Becoming a coach is surprisingly easy, but becoming an effective one is significantly more difficult. There are many things that stop us reaching our goals, identifying what they are and overcoming them can help us along the road to become better coaches. These barriers must be sought out and conquered if a coach is serious about being the best that they can be, here are just a few.
Some would say that this is the most important of all and coaches must relay the correct information to be effective. This is true to a certain extent but it is a big BUT, it is all down to context. The environment that a coach is working in is very important; a schools coach may not need as much detail as a club coach or an academy coach. This does not mean they don’t have the knowledge; just that it is not relevant to the situation and to the integrity of the session. Imparting knowledge can be a vital part of coaching, how this is done can have a massive effect on how the player understands or interacts. On the other hand, knowing what the player needs to understand and providing them a platform to experiment and learn can be just as, if not more effective. So knowledge is used in different ways, it can be a tool in LTPD, knowing what is needed to build players of the future now. Focusing on ball technique, receiving and manipulation will give players a base to build and progress.
One of the most commonly seen weaknesses in coaching in the UK is the coach themselves. Coaches across the country have the knowledge, the drive and commitment but unfortunately they do not understand their audience. The following scenario has happened to all coaches at some point in their coaching journey. For all those that think that this hasn’t happened to you, then you haven’t identified this as a barrier yet, so read on!!
‘Your session set up is good; the players are settled and started well, they are not getting the success that you desire and see a moment to shed some light on the problem(so far so good). Your in – question – answer – demo – out again. They restart and after a while still no success, your in again – explanation – rehearsal – check understanding – out again, this time they will get it, right?’
The problem is not with the information that you have delivered or how you have delivered it, covering lots of coaching styles and techniques in order to help the group. The biggest problems within all of this are with Language and Levels.
Who are you talking to? Where are they from? What are there intelligence levels? How do they communicate with each other? These are questions that we don’t ask ourselves before entering their playing environment. Players are not the same at all ages and are certainly different in areas and groups within that. Coaches must learn to speak to players in a language that is easily identifiable to them and one that can be understood quickly and computed into actions. Using words that are unfamiliar or using unrealistic scenarios are only going to hinder your chances of imparting knowledge. As a coach you are there to guide them with little bits of information that improve their knowledge and understanding of the game. Too many coaches use inappropriate language to describe situations to players; this is why many coaches feel uncomfortable at other ages.
This is so important at the younger age groups, why is it that we put the new coaches with the least knowledge and experience with the younger kids, during the age where it is most important. We need coaches with experience of working with these groups who have identified ways of communicating that are effective with younger kids. Young kids love to relate football to stories and games and having fun. They don’t care about ‘finding a space’ or ‘passing it’; they just want to play with a ball. The coach has the responsibility of putting on a session that engages the player and ignites their fire for football. This creates a ‘player’, what the coach then includes in these sessions should fuel this fire and make a better player. Any information should be relevant to the player right now; good examples can be found in the way that a coach describes something. The use of imagery and familiar things can help young children, ‘roll the ball across you body with the sole of your foot’ or ‘using the bottom of your shoe stroke your dog, see if he follows you’. Both ways can be effective, but which is going to resonate with the young player more?
One of my biggest bug bears of coaching, information. What do they need to know and why? What is more important, the action or understanding why the action needs to be taken?
Too many times, coaches tell their players what to do. Help them to understand why you want them to do something and they will do it without you telling them. What level of information will they understand? Can you break it down to a reason that they will still understand? A player that has been playing for 2 years and is 7 years old will have a different need for information compared to a 12 year old that has been playing for 7 years. It is up to the coach to decide when, where and how this info is delivered and in what kind of quantity.
Example – Little Jonny is playing mini soccer, he receives the ball from his keeper with his back to play, he turns into trouble, loses it and they score.
Coach says to little Jonny at half time, ‘when you get it just pass it simple, play the way you are facing’
What does little Jonny do now every time he receives it with his back to goal, he passes it, thinking he has done well. The coach has not only affected the player’s decision making but he has now reinforced negative habits that will affect this player in later games.
