’ and find small group discussions stimulating; these activities can be used effectively when teaching new concepts or principles. Teachers/coaches should use discovery/problem-solving methods and/or involve athletes in creating drills or other activities.

Haptic learning: … Athletes learn through the sense of touch or grasp 

This group likes a ‘hands-on approach’ to learning, like to do artwork or doodle on notebooks, and succeed with tasks requiring skill manipulation.

Olfactory learning: … Some Athletes are affected by the sense of smell or taste

While others find that smell adds to learning; they are able to identify smells; can associate a particular smell with specific past memories (may not apply directly but may trigger unpleasant memories from a previous competition, or swim meet: such as an athlete having experienced anxiety and stress resulting in an upset stomach and vomiting).


We discussed the current crisis in children and youth sport in the last three newsletters and the urgency to address the demand on these young athletes by overzealous coaches and ambitious parents at the expense of the #1 reason cited by athletes: Having FUN. Coaches also need to increase their knowledge about the use of multiple teaching/coaching styles and the application of multi-modal learning styles in order to provide a more learning-style centered and motivational training environment.


Schloder, M.E. (2005). Lecture Series. KNES 468. Teaching physical education in secondary schools. Teacher Preparation. Calgary, AB, Canada. University of Calgary. Faculty of Kinesiology.

Schloder, M.E. (2006). Lecture Series. Sociology of Sport: Children and parents in sport. Calgary, AB, Canada. University of Calgary. 

Schloder, M.E. (2011). Fly Away. The butterfly stroke in swimming. Progressive. Sequential. Creative. Experiential. DVD.

Zentner, C., & Mann, M. (Ed.). Shifting perspectives: Transition from coach-centered to athletes challenges faced by a coach and athlete. The Journal of Athlete Centered Coaching, 1(2). October 1. October 1. Denton, TX: Summit Edu Publishing.


Thank You for Your Interest, Support, and Readership in 2019

Wishing you a healthy and successful 2020!

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