Youth Coaching as a Career Path

Leah Black  •  Jan 21, 2021  •  9 min read

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Youth Coaching as a Career Path

We’re excited to announce the launch of our Youth Coaching program where coaches and professionals who work with 13-25 year-olds can hone their skills in coaching and mentoring youth. Experienced coaches can take a 30-hour specialized course, while people new to coaching can take a 60-hour program that leads to ICF and EMCC credentials. The lead facilitator for these programs is Leah Black, the author of this post. Here’s her journey in youth coaching, which we hope will inspire you to pursue this as a career as well. 

Youth coaching and developing young people is a passion and career I hold true to my heart. My career didn’t start this way, though. In fact, it began in wildlife conservation, which unsurprisingly involved a lot of work with communities. 

My Journey to Becoming a Professional Youth Coach

It was 15 years ago, through environmental education with young people, that I realized I had a budding talent in youth work, especially when I got involved with a project for young mums and started mentoring. Since then, I’ve supported and led many projects with people between the ages of 11-30 years old. However, it was only on my return from living in Ecuador, where I became inspired after helping young people living and working on the streets, that I drew more focus on youth mentoring and especially youth coaching. That’s when I realized the potential this could bring into the lives of young people across the globe.

I then began leading a school-based achievement coaching project in West Yorkshire, England and provided career guidance for young people who weren’t enrolled in school or working. I even utilized more of a coaching approach with the university students I supervised on various environmental, youth, and community projects. I saw them grow when they took ownership of their decisions and when they deeply reflected on their work, passions, values, future and purpose.

From 2019, I made my work more virtual when I founded ‘The Youth Mentor Coach’ with online sessions and travel abroad to develop youth mentoring, leadership and coaching programs for NGOs and other organizations, as well as providing 1:1 and group coaching sessions for global youth. 

Back then, when I began mentoring and coaching young people, there were no official qualifications in youth mentoring and/or youth coaching that I knew of, so I took some guidance from a colleague and completed an NVQ City & Guilds Level 4 Diploma in Information, Advice & Guidance. I loved it so much, and realizing there was so much more to learn, I commenced a JNC-approved Master’s Degree in Youth & Community Professional Development at the University of Huddersfield, and proudly became a professionally qualified youth worker.

So, feeling inspired, I took my new knowledge and skills further afield into more schools, a youth mental health setting, into my role as child protection and safeguarding officer. I developed youth mentoring and coaching programs in Uganda, Zambia and Kenya to ensure the benefits of youth coaching were experienced by those most in need. Although, I have to admit that I believe all young people, anywhere in the world, would benefit from access to youth coaching opportunities. Through peer mentoring and coaching, using a train-the-trainer approach, I helped to develop safe and sustainable youth mentoring and coaching programs. 

Training to Become a Youth Coach

Even though there are some great examples of youth mentoring and coaching programs internationally, I’m still surprised at how few opportunities there are globally for young people to receive free or affordable coaching. Receiving this service especially through their educational institutions could have significant life-enhancing effects – even massive beneficial effects on society as a whole. Though they exist, it’s also rare to find coach training or accredited qualifications specifically in youth coaching. By training top-class youth coaches and young coaches across the globe through Coacharya’s Youth Coaching programs we hope to fill that gap.

“Young people, anywhere in the world, would benefit from access to youth coaching opportunities.”

There are many resources on youth mentoring and some wonderful youth work literature out there, but there’s an apparent lack of resources on youth coaching in particular. However, it could be said that there is much crossover between mentoring and coaching, especially in the youth setting, so these existing resources are extremely helpful to read for any aspiring youth coach. The work of Tony Jeffs and Mark Smith, Pat Dolan, and Sandi Lindgren, stand out particularly.

Young people, after all, are less experienced than adults. Striving for inspiration, ideas and guidance due to their lack of life and career experience, a mentor may be able to fill a huge gap in their development. It’s important to recognize this because coaching and mentoring are different, but in working with youth, the two approaches frequently interlink. While I do have pure coaching and pure mentoring relationships with many clients, the lines blur more often than when working with adults. 

