Guided Discovery Fits Development of Kids

Contributed by speed coach Lee Taft,


I can remember taking a PE Theory class in college and the concept of Guided Discovery was taught to us. It is one concept that impacted my teaching and coaching more than any other.


If you watch kids play it is a constant state of discovering something new. Something new about themselves, their friends, the way they are playing, what makes them feel good, what makes them feel bad, what is boring, what is exciting, and what matters to them. Much of this determines if they will do “it”, what ever it is that they were doing, again or not.

Kids will work real hard at something, if they like it or if the challenge intrigues them enough. But if it is something they don’t like they will move on.

I think we need to take a look at this when we coach young kids. We need to tap into their natural state of curiosity, play, and competition and with a light touch give them what they need. The problem is what they need isn’t always what they want. Enter in Guided Discovery Methodology.

If you know they need something to be more successful and safe, but you know they most likely wouldn’t take to it on their own, simply guide them down the path but allow them lots of room to explore and fill their curiosity buckets along the way.

An example of this would be to suggest boundaries for their game so they are safe but they choose the rules and teams. If they struggle picking fair teams suggest matching up by size or age then let them do the rest. Simply guide them.

Guided Discovery works very well in athletic development. Because I know most movement is natural I will give very little instruction at the beginning but rather give exercises that automatically drive the pattern and posture i want. For example; I know young kids don’t like to stay down, or low when doing a lateral shuffle, but if i tell them to shuffle while rolling a basketball or medicine ball along with them by using their hands to keep the ball moving as they shuffle- they stay low automatically.

But, REAL authentic Guided Discovery is when I give 3 minutes of total free time to do an activity they want. I stay out of it other then to keep safety a priority. I simply might guide them through suggestions but they take over total rule. They almost always go to game- Z-ball Wall Ball. They set the rules and play. What they don’t know is this is my best assessment time of how they are improving in areas of tactical decision making, reactive quickness, body control, and athletic posture. The funny part is, I hear them telling their peers to do “this” or “that” in how they are suppose to move. They are teaching each other- music to my ears!

It might not be a bad approach to add a little guided discovery to you sessions or practice next time and tap into what is innate in all kids- PLAY!

Train Smart!

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