Helping Jonny to understand why he could have passed the ball in that situation, will make Jonny a better player as he will make his own decisions. It may mean that you help Jonny in the short term by asking him if he knew there was a player there, regardless of his answer you ask him what he might be able to do in the future, and his answer will give you more information towards how he understands the game.
If you tell Jonny, ‘your body shape was all wrong, you need to be side on, and you need to check your shoulder before the ball arrives, make sure your touch takes you away from danger.’ This is all good information, but not all at once for him and not maybe for that situation by itself. You now know what Jonny needs to improve on; so plan them into your sessions, help him build his game knowledge.
Pick your moments, your level of information, the detail that you convey it in, the language that you use to deliver it and the manner in which you pass on game understanding. Help us to produce players that decide for themselves to do something in a game because they understand the game, because their youth coach passed on their knowledge in a way that they understood.
Photos- Shawn Lea
Club Soccer are an established football coaching provider in the North East of England. They deliver holiday programs, youth development and school coaching sessions to children aged 5 up to 16. They are currently looking for an experienced coach to deliver in school and after school coaching sessions from September 2011.
The applicant must be able to work within school hours and after school during term-time. The successful candidate will also be required to work during school holidays, delivering holiday camps and football festivals across the North East of England.
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Hours of Work:
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- After school, early evening
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- FA Level 2 in Football coaching
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Regardless of the new 9v9 format for youth players, at some point they will have to play within the offside rule. This mythical rule is the most talked about and controversial part of the modern game.
Each manager/coach/referee/parent and supporter has there own opinion on the rule and whether someone was or wasn’t offside. The complexity of the rule has brought confusion to all ages that use it, but nevertheless it is an integral part of 11-a-side football.
As a coach we must prepare our players for the introduction of this rule and do it within a variety of means over a reasonable period of time. Relying on your players learning as they go along will work out eventually, but with your help they can understand the game at a quicker rate and adapt their playing style because of it. This should be done by introducing some sessions into training that will help with their understanding, whilst not being detrimental to their development.
Learning How and Why
This is more important than giving players direction, help them to understand the how and why and they will develop further. Offside affects every player on the pitch, so include them all in your sessions. Allowing them to play in different positions will give each player a better overall understanding of the rule. Create sessions that can help players with the rule and also develop other parts of their game.
This session can be used to improve movement between forward players, it can also help defenders understand what problems forwards are trying to create. There are many possibilities and combinations to use, here is one simple example. CFs pull of at an angle to try to affect the DFs, CF sets the ball back for MF to play through ball. Coaching points include – PASS TYPE/WEIGHT – ANGLE/TIMING OF PASS – ANGLE/TIMING OF RUN.
Progressions can include other players and combinations, working on different runs and areas. This can be switched to a wide area to involve wide players and CFs, to increase combination possibilities. Remember, this can only help your players with ideas and passing technique and with the timing of their runs. To be creative they must be allowed to express themselves in a real situation.
This session gives the players the opportunity to be creative. It has an offside zone, where the player can only receive the ball in the zone or dribble into it. This again works on the selection and timing of the runs, mixed with the pass quality and selection. This session can be used to give the DFs and GK a chance to work on communication and positioning, encouraging the DFs to keep a defensive line in relation to the ball. Coaching points – PASS SELECTION/QUALITY – ANGLE/TIMING OF RUNS TO CREATE/INVADE SPACE – QUICK AND CLEVER PLAY – ONE TOUCH PLAY – FINISH.
The next sessions move onto more game like situations, giving players the chance to take what they have learned into pressure situations with multiple pictures, changing all the time.
These sessions are nothing new to most coaches and there are many variations on the set-ups. Adjust the number of players and the size of the area to create different problems or to help make the session compatible to your team. The principles and delivery are the important components. Make sure that your set-up can create realistic situations to help the players learn and repeat the techniques involved . Before 11-a-side, many players will not have played so much with their back to goal.
These sessions provide a realistic game situation and encourage the players to express themselves and be creative. Coach some points but you can set them the challenges and see what they come up with, players can often be more creative than you can!!!!
