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When welcoming new participants to your sport session, it is important to think about them as individuals with individual needs and reasons for starting something new. Your role as coach can influence a new participant’s successful re-engagement and return attendance.
1 Establishing Participant Competence
Skill development should be participant-led. Some participants will be happy to just get started without any new skills being taught at the beginning of the session. Others will like to have something small each week to focus on. Many will want to have an individual or small- group demonstration or explanation. Consider how you will manage these different styles within your session. Be able to explain the main concepts (the big picture) of your activity/game. Not all participants will want to know all the specific rules straight away. Think about how you could explain the key areas of the game so everyone can start playing together as soon as possible.
Try including FUNdamentals for low-skilled groups. FUNdamentals aren’t just for children and can easily be adapted and included in sessions as part of warm-up activities or skill development sessions.
2 Building Participant Confidence
Establish a system where existing participants ‘buddy’ new participants. This helps build confidence in existing participants as well as easing the anxieties of new starters.
Support personal goal setting within your sessions – each participant’s goals and success criteria are personal to them. These goals and success indicators may change over time or very quickly depending on the participant.
Praise your participants often and in a meaningful way. Everyone likes to be told they have done well or achieved a target or goal. Try praising an individual quietly as well as enthusiastically to a whole group. Remember to praise achievement of an individual’s personal goals as well as praising team or group achievements.
3 Helping Participants Develop Connections
Greet all participants with positive eye contact and body language and ensure you have had the chance to talk to everyone every session. Be prepared to talk about anything with individuals. Many participants will be keen to get to know you too!
Introduce people each time someone new joins your session and learn names quickly. Name stickers might be helpful if it is a completely new session and no one knows each other at all.
Provide phone/email/Facebook details for participants to get in contact if they need to. Encourage participants to use these to communicate with you outside sessions.
Plan time into your session for socialising; consider making this part of your recovery and rest periods. Take part in this socialising time yourself and use the time to get to know your participants.
Plan for fun in your session by having a few games available that are ‘just for fun’.
Introduce new activities regularly – don’t always rely on the same few.
Think about having regular family and friends’ sessions to include participants’ ‘circle of influence’. It may also be a great opportunity to recruit new participants to your sessions
4 Building a Caring Environment in Sessions
Set clear expectations for codes of behaviour. Consider what atmosphere you would like to create in your session. Are you happy for participants to use their mobile phones during the session? Are you happy for photos taken in the session to be posted on social networking sites? Consider how you might manage some of these situations.
Have a plan for what you might do if poor adult behaviour is exhibited during your session. How would you tackle swearing, verbal abuse, aggressive conduct by participants, disagreements between participants or intimidating behaviour? Be a role model for the qualities you would like to see in your adult participants.
5 Acquiring Commitment to Sessions
Offer low commitment and drop-in-style sessions with low paperwork to be completed before starting the sessions.
Have participants put your session in their diary – paper or electronic – as it helps participants plan and commit to attending your session. Remind them at the end of the session when the next session will be and what you might be doing in the session.
Update any social media used as part of your sessions with a brief summary of the session. This will help participants who haven’t attended due to illness or work commitments to still feel connected and encourage return attendance.
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