I've been running my social enterprise, Worth-it Positive Education, for a few years now. We specialise in using coaching and positive psychology to support the development of wellbeing and resilience and young people.  What we have noticed over years of working with young people is that coaching helps them to be more successful in life.

How does coaching help youth to be more successful?


What is success?

What do we mean by success? The first Oxford Dictionary definition is  “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Success can be objective and/or subjective.

What's the difference between objective and subjective success?

Objective success is something that is measurable or tangible. For example, passing an exam or gaining a certain grade, getting on a sports team, doing well in a test, getting into the university you wanted, achieving a high score in a game or getting a personal best at the gym.

Subjective success is how you think and feel personally about a situation that you perceive is successful for you. For example maybe you perceive getting a D or a C in a test as a success, as the test may have been at a challenging time or a subject that you struggle with. Maybe you post something you really care about on Instagram and get less likes than usual, but you have taken a step out of your comfort zone to post something different and that makes you feel more successful. It is this awareness and development of subjective success rather than objective success that coaching can really help young people develop.

What is a youth coach?

A youth coach is a professionally trained adult coach that specialises in working with teenagers or young adults. They can work in a range of settings including schools, colleges, youth or community settings that provide coaching interventions to support young people gain a range of life skills, and develop personally or academically. In our case, we apply youth coaching to support young people to build wellbeing and resilience to prevent the onset of mental health problems.

What makes a good youth coach?

A good youth coach is someone who can engage with and relate to young people. Someone willing to be reflective and continue to learn and develop professionally. A youth coach will have a number of essential coaching skills which through training they develop further. Often a good youth coach has these character traits. A youth coach...

  • is kind
  • is reliable
  • is empathetic and non-judgmental
  • can set and maintain boundaries
  • is a fantastic listener and communicator
  • is empowering
  • can offer support and challenge
  • is flexible and adaptable
  • is always learning and growing
  • has a positive outlook, with hope and belief in the young people they work with

Ultimately a youth coach is someone that can help a youth person change and manage thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

How does a youth coach help young people be more successful?

One thing a coach does is see the young person through a lens of strengths and resourcefulness so they can see that they are already successful. Coaches then use this lens of strength as a foundation to help the young people to see themselves in this light and recognise what they are already successful at so they can build on it and do more. This is done through using coaching skills such as listening and asking questions, reflecting back and paraphrasing. 

Working with youth as a coach to improve success

So how do you use your coaching skills as a youth coach to help young people be more successful?

The first thing to think about when coaching young people is what does success mean to them? And that's a really fantastic coaching question in itself to ask a young person, 'what does success mean to you?'

So think about what success means to you? Is that objective or subjective or a mixture of the two, maybe it is how you feel about achieving some objective measurements. 

Now think about what success means to some of the young people that you work with? 

For example, if you're working with a young person who might be struggling with mental health problems, low mood, stress or anxiety, success for them might be getting to school on time, or it might be controlling their thoughts.

Success might look like taking a test they avoided or putting their hand up in class because they're less worried about what somebody else will think about them.

It might look like making a new friend or speaking to somebody in real life rather than just on social media. So success is really an individual and personal ‘subjective’ thing that each person will have something that means something to them. 

A youth coach helps young people to improve their thinking and behaviour

When we're working with young people, as a youth coach, we are helping them to increase their thinking skills and self-awareness to realise what they perceive success to be and what makes them successful, and how they became successful in those situations.

This builds their confidence and self-efficacy to be successful or perceive they are successful in certain situations.

The idea is that the young person can identify what they did and how they felt in those situations they were successful in so they can take that learning and apply it in other areas of their life and situations.

Through working with their youth coach, young people gain the ability to recognise what they are good at, and use strengths they have within themselves. This really helps them to be more successful and in doing so builds their wellbeing and ability to be more resilient in challenging situations.

Using goal setting in youth coaching

Success benefits young people as it gives them the confidence to be themselves. It helps them recognise what really matters to them, how they are being successful and how they’re moving towards their goals. 

When a coach works with a young person, they help them set goals for themselves and develop thinking and ways of being that help them to work towards these goals and be successful. 

And it's through the process of goal setting and this self-development that the young people realise the strategies and resources that they have within themselves.

Youth coaching for change

In some research we did about how coaching can help youth at risk of developing mental health problems  (Robson-Kelly and van Nieuwerburgh, 2016), we demonstrated that coaching can help a young person be a lot more confident as they feel more in control of their environment and any situations they are in.

They might think that they are more able to change things and deal with things and that that makes them feel more successful. This is known as ‘perceived control over environment factors’ so that they feel more successful in their lives and that is subjective success. Even if they don't actually change anything, they feel more in control and that helps them feel more successful.

Other forms of subjective success include that the young person knows themselves better, and the understanding that they know that they have to do the work to change situations – it's not about giving that power away to other people all the time, it’s about what they can do to manage that situation themselves.

Youth coaching for supporting youth to be more successful 

Young people in the UK are in crisis. There is a lack of hope for many young people that is resulting in them languishing, becoming NEET or worse developing mental health problems. Youth coaching provides a valuable opportunity to help young people develop skills that protect against the onset of mental ill-health a help young people develop a range of resources and skills for life.

Coaching young people to be successful is ultimately the aim of all coaching,  no matter what the reason for the coaching is, or the initial purpose of the coaching intervention. Whether it is to improve academic success, or improve wellbeing or even perform at a sports or other activity better, the aim is always to help the young person develop their own range of resources and their own range of personal strategies they can apply in different situations to help them be successful – in a way that means success to them!

Find out More and Next steps 

If you want to find out more about coaching young people or want to train yourself to work with young people sign up for our webinar series. Or check out our accredited Worth-it youth coach training course.

References

Robson-Kelly,L., & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2016, March). What does coaching have to offer to young people at risk of developing mental health problems? A grounded theory study. International Coaching Psychology Review, 11(1), 75 - 92.

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