I attended a talk with Alf Galustian, co-founder of Coerver, a coaching method and philosophy used all around the world; and Mathew Syed, ex British table tennis star and now journalist and author, most known for ‘Bounce’.
The talk began with a brief introduction from Joe Joyce, NUFC Academy Director, he addressed the Academy players and parents that were in attendance, as well as the Academy coaches and other youth coaches. He outlined NUFCs mission statement for the Academy and touched on areas that would later pop up in both speeches. Alf Galustian took to the microphone and briefly outlined to the parents and players, the method behind Coerver and how this incorporated into training at NUFC and other clubs. Alf explained how the kids are ‘stressed’ as they train to improve their skill level, basically increasing difficulty gradually to ingrain the skill. He slightly touched on the nature/nuture argument and grabbed the kids’ attention by talking about Messi and how it was possible they could be like him. Unfortunately, the recording did not pick up much of Alfs talk, but if you have seen him before, it was not anything new. He outlined the areas which they have identified as the key components to a technical player, such as ball mastery and being confident in a 1v1 situation. Alf did highlight later on, which is on the audio, that he could ‘teach a player 46 ways to beat an opponent’. 46!
Alf only spoke for about ten minutes and passed on to Mathew, luckily for me/us, this recording has worked and here are the clips for you to enjoy. I found this talk very interesting and useful, especially for the parents and players of the Academy, who I believe this had a great effect on. I particularly liked the part about motivation and the effect of using the word ‘talent’, I knew some of the players and parents in the room, and as I was waiting outside to talk to one of them, I could hear all of the parents talking about practice, the kids mentioning motivation and wanting to learn, which was impressive! Enjoy Please listen to 1 – 2 – 3 -5 – 6 – 4 in that order!
The road to becoming a ‘good coach’ is never ending and should be travelled at a pace that suits the coach themselves. Yet it must be travelled if we are to improve the standard of coaching for the players of tomorrow.
For many coaches, especially at grassroots, their first entry into coaching is with a junior mini soccer team at a local club. The charter standard award means that these coaches are required to achieve their Level 1 in football coaching. Coaches then gain experience with their teams and learn as they go along, trying to implement the ideas and standards that were preached on the Level 1 award.
The next part of a coach’s development is the most important and is often ignored by those coaches who feel they are ‘a coach’. This can be seen throughout all of grassroots and within professional academies and centres of excellence. There are coaches who feel that achieving a coaching award, whether it is level 1 or level 2, is enough to make them ‘a coach’. In truth, it is a way of recognising the ability and knowledge of a coach to identify and rectify problems and to develop players through appropriate practice and behaviour.
To become a ‘good coach’, the process of learning and evolving should not stop. There is not a single coach in the world that has cracked the formula to be a good coach ALL of the time. Even respected coaches and managers at the top of football, learn and grow with the players that they work with. They use their experience and knowledge to draw from and deliver sessions and programs that will affect their players in the required way; but because football can be so subjective, not all players respond in the same way. This can lead to different problems for a coach and may require a new approach or angle to solve them.
All coaches should look to learn at any given opportunity, this could simply be to get new training ideas and approaches or to improve their knowledge and understanding of the game. Coach education is not always the answer, although they can be very informative, as it takes up time and costs money. Coaching seminars are a great way for a coach to go along and see something different from another coach and interact with those who are in similar situations. This kind of seminar is important for sharing ideas and building contacts within the football community.
Finding a Mentor
Finding a coach who has experience and knowledge to become a mentor can be very effective, a coach can then learn from someone who has a wealth of experience in football. But this is not the ‘be all and end all’; coaches must evolve themselves and take bits of information and ideas from everywhere. This concoction of differing sources can improve a coach’s knowledge and keep them open minded to new ideas.
Sir Bobby Robson talked about a young coach who wrote to him and asked if he could observe some of his training sessions, Sir Bobby obliged and allowed the young foreigner to come along. The coach came and took lots of notes over a week long period and then returned home. Seven years later the same coach was in charge of Lazio, it was Sven Goran Erikson. This is an example of a coach using the experience of mentor coaches to evolve by taking in information which he felt useful.
