Coaching Juniors

A few ideas on running Junior SUP sessions

We need to challenge our young paddlers to keep them engaged and and push them outside of their comfort zone..

Running Fun, Challenging Junior Sessions

Choosing the right Session.

However how far out of their comfort zone should we go?

What quick measures can we use to work this out when developing technical skill?

Many of the long and not so long term aims for our paddlers will sit well outside their comfort zones so when developing sessions we may need to use a series of stepping stone sessions and time to get to our longer term objective.

We need to get our sailors out of their comfort zone into  a Zone of Development.

What will push my SUPer out of their comfort zone?

Three main variations on this

  • Skills

Nature of the exercise, it’s difficulty and whether they have experience in the skills they are attempting to deliver. Can they already do the skill?

  • Environment

Wind, water state and temperature will all have an impact. Are they confident in these conditions, are they new?

  • Equipment

Is their equipment familiar? Is it equipment they use in the current conditions normally? Does the equipment make their new challenge easier or harder?

If they can already do the skill, are comfortable in the conditions and are using comfortable equipment then the exercise will be well within their comfort zone so may not be helping further development.

However if they are new to the skill, new to the conditions and new or less comfortable on the equipment then we have gone past an optimal zone of challenge and development.

Instead we may look to introduce new highly challenging skills in comfortable conditions on comfortable equipment.  Or challenge existing skills in more challenging environments or more challenging equipment.

This concept is known as CONSTRAINTS.

Deliberate Play and Decision Making

SUP is a few repeated actions to help move a board most efficiently.

The key is using the right skill at the right time.

Sessions that encourage decision making, or working things out are a great way of developing paddlers whilst keeping things fun.

This concept is known as deliberate play.

Whilst looking through the next few examples of exercises think about the use of constraints and also deliberate play as coaching models in your regular club sessions.

1.    Exploration and Treasure maps


Using your local area is a great way of getting young paddlers to expand their comfort zone and get away from the beach they have based most of their sessions off. So this could be to the other side of the lake or to a beach further afield.


·      Expand paddlers comfort zones

·      Paddle for an extended period of time and cover distance

·      Allow paddlers to plan routes and work out best wy to paddle in different conditions.

Set Up– Draw a treasure map! With your local area as the basis and plant your first clue. Once your paddlers discover the clue this should lead them to the next one. Ideally the expedition should end up with them discovering some sort of treasure.


Use each clue to set a challenge ( number of 360s) or a riddle to push and test their knowledge.

Use a series of letters that they need to collect so they can discover the treasure back at base.

Top Tip Make sure any clues are on waterproof paper

Coaching points

Allow paddlers to discuss the best route options and fastest ways to the next destination.


2.   Creeping Death


Moor one buoy and release another upwind. How many laps can you do round the buoys. The buoys will creep closer and closer together till you’re almost spinning on the spot.


·      Improve board handling

·      Varying paddling cadence

Set Up– Moor one buoy and release another upwind. How many lasp can you do round the buoys. The buoys will creep closer and closer together till you’re almost spinning on the spot. Make sure the upwind buoy floats fast enough downwind.


Make it a pursuit race, when you overtake a paddler in front they are either knocked out or loose a life.

Top Tip make sure your upwind buoy, floats quick enough downwind

Coaching points

Trim in step back turns, and deciding when to move paddles to the outside of the turn will be key.