Coaching through the Ages
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