The road to becoming a ‘good coach’ is never ending and should be travelled at a pace that suits the coach themselves. Yet it must be travelled if we are to improve the standard of coaching for the players of tomorrow.
Photos – Javier Selman and Mattletiss1974
To create players of the future, coaches must have goals that lie in the future and not in the present. Long Term Player Development is a hot topic throughout the UK and the rest of the world, with ideas such as the four corner model highlighting the need to cover all aspects of development.
Youth players across the world are being coached by different methods, beliefs and attitudes towards LTPD. In grassroots clubs there can be a tendency to look for instant success, as the players want to win, the manager wants to win and the clubs profile is extended if their teams are successful. This is fully understandable as many of these clubs are not looking to create players for an adult first team.
Success is a difficult word to use when analysing a player or a team, especially when talking about junior football. Success can be subjective and performance related, but the majority of the time it is looked at objectively, as in trophies or league position. If a coach commits to their team, they should be able to prepare some long term goals and also be aware that some goals take longer than others. Success with results will come with the development of the players, by creating success in their performances. Focusing on the development of the players’ technical ability at younger ages will provide greater success in older age groups and often much sooner. Players are learning at all times and should be allowed to do this, to succeed and to fail.
One of the main problems for youth players is that they are told where to stand and where to run, they are told to push up, but they do not know why. Children are sponges waiting to soak up information and learn new skills, by teaching them the reason behind what they are doing; they can begin to take responsibility for their actions. This will help them to understand the impact their actions have for the rest of the team, this means they often ‘buy into the idea’ and accept the importance of their role. An attacking player knows to stand wide because they have been told to do so, why are they there? Can the coach give the player enough information about why so that they can understand and realise the relationship between different aspects of the game. Teach the players as they acquire these and other skills.
Players practice with both feet during technical exercises, or at least they should be. If a coach can help the players to understand why they may need this skill, the player may feel a greater need to persevere and acquire the skill. Putting the player in a skill practice where they can see the benefits of turning with their left foot instead of their right will help to bring a practicing culture to a team. This kind of ethos and development structure should produce players that want to learn and understand why they are learning.
Unfortunately, they are not ‘mini adults’ and will not have the same outlook and attitudes as an adult. So a coach must prepare sessions and session content/delivery that is appropriate. Children want to play and have fun; they are enthusiastic and excitable with bundles of energy. Create an environment that caters to these needs but still delivers your key outcomes. Include detailed information in the session, but deliver this info in a variety of ways, some players will absorb it and others wont. Use language that they can understand and relate to, or even create your own words that highlight what you want from the team, which they can understand. These are often known as ‘trigger’ words and are used by coaches to deliver instructions with minimal explanation.
Above all, enjoy the experience of working with young people who have the ability and potential to learn and develop into the best players they can be.
Unless you are a coach of a professional adult team playing in the football league or the Premiership, you will not have your players every day for as long as you want them. Time constraints are a major factor when dealing with football/soccer training for teams in junior leagues, academies and up to non league adult football.
The 10,000 hour rule has been mentioned on TheCoachesBench.com before and some coaches may be more aware of it than others. It is the idea that to become elite in a certain field, a person would require around 10,000 hours of deliberate and purposeful practice. If this is taken into account when thinking of the amount of time each coach gets with their team, it can be quite daunting. This is why it is very important that the training time a coach has, is used efficiently to gain the maximum number of outcomes.
Efficient Use of Time
Plan the session in advance, with clear themes, targets and goals. It is often easier to progress along a theme, from technical to skill to game. This can also help with time management as the players can understand what is expected from them faster as it follows on from the previous part of the session. Set out ALL of your cones and other equipment before the session starts, it may not always be possible but is good practice for saving time. The session can then flow from one part to another with little disruption, this also helps to keep the tempo of the session up, this can have an additional positive effect when thinking of football fitness. Good practice for all sessions should be to provide as many balls as possible, enough for one for each player; understandably this is not always achievable. Keep using these balls throughout the session, try not to get tempted to clear them all away and use one ball for a small sided game. The use of all the balls will keep the game tempo high, encourage quick play from your players and reduce rest periods.
