The Buddy System

The buddy system is an excellent way to give campers this feeling of being valued and one-on-one feedback while they are participating in camp activity. In most camp situations, the buddy system of learning a new skill is fairly easy to implement.

If you were conducting an instructional session on golf, you could start off by asking campers to find the person who has the closest birthday date to their own birthday. This a very easy and non-threatening way to get them talking to each other and to make the choice of finding a buddy fun.

You can mix this up with other variables, like the same last movie you saw or your favorite sports team.

The next step is probably the most crucial. Give a brief explanation of how each buddy is going to be a personal coach. Share with them the benefits that they will receive by coaching and being coached.

Emphasize how to be positive and constructive when they are coaching. It would be a great idea to give a demonstration to model how this should be done.

It would also be important to model examples of negative and non-constructive feedback to help them see how it can be discouraging to the person learning the skill.

Another critical point to demonstrate is how the learner should ask questions if something the coach says is not clear and how asking the questions can be done in a respectful and cooperative spirit.

Once the buddies are set and they understand their responsibilities, you could give them a checklist of the mechanics involved in the golf back swing along with a specific place for both the golfer and the swing buddy to stand so that no one is hit with the club or ball.

It could be a checklist as simple as the body position, grip at address and the swing plane. To make things even easier, you could include a picture of the perfect body position, grip and swing plane for the buddy to use as a reference for completing the checklist.

By the time each buddy has had a chance to coach and be coached, both buddies have gotten a lot of feedback about what they have mastered. They also have experienced the feeling of what it is like to have their own personal coach.

In a team situation, a captain could be in charge of pairing a defensive and an offensive player with the same level of skill to work together during practices.

The buddies could work together to discuss individual strengths and areas that need improvement. Then the buddy would monitor these and give a lot of encouragement.

Once again, the affiliation comes from the feeling that someone is taking an interest in how the player is doing and gives specific feedback about progress.

The coach could actually have each player build a coaching notebook that documents the buddy work. If the coach reviews the notebook at regular intervals, practices can be planned that focus on what the players believe they need to work on. It’s also a great learning process for each player to learn the offensive and defensive skills that are crucial to team success.

As you can see from these two examples, the buddy system can increase the amount of personalized attention that each participant receives.

Who doesn’t appreciate an objective observer that gives personalized feedback on improvement? And when improvement comes a little too slowly, encouragement from a personal coach who knows you can be just the kind of support that inspires campers to move through the learning curveā€¦ And who knows, it might just be the start of a lifelong friendship.

Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 20 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College.

Sharman Hayward has directed sports camps at every developmental level, and has coached intercollegiate field hockey and lacrosse for 11 years. Sharman currently serves as Associate Director of Athletics at Endicott College.

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