I was watching my son’s under 7’s team do a football coaching session not too long ago and couldn’t help but watch some of the other teams train close by. The first team I observed were an under 15’s side who the coach lined up in a long queue of about 10 players, ready to do some shooting practice. The second side I observed were an under 10’s side who were performing a passing session. The coach had his player’s in two long lines of about 6 each side, who would pass the ball then go to the back of the opposite line.
On this field, there were about 7 different youth teams training for their clubs and out of those teams only my son’s team seem to all the players engaged in the session. Seeing this made me think, is this standard that many of our young players have accept? Is our national FA doing enough to support our grassroots teams when developing young players? How many of our junior football teams are actually familiar with the national FA future game technical guide?
I find it hard to believe that the junior teams I observed not too long ago were familiar with the FA’s plans to change standards of the game at grassroots level, because of what I saw didn’t resemble any of the plans that I was aware of. So my question is what can we do to improve our coaching standards at grassroots?
Using Insufficient Football Coaching Methods!
Firstly, as a nation we realize that we can’t expect our young players to do the same complex sessions that adults do. Your sessions must be age appropriate and gradually progressive to make sure that they fully understand what is expected and are able to do the task. Far too often I see coaches set up sessions that are beyond the players that are training. Children find it hard to accept failure as it is, so putting them in situations that they are very unlikely to overcome will increase their frustration. This can encourage them to lose confidence and also interest in the game.
There are still many coaches in the game that have not taken any form of Football coaching qualifications, but are still running junior football teams. What this tends to mean is that they use the same Football coaching methods which were used on them. The problem with this is coaching methods are ever-changing and what was used a few years ago is now considered out of date. A lot of Football coaching sessions at grassroots level resemble more of traditional PE lessons that are overly structured and stifle creativity.
If we really want to produce creative football players, we have to put in place the right environment for them to learn game properly. Your players should want to come training and feel that the session is catering to their needs not the needs of the coach. For them to understand it’s ok to take risks, we have to create environments that help the children learn from their mistakes. This is why it is important that your sessions replicate real situations, this form of reflection cannot happen in isolated drills.
Traditional methods of Football coaching do not encourage players to make good decisions. A young player cannot learn when, where and why to pass a ball if he/she was taught to pass standing in lines. The game is not played this way so why are we teaching it like this? When a child first learns to walk they learn without any instruction from the parent just guidance. When you learn a subject at school the teacher doesn’t do the work for you, they give you the tools then expect the child to come up with their own solution to the problem. This is how we should treat our coaching sessions by creating football problems, which our young players then have to solve.
Prepare to Plan or Prepare To Fail!
Before you can develop the sessions to train your players a long-term plan needs to be in place. Just as in school, you should develop a curriculum that will outline what your players will learn over the course of a season. This syllabus should be developed before the start of a football season and should include the aims and goals of the players. It is an ever-changing document, that can be updated over time as your players progress. The aim of this resource is to give your players a complete football education and make sure every area is covered.
What tends to happen most of the time, is we react to what happens in the previous game. You see something that you didn’t like, so you work on that in the following session. Even though this happens often over here, the benefits of this Football coaching are not very high for youth players. Using a ‘reactive’ method only makes sense when your players have reached the adult stage and the results become more important. This is because by this stage your players should have already received a more rounded development plan, and will have what is required to fulfill your goals.
The hardest thing a coach finds with a plan, is starting one altogether. Thinking about what sessions to put where and when can be a daunting task for some, which is why many decide to use the more sporadic approach. this ultimately means you choose different topics each session not knowing what to coach next. Putting a plan together, stops all the guess-work. It will help you gradually develop all the ‘critical skills’ that young players need to play the game effectively.
Embrace The Chaos!
Rather then focusing solely on how to execute the skill, you should teach the kids to understand all areas of the game such as insight and decision-making. Using too many drills will not spark the creativity needed to play the game, this is because children find it difficult to see the relevance when a skill is taught in isolation. If the player is to learn the skill, it must be taught within a game situation where the child has to decide where, when, why and how to use it.
Giving them problems to solve throughout the session is the best way to go. What we want is for the children to ask themselves what is the best solution to the problem that they are facing. If you can create an environment which forces them to ask the questions instead of us always giving the answers then you know your onto a winner. The players have to feel that they have some ownership over the session, meaning as the coach you should be taking a step back and saying less. Yes that’s right say less, when you find yourself saying less than you know your players are making most of the decisions. Remember that we tend to learn more from the mistakes then we do from the successes so try to refrain from stepping in all the time, let the kid’s play and only step in when it’s necessary.
Self Education is The Best Education!
One of the main excuses I tend to hear from coaches at junior level is that they don’t have the money or the time to attend courses. Now courses will help guide you on the correct methods to use and give you more recognition among your peers, but it won’t make you a great coach. What will help, is the effort you put in to self educate yourself in your spare time. This tends to cost very little in comparison to courses and you don’t need a UEFA B licence to read a book or watch some of the best coaching videos by great coaches.
Many professional coaches out there, will let you watch them take a coaching session if you just reach out to them and ask. Yes you may get the odd few who don’t reply, but all you need is one or two good ones and your good to go. These days we can find information at the touch of a button so there are no excuses for not taking the time to improve yourself.
When the opportunity does arise, get your courses done and don’t just do your national FA coaching courses but also ones by other organisations. The FA youth modules are the one’s youth coaches should do as a given, but there are also the practice play courses by Premier Skills which are excellent and the Coerver youth diplomas that are worth a look. Seeing different methods will allow you to take parts that work for you and your developing philosophy.
As stated earlier, Football coaching is ever-changing and nothing ever stays the same. You will always find yourself making slight tweaks here and there but the core will always stay. If you a follow a plan that has been carefully put together then you will eventually see the results in your players development. Try to avoid sporadic coaching methods that constantly disrupt the flow of the players development, your sessions should all have a meaning and purpose to them.
Always use training sessions that will force your players to make decisions in realistic situations. Try to stay away from isolated drills that only focus on the skill and not why, where and when to use that skill in a game.
Try to remember there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ plan. Just because another coach is doing it one way doesn’t mean you have to do exactly same, do what works for you and your players.
Let’s Play the Game Ltd is a provider of excellent 1 to 1 and team football coaching in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, and Solihull. For those who would like to try our services don’t hesitate to contact us. Don’t forget to subscribe below to never miss any of our posts. You can also like our Facebook page or subscribe to our You Tube channel for more football coaching tips.
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