Effective Use of Time
Try to think of ‘multi-tasking’ when planning, can I get two benefits from a part of the session, instead of one. Sending your players for a running warm up will only serve one purpose, be creative and incorporate some ball work and even some SAQ into this time. Plan sessions that have ALL the players involved, less waiting around means more ball touches. Set the goalkeepers separate tasks that involve their specific skill sets, if this is not possible within the drill then set them their own drill. If the drill involves a little rest time for a couple of players, have them warm up the goalkeepers while they wait, two outcomes. Use small sided games to challenge the players to apply their knowledge and skills in a match environment. Keep the teams small to increase repetition of the skill sets and the intensity high, improving technique, use of skill and football fitness.
Change Your Thinking
Coaches often think sessions must follow a pattern of warm up, technical time and game time. This is not always the case, challenge your players, combine the technical and warm up and follow with a game; the problems can then be identified by the coach. The players can be given the opportunity to solve these problems themselves within the game, or the session can move back into a skill session to affect the players and possibly come up with a solution. The coach then gets the opportunity to put these players back into a game to see if they have improved and understand what the desired outcomes were. Take a step back and think of the bigger picture sometimes when planning or evaluating a session, what can be adapted to achieve new goals and to challenge the players in a new way. Flexibility is an effective tool, use it.
One of the biggest challenges that face coaches at all levels of the game; is getting their players to reproduce what is performed in training within a competitive match.
Coaches strive to deliver challenging and informative coaching sessions for their players and often see great reaction from the players during this time. When the players enter a match situation, this is often not the case. Once the players cross the white line, it is down to them to produce. Is this entirely true? Or are we not preparing our players for the chaos of a football match?
When working with young footballers, it is important to provide them with the platform to practice skills and techniques. This kind of practice can be unopposed or under limited pressure, but most importantly it must be practiced in a REAL GAME situation. The age and ability level of the players will determine at which point you can introduce your players to your theme. If we cannot provide them with this game-like stage to perform, then how can we expect them to ‘turn it on’ during a competitive match?
Small Sided Games
Small sided games are a great way to increase the participation of each player involved, the less players per team, the more touches on the ball for all. By constructing these kinds of games to suit a theme, the coach can gain a greater number of repetitions of the desired outcome. This set up will ensure that the players are given the opportunity to repeat a skill or technique within a challenging game-like environment, but at a higher rate than in a normal match. The benefits to this are huge for the players themselves and for the coach. Players must be comfortable playing within 360 degrees, analysing space and player positions, practicing first touch direction and pass selection hundreds of times over a short period. This frenzied involvement can be high intensity and hard work. It is often good practice to use larger teams and have support players on the outside of the grid or pitch. These players are in ‘active rest’, still part of the game as support but not at the pace of those in the middle. When the players switch, those inside gain valuable rest, but remain active; this is another focus of football fitness.
There are various ways to design a session to achieve specific outcomes and paint certain pictures for your team. This is vital in order for your players and team to develop. It is also important that a coach remembers that repetition is the basis for all learning, without it all of their sessions would fall down at the first hurdle. Repetition is what has developed the players to where they are now. Do not ignore it, but equally do not assume that repetition is one dimensional and ‘boring’. A coach must create situations for players to repeat decisions, movements and techniques. By using a small sided game, the coach can cover all areas in one part of their practice; this saves time and gives them multiple outcomes.
Wherever possible, small sided games should be performed with realistic conditions. The use of appropriate goals or targets is important, if the coaches aims are attacking based, then using a proper goal creates a game situation. The coach must then prepare the game around the use of this equipment, as it is match conditions. The area of the game can be flexible and depends on the theme and the desired outcomes. Play within match laws and award free kicks etc. as this helps the players ‘buy in’ to the game.
Try not to over complicate things. A game that has many rules or unrealistic scenarios will de-motivate the players and not achieve the outcomes necessary. Keep the games ‘alive’, a high tempo in these games helps to put pressure on the players to make decisions and execute techniques within real match time frames. This will help to produce players that are confident playing within a real game.
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