Coaching Youth to Persist by Recognizing Effort

Through coaching, staff can encourage youth to persist through challenging work, making sure that the effort behind youth’s achievement is recognized.

In practice, staff can approach this by:

  • Giving youth opportunities to persevere through challenges, setbacks, tiredness/tedium/boredom and also provide encouragement as needed to keep youth’s attention focused and their effort engaged in keeping the program work moving forward, and
  • Helping youth see the progress and successes that come from their effort and perseverance.

Staff should provide youth opportunities to persevere through challenges, setbacks, tiredness/tedium/boredom and also provide encouragement as needed to keep youth’s attention focused and their effort engaged in keeping the program work moving forward.

Youth can be given challenging, long-term projects and the opportunity to experience failure so they can learn to take initiative in the face of difficulties and setbacks and to preserve. Helping youth to process mistakes and setbacks becomes an important part of the staff’s role. Laura Greenlee Karp at Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) explained how staff give space for the youth to make mistakes, and ask for support from staff if they need it:

Quote markIt’s important to allow the students to have their own space to make mistakes because that is when they learn. They are learning to ask for help and not be embarrassed about needing help. They learn to say, “I made a mistake. I need some help. Can you help get us back on track?” Our instructors help them get back on track and push them to continue doing what they were doing.

Although staff should give youth space to take the initiative to learn from their mistakes, they should also recognize that that there are times when encouragement is helpful or when other kinds of limited interventions may be needed. Staff encourage perseverance by supporting the youth through challenging experiences and fostering a norm of persistence. The staff act as coaches who know what will motivate each individual, who will respond to pushing and those who will need a gentler approach. Bolstering motivation and providing support is the counterbalance to pushing or emphasizing grit or toughing it out.

It is also important that youth are able to see their progress. This is part of the reason some organizations use daily checklists as goals for what needs to be accomplished that day. Rites of passage and taking the time to celebrate, to recognize skills gained and progress made, helps cement youth’s view of themselves as someone who can accomplish, who can persevere, who can overcome. Youth can then bring that experience of initiative and accomplishment with them to future endeavors within the program and beyond.

Further Reading

Join the Discussion

How does your program recognize and validate the accomplishments youth make?