The kids don’t understand my sessions…

“I’m struggling with getting kids to understand the sessions I run – it’s embarrassing in front of their parents. Is there a secret to getting the information across?”

– Under 10s Boys Coach

Answer

Player understanding is one of the key elements of a coaching session – and of course coach understanding. It’s the chicken and egg situation that if you don’t understand it properly they never will. So you are right to question why they are not “getting” your sessions.

It may be the case that you are just not giving the players enough time – the coach’s enemy! We never have enough time at one training session to get all our coaching points across. But because some players pick up what is going on in the session less quickly than others there is always a period when the session doesn’t work – and then you get that LIGHTBULB moment which is a joy to behold.

I always remember when I was struggling to cope with delivering sessions in my early days, a very experienced academy coach said to me: “There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.”

It’s a great piece of advice. My right hand man at training is fairly new to coaching and he, like you, works very hard at getting the right sessions and delivering them to some of our younger teams. But he gets very nervous and if the kids haven’t understood what he wants them to do, he moves right on to another session and tries that.

Understanding is vital to a session, both for the coach and the players – often it takes time for the players to get the session you are delivering.

We were well into the session last week and I could see the players looking at one another slightly lost. “It’s not working, Dave,” said my right-hand man. “You said it was a 15-minute exercise but time’s almost up and they’re not grasping it.”

I told him to hold fire and managed to block out the murmurs of the watching parents who were keen for me to move on to something else. But I wanted to show them one more time that this could work.

It’s never easy watching kids struggling with a concept, but I couldn’t give up on this with them so close. I tried giving two players some extra encouragement – sometimes that’s all it takes. And sure enough, within 30 seconds, they began to “get it”.

And more than that, they started having fun.

The session was working and they wanted to carry on, because part of the fun was “getting” the session. Within a further 10 minutes they were making it look easy, which was exactly what I wanted.

“Okay,” I shouted, “it’s a wrap!” And guess what? They didn’t want to stop. Some players began to move onto a small-sided game, but a good number were still running the passing sequence. I initially planned this as a 15-minute warm-up, but it had ended up filling the majority of the session!