yRed Newsletter June 2018
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The influence of coaching style on player injury and participation

Coaches are an essential part of a sporting team’s success.

A great coach can not only lead a team to victory, but can help players perform to the best of their ability, while still enjoying the game and staying free from injury.

In this edition of yRed, we look at how coaches can impact on young players’ health and wellbeing and improve performance, on and off the sporting field. Coaching to reduce injury and increase performance is the focus of Youthsafe’s new 'Front of Mind' workshop for coaches of young athletes.  See this edition of yRed for more information. 


Coaches are a key person of influence
Coaches, along with team mates, parents and older players act as a guide for the young person on how to best conduct themselves while training and playing sports4. Being new to a sport means that young people are learning from what they see and experience, and look to the coach for cues on how to act5 and as exemplars of behaviour6

The coach-young athlete relationship is of particular significance for players aged around 14 to 16 years of age, as “…the coach may become a significant role model for a middle adolescent as they identify with non-parental adults”7 (p. 154). 

“…[S]ome sports medicine professionals point directly to poor coaching as a factor in injury” (p. 466), which can be due to a lack of appropriate training or understanding of child development 6,8

By acknowledging their strengths and supporting their unique needs, coaches have an opportunity to use their position of influence to positively impact young people’s development, performance and safety5,6,7,8.  The outcome will be better players, a better team and a great club.

How does young people’s development impact on risk taking and behaviour in sport?
There are a few ways that young people’s development can impact on the way they play sport, and therefore their risk of injury on the sporting field. 

As there is generally an increase in risk taking behaviour in young people around 14 to 16 years of age, this is of course reflected in the way young people approach sports7.  Taking unnecessary risks can lead to injury to themselves, team mates and others.

Developmentally young people may not fully understand the consequences of their actions so cannot see how their behaviour can lead to injury6. This also means they “…may not connect regular practice to future improvement in skills but rather attribute success or failure to their own uniqueness”6(p. 52). This means young people may not see the value in training or understanding the correct technique and how it can strengthen their bodies and prevent injury.


Moving into their later teenage years, young people may be grappling with conflicting work, study and relationship priorities so sports training and performance may take a back seat7, missing important training and conditioning sessions that help to decrease injury risk.
Physical changes at this critical growth stage can mean that young people’s bodies may not be ready to take on the physical demands of high intensity training and performance7. It is the coach who is responsible for ensuring young people have sufficient rest and to manage the limitations there may be around their understanding of sports-related risk.

What can coaches do?
Understand adolescent development
The main strategy that coaches can implement to support young player safety and wellbeing is to understand the young players’ specific “…emotional and psychological developmental stages and not treat them like ‘little adults'8 (p. 468).   

During adolescence, the brain is going through some changes that may impact on a young person’s ability to assess risk and think things through rationally.  This, combined with lifestyle and physical changes can impact on a young person’s safety.

Coaches can limit the amount of training and modify the type of skills taught, to fit in with physical capabilities at each age7.  Young people are then playing within their abilities, reducing the risk of injury.

In early adolescence [10 to 13 years] the concept of future time perspective is not fully matured and so the consequences of their actions, including training, practising a new skills, avoiding risks, need to be explained by the coach7

The idea that once rules are explained they will be adhered to by young people isn’t always the case as “…early adolescents often have difficulty extrapolating general rules of the game from one situation to another”7 (p. 152), and is something that coaches must take into consideration and manage.

The concept that success in sport is the result of training and practice, rather than an individual’s innate ability is also something that can be unfamiliar to younger adolescents7.  This is in contrast to those over 14 years of age who can evaluate strengths and weaknesses of themselves and fellow athletes, and develop a plan of how to improve7.  At either stage the input of a coach is invaluable, as long as the coach is aware of the needs and abilities of each stage.

Work on Communication
The way that a coach communicates with young athletes, and what they communicate about, is key to helping young people understand sport related risks and how to manage them.  Specific instructions, positive feedback and clear explanation of consequences can help young athletes play well, enjoy the sport and stay safe. To reduce injuries, clear adult instruction and guidance play a key role, particularly with younger athletes as they are developing new skills8.

When guiding young athletes on techniques and necessary skills, giving positive reinforcement unconditionally (so general comments such as ‘good job’ or ‘nice try’) is not effective8.  Rather, giving specific information as part of criticism, related to building skills will have more impact. For example ‘use two hands’ or ‘put your weight on your front foot’8 would be a more helpful way to positively reinforce correct behaviour.  In Koester’s study8 non-specific feedback was given to those with less ability and those with more ability received more specific, helpful critique. Giving the same type of instruction to all young players will result in team-wide improvements.

Giving specific instruction that is “error contingent, corrective instruction”8 (p. 468) helps young players learn the right technique, therefore decreasing injuries.  For example, ‘you dropped the ball because you didn’t use two hands’8 (p. 468) explains what went wrong and why.
Demonstrate Leadership
Leadership style can have a very strong impact on the safety of your players and their enthusiasm for the sport. 

