Coach using actions not words

I was recently on an excellent three-hour practical demonstration by an FA coach development manager, showing how to coach players without using obvious instructions. Manipulation of the sessions was used as the coach tried to get the message across though actions rather than long-winded explanations.

There was little standing around for players apart from looking at the session on a tactics board and interruptions where the session progressed – and that was across the whole three hours.

I do something similar to cut down my coaching interventions. I keep what I have to say to less than 30 seconds, making for less talking and more playing and learning. This was one of the main elements of the session – how to get coaching points across without bombarding players with instructions.

Using implicit learning

The first type of learning we looked at was ‘implicit learning’. To put this into context, think of a volleyball coach wishing to get his players to extend their arms more when setting up the ball – rather than explicitly describing the changes in technique, he gradually increased the height of the net in training in increments so small that the players couldn’t notice. Eventually, the players will notice, but the outcome is achieved by actions rather than words.

Think about how you can use this in your own coaching. For example, if the area for passing the ball in a 3v3 gets smaller, there is less space to keep the ball and get a pass away. Control and passing will be developed without you having to explain.

How to teach a skill

The other theory we explored was how to teach players a skill. If we break the skill down for young players into ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ the skill, they will see it as three separate actions rather than the whole action we want to see on the pitch. Instead we should try ‘action coupling’ where all the parts are one – in other words, what the brain sees and what the body does needs to be joined together for practice.

The conclusion makes you wonder whether the skill should be taught within a game context in the first place.

I’m not sure about the last idea. If a player doesn’t know the parts of the skill, how will he be able to create it in his mind? But I love experiencing every type of coaching theory to see the results. I only hope that the parents don’t think I’ve lost interest because I haven’t said anything for a time!

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