WYC 047 – Youth Sports – Kevin Kennedy talks how to tap into pre-game nerves as an energy source

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What does it take to be a winning youth coach? Listen in as Kevin Kennedy shares stories and discusses his journey to becoming a successful youth sports coach.

Kevin is a personal trainer and runs a gymnastics gym in Paramus, NJ called Kids U.  Kevin played many sports growing up, including being a collegiate wrestler and one year of JV collegiate basketball.  He also kick-boxed after college.  Kevin has a passion for youth sports and coaching the kids the right way.

Website: kidsu.com/paramus.html



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‘Isn’t that interesting?’

My Cringe & ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments

  • ‘When you are young – you know how everything is supposed to be.  As you age – you realize it’s not what you are supposed to do, it’s what you can do.’
  • ‘Isn’t that interesting’ – Don’t be judgmental when coaching – rather, make observations and analyze why things are happening
  • Everyone has insecurities – even an Olympic-level athlete.  Figure out what insecurities your athletes have about their performances – let them know it’s OK to admit they’re not perfect at everything, and give honest feedback and break down walls of communication barriers that arise from both the athlete’s and coaches’ insecurities

Teaching Children & Keeping it Fun

  • Use a kid to demonstrate proper technique.  You can also demonstrate the ‘why’ – such as holding a kid’s sweatshirt to show them why their body has to be in the proper position.  Demonstrating is much more important than talking – to keep the kids engaged.

Teaching Kids to achieve peak performance


  • Set up small achievable tasks as goals for a kid before a game – get them to say ‘I can do that’

Culture – Discipline/Rewards/Teambuilding

  • Use fatigue as your friend – When the kids first get out of school – let them get the blood flowing and burn off a little energy.  But at the same time make sure you do skill work early in the practice, because you can’t learn very well when fatigued.
  • Rewards – You can team-build by having someone help someone else get better.  You can recognize the person helping privately, while the one getting the help usually gets recognized more publicly
  • Paper-Plate Awards – At end of season ceremony – On a paper plate write down something about each kid that he/she uniquely brought to the team and give them out during awards ceremony

Connecting with Kids

  • Kevin coached a kid who was very anxious, and was a goalie so he felt personally responsible for every goal scored.  In the last game of the year the whole team tried to get him to score a goal.  Even though he didn’t – the whole team dogpiled him afterwards and they had a blast.


  • For pre-game nerves: Don’t deny it or try to squelch it!  Embrace it – be excited that you are having pre-game excitement.  It means that this is important to you.  Your body is responding to make you as sharp as possible by waking up all of these feelings and nerves, and you can tap into that strength.

The One that Got Away

  • ‘I have a comment that I want back.’  Coaching his own son – he yelled at him during a game – it shook his son’s nerves and he asked to come out of the game.

Coaching Tools and Resources

  • Youtube
  • Ask the kids: ‘What do you see happening?’

Coaching/Leadership Quote or Book

  • John Wooden when asked how his team is this year:’I won’t know for 20 years’
  • ‘Isn’t that interesting’ – used with no judgement

Parting Advice

  • Coach the kids, not the parents.  It’s all about the kids.

Kids U

  • Facility in Paramus, NJ
  • Gymnastics and sports gym for kids ages 1-9
  • Non-competitive gym.  Not trying to find travel athletes, goal of giving kids confidence to try something new.
  • Website: kidsu.com/paramus.html

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