A study of elite athletes found that transformational leadership rather than performance-oriented leadership was more effective in keeping players safe and motivated and in fact reduced the incidence of severe injuries9.

“Transformational leadership involves motivating and inspiring followers to go beyond their self-interest for the benefit of collective interests by providing vision, meaning, challenges and stimulation”9 (p. 1). This is in opposition to a performance-oriented leadership style where winning and succeeding are the focus.  This leads young athletes to take a ‘win at all costs’ approach, increasing their risk of injury9.

The Positive Coaching Alliance has a wealth of other resources and tips to help develop a transformative leadership style:  

The Positive Coaching Alliance talks about leadership within the team – so the coach role is about recognising strengths and abilities of each player and getting them to show leadership in those areas. Creating opportunities for each team member to demonstrate their skills and support each other is a great example of transformational leadership. Asking young players to demonstrate a skill, buddy systems where stronger-skilled players support others, asking team members to recommend a warm-up exercise are a few examples.  This way each player has a chance to demonstrate their unique team contribution and share their skills and abilities with others.

Coach as role model
We all want our young athletes to try their best and do well, and this can only be achieved by ensuring the team is strong and feels supported.  The coach is the key person who can influence this and can foster a positive atmosphere. 

Shields et al4 found that almost half the young athletes they surveyed said their coach has “angrily argued with a sports official” (p. 50).  Of those surveyed, 35% said their coach had “angrily yelled at a player” (p. 50), with 36% of coaches self-reporting such behaviour.  The latter in particular can have a devastating effect on younger players, as they may end up thinking the coach “hates them”7.

Keeping your cool in the heat of the game can be a challenge, but it’s key to ensuring young athletes stay safe and feel supported. 

To ensure all team members have a good understanding of what behaviour is acceptable and what’s not, Shields et al4 suggest developing “collective norms”(p. 57) that are fostered by having “open-ended and frequent dialogue with players about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior, seeking to develop consensus within the team” (p. 57). 

As long as coaches keep it front of mind that their aim should be both ‘’…preventing injury and maximizing enjoyment of the sport”8 (p. 468) young players will be safe, health and well on the sporting field.  Understanding young player capabilities, as well as their limitations, will give coaches a real point of difference and lead their team to success.


1. Mitchell R, Curtis K, Foster K. (2017). A 10-year review of the characteristics and health outcomes of injury-related hospitalisations of children in Australia. Day of Difference Foundation. University of Sydney.
2. Australian Institute of Health & Welfare: Pointer S. (2014). Hospitalised injury in children and young people 2011–12. Injury research and statistics series no. 91. Cat. no. INJCAT 167. Canberra: AIHW.
3. Sports Medicine Australia & Department of Sport & Recreation (2018).  Children and Concussion Factsheet, accessed 23 May 2018:
4. Shields, D.L. Bredemeier, B.L., LaVoi, N.M. & Power, F.C. (2005).  “The Sport Behavior of Youth, Parents and Coaches: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, Journal of Research in Character Education, Vol 3(1): 43-59.
5. Abrams, D.E. (2012).  “Player Safety in Youth Sports: Sportsmanship and Respect as an Injury-Prevention Strategy”, Seton Hall Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law, Vol. 22(1): 1-27.
6. Patel, D.R., Greydanus, D.E. & Pratty, H.D. (2001).  “Youth Sports: More than sprains and strains”, Contemporary Pediatrics, Vol 18 (3): 45-74.
7. Brown, K.A., Patel, D.R. & Darmawan , D. (2017).  “Participation in sports in relation to adolescent growth and development”, Translational Pediatrics, Vol. 6(3): 150-159. 
8. Koester, M.C. (2000). “Youth sports: a pediatricians’ perspective on coaching and injury prevention”, Journal of Athletic Training, Vol. 35(4): 466-470.
9. Ekstrand, J., Lundqvist, D., Lagerback, L., Vouillamoz, M., Papadimitiou, N. & Karlsson, J. (2017).  “Is there a correlation between coaches’ leadership styles and injuries in elite football teams? A study of 36 elite teams in 17 countries”, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Published online first 22 October 2017.  Doi:10.1136/bjports-2017-098001. 

Front of Mind
Coaching support workshop

Front of Mind highlights the critical influence coaches have on young players and how that influence can be more effectively used to improve player wellbeing and safety.

Its insights and practical strategies are supported by:
  • recent research highlighting a link between coaching style and the incidence of player injury
  • expert opinion from the growing field of “positive coaching” and the power of influence
  • Youthsafe’s acknowledged expertise in what drives young people and the importance of adults as mentors.
Emma and Duncan delivered our new Front of Mind workshop to Gladesville-Hornsby Football Association and SPIRIT FC coaches and also to coaches at the 2018 AFL National Diversity Championships.

