Coaching Multi-age, Multi-ability Groups

In a small community, it is inevitable that you will coach groups that span a wide range in ages as well as abilities. In order to make practice valuable for everyone, it is important to understand the ability of every athlete. This is again why establishing a goal setting process is so important. Find time to help each athlete set a goal or go over the goals they have established in order to be sure they are appropriate. Another method to use is having a pre-test. On the first day, ask the kids some questions about skiing, why they enjoy it and so forth. Then have 15 minutes or so of free time on the snow to observe and evaluate their skill levels. Lastly, you can have them run through a series of stations for various ski skills to determine more specifically which skills they know and which ones they need more work on as well as evaluating their coordination, balance, athleticism, and motivation. This will help you pick what types of activities to have at practice. 

So you know where each athlete is at skill wise and what they want out of skiing, but you still have the problem of having 10 athletes with 10 different skills levels and 10 different goals.  Group work and athlete control are two good methods to deal with this. Divide athletes into ability groups so each athlete is being challenged a proper amount. Rather than naming groups based on skill level, come up with animal names or something of that sort. Each group can have a slightly different activity for the day, some a little more advanced than others. To give athletes more freedom, you can allow athletes to move between groups at their own will as well.  Another method is to give the athletes control. Offer three different activities for the day and let the athletes choose which one they want to do. Of course, if there is an athlete that is always picking the easiest task because they are afraid of challenge or an athlete always growing defeated by picking the harder activity, it is time to talk to that athlete and suggest a more appropriate activity.