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UK Coaching Team
Developing Mindsets Organising and Planning

A Framework for Positive Youth Development in Sport

Dr Jean Côté is Director of Queen’s University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies in Kingston, Canada. The eminent researcher has delivered more than 50 keynote presentations at major national and international conferences. He returned to England in March to add to that tally. And UK Coaching’s Blake Richardson had a front-row seat

What a privilege it was to listen to world-renowned academic Dr Jean Côté at The Open University’s fourth annual Sport and Fitness Conference in Milton Keynes.

I can’t have been alone in feeling like Charlie did when he chanced upon his golden ticket, gifting him the opportunity to hear all the mouth-watering secrets of the master chocolatier. Only this time, it was the research pioneer who held court in front of a rapt audience.

Still, for the 100-plus delegates from six countries who attended, it was the equivalent of the kid being given the key to the sweet shop as we were given insight into his varied programme of research on coaching, children in sport and positive youth development.

Dr Côté used his keynote address to sound an emphatic warning to coaches and sports organisations of the dangers of focusing on elite performance and prioritising children’s long-term success at the expense of their immediate enjoyment.

Adhering to the fundamental principles of youth sport development advocated by Dr Côté will help coaches build competence, confidence, connection and character in their participants over a single season.

When repeated over multiple seasons, increased participation, positive personal development and improved performance success will be sure to follow.

Designing sports systems that neglect over 99% of the population in favour of the fewer than 1% who might go on to achieve elite level status is becoming pervasive. Such single-minded preoccupation with long-term success can have wide-ranging and damaging implications, argued Dr Côté – not least a drop-off in participation, stymied personal development and, contrary to the expectations of many system builders, reduced chances of performance success.

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