Many thanks to Tim Thorne, Bruce Hort and the hundreds of dedicated GHFA coaches. We would also like to congratulate and offer our thanks to AFL NSW/ACT for the opportunity to work with their amazing coaches.

Feedback has been very encouraging and we look forward to partnering with more sporting bodies.


“As a new coach with limited experience, this workshop is providing me with tools to implement an optimal outcome.
Keep up the good work”.
“The presentation gave our participants valuable insights into what their role is and the impact they can have on the players they coach”.

For more information on our exciting new workshop Front of Mind, please contact us:
Emma and Duncan with Gladesville Hornsby Football Association coaches.
Coaches at the 2018 AFL National Diversity Championships Front of Mind workshop.

Community Support

The last few months have seen several local businesses offer their generous support to Youthsafe, and for that we say thank you.

Youthsafe has recently been successful in two Category 2 Club Grant applications.  Mounties Group and Parramatta Leagues have supported us to deliver our Front of Mind sessions to coaches of local sporting clubs.
Thank you to Mounties Group and Parramatta Leagues for their support.

Officeworks’ Round up to Make a Difference
Youthsafe was very proud to be the charity selected for Officeworks West Ryde’s inaugural "Round up to Make a Difference" initiative.
Amanda Brown, Store Business Manager Officeworks West Ryde said her team decided to support Youthsafe as they have a fair number of young workers at their store, and wanted to support a locally-based organisation that was doing something specifically for young people.

Throughout the month of May, Officeworks customers shopping in-store at the West Ryde branch showed their support for Youthsafe by simply rounding up the value of their purchase to the nearest dollar. This extra amount has been donated to Youthsafe by Officeworks. 
We sincerely thank the staff at Officeworks West Ryde and their customers for their interest in our work and their genuine support of our injury prevention initiatives.

Grill'd Local Matters
Our local Grill’d burger restaurant at Macquarie Centre North Ryde, selected Youthsafe to take part in their “Local Matters” initiative during March.

Each month Grill'd restaurants select three local charities community groups to support. Customers receive a token for every burger purchased which you then place in one of three jars representing a local community organisation.

At the end of each month, the jar with the most tokens receives a prize of $300. Even those in 2nd and 3rd place get $100 - everyone's a winner! 

We thank everyone who ate a burger and gave us their token. Unfortunately we didn’t get the top prize but we were still thrilled to be selected again by Grill’d Macquarie Centre and to share our message with their customers.

NESA Accredited Courses at Youthsafe

Youthsafe have been recently endorsed by NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) as Category 1 Professional Development Providers.  This allows Youthsafe to deliver a workshop that goes towards the approved professional development hours NSW teachers must undertake to maintain their teacher accreditation.   

To start, Youthsafe will offer a two-hour workshop exploring Young People, Risk Taking and Road Safety. The workshop will examine how a range of factors can impact on a young person's tendency to take risks, and how educators can use their skill and position to influence the risk taking behaviours of young people and to foster their self-efficacy in assessing and managing risk.

The workshop will also provide practical strategies, suggested activities and tips with particular reference to road safety and young people’s behaviour as drivers, passengers, pedestrians or cyclists. The workshop will support the learning outcomes of the NSW Syllabus.

As we confirm dates and locations, further details will be on Youthsafe’s website and social media channels.  Otherwise, please contact our Education Programs Coordinator Emma:

Steering Young Drivers

Thank you to the parents and learner drivers (or soon to become learner drivers) who attended our Steering Young Drivers session at Kambala School in May. 

The session, facilitated by Emma, overviewed the requirements of the Graduated Licensing Scheme (GLS), young driver risks, and provided a host of practical tips for supervising drivers and novice drivers – including those not yet on their Learners, Learner drivers and Provisional drivers.

All attendees received an information kit containing helpful documents and links, including a complimentary copy of Youthsafe’s eBook Ls to Ps: Teaching Aussie Teens to Drive.

We thank Kambala School for the opportunity to share such vital information with families who are confronting the many challenges of supporting their young person through the daunting process of becoming a fully licensed driver.

Learner Driver Mentor Programs capacity building project

Youthsafe’s Learner Driver Mentor Program (LDMP) capacity building project is now in its second phase.  The project, thanks to a Transport for NSW Community Road Safety grant, aims to assess the needs of LDMPs in NSW and provide that support through our guide and online information portal.

We have completed our consultations and surveys with LDMP operators and managers, which are informing the structure and delivery of our support materials which we are in the process of developing.  

If you would like more information or would like to be included on Youthsafe's mailing list on LDMPs please contact 

Reminder: Youthsafe has moved

Our new address is:
Suite 304, 5-9 Devlin Street Ryde 2112. 

Our phone number remains the same: 02 9817 7847.
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