In my Level 7 youth work training, we covered many topics and theories that were also taught in my ACTP Coach Training, indicating many of the skills we learn as coaches are also taught to youth workers. This set coaches on a good path towards supporting young people.

Coaching Young People vs Coaching Adults

Coaching youth is different to coaching adults. Some of the things that help a youth coach to be effective is to be resourceful, flexible and to use visual aids, metaphors, post-session activities, fun self-assessment tools, and storytelling within their youth coaching. Building a trusting relationship is very much the beginning of any youth coaching process and this takes a bit of practice, time and, you could say, a certain personality too.

Having a lot of energy, enthusiasm, a bit of humor and a friendly face will help you in a youth setting. Gaining as much professionally supervised experience with young people, in a variety of roles, and continuous professional development (CPD) and training on youth-related topics, are in my eyes mandatory in your development towards effective youth coaching, especially if you aim to become a teen coach.

I love the power of peer youth coaching programs, especially when delivered on a group basis. Young people strive to be understood and to feel a sense of belonging. This can’t be achieved in isolation; it can take a group, systemic and holistic approach. When we empower and inspire young people, yet we leave behind their peers, parents, teachers, youth workers, community leaders, and the wider community, our efforts may not be as effective as we’d hoped. A holistic approach to work with teenagers, in particular, who are going through rapid changes both mentally and physically is always more beneficial in their development. By ensuring aspects of their academic, social, emotional, ethical and health needs are met is good practice in youth work and should, I believe, be understood by youth coaches.

Until the age of 18 years old, young people are children under the legal guardianship of their parents and in most countries, they’re legally obliged to attend school, even if they don’t want to, and are protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and by local child protection and safeguarding laws.

Teen coaching can differ from young adult coaching, so it’s important to understand the best possible approach to coaching young people across all ages, and the tools, supervision and support you’ll require to effectively, legally, and safely do so. 

Impact of Coach on Young People

Youth coaching can make such a big and lasting impact on the lives of young people who are going through such significant changes in their body, mind and identity, and transitioning (often unprepared) into the world of adulthood. As youth coaches, we can help them better navigate this difficult period in their lives and help them to have hope and excitement for their futures.

Coaching can help young people in their academic work and career preparation. It also gives young people a space to navigate their feelings, which often they don’t get the opportunity to do in the fast-paced world we live in. Young people want their voices to be listened to and to vent out their emotions and thoughts, whilst being given the gentle encouragement to work out how to move forward from these and fulfill their potential.

A youth coach can provide a safe, non-judgemental space where the young person can truly open up in a confidential setting and not worry about being told off, being judged, being told what to do or even what they say is being shared with parents or teachers. It’s not often that young people get to have a good conversation with trusting, empathetic and understanding adults, where they can be truly heard, be themselves and feel free to speak about what’s on their mind, explore opportunities for themselves, become aware of their values, strengths and passions and talk about their dreams and future aspirations.

You could be that person by becoming a Youth Coach. 

Are you interested in becoming a youth coach?

Join one of our 30 and 60-hour youth coaching training programs. Regardless of your experience level, we can help you achieve your calling of working with youth.

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Leah Black

Leah

This series will be led by Youth Mentor and Coach, Leah Black. She is a Level 7 JNC qualified youth and community practitioner, dedicated to inspiring and empowering the next generations. Leah’s been working with young people, 11-25+ years old, for 15 years in the UK, as well as in Ecuador, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda. Her passion lies in youth mentoring, coaching and training to help young people find their potential and gain the confidence to achieve. Leah has worked in the charitable, local authority and education sectors and has gained a lot of experience working with young people in a variety of roles and locations. She is also the founder of The Youth Mentor Coach. Her approach to youth work combines coaching, mentoring, peer support and non-formal education. She has also supervised many students on placements and delivered group peer supervision for staff that worked with under 18s. Leah now travels across the world with her work, both physically and online, to help develop young people and youth leaders. Having faced many challenges in her teen and younger years, Leah strongly believes that core life and social skills should be integrated into global mainstream education and youth work to help young people in their personal and professional development. She strives to prepare future generations to be the best they can be for themselves, for others and for the world; enabling young people to feel that they belong, can lead and be heard, succeed and thrive.

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