EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS SOCCER COACHES

Get to know your team as boys and girls

Women and girls soccer has been in the forefront of sports news with the appointment of Phil Neville as manager of the England women’s national team. It has come with some controversy but despite the fact he didn’t know who the leading scorer in the WSL 1 league was he made some good points.

England women

England Women’s team are inspiring girls teams

Neville highlighted the importance of entrenching himself in the lives of his players: “I’ve seen every interview that they’ve done over the last 12 months, I’ve watched a lot of their performances of the last 12 months. But management is not just about getting to know them on the pitch, it’s about getting to know them as people.”

Which is how every coach of every team should be working with their players. Girls soccer is really taking off in England and I have been working with a U15 girls team and learned a lot from the players about how they feel they should be learning the game from me.

In many ways the Neville appointment has highlighted how much the game has moved on. The new manager will head to the United States in a couple of weeks for a baptism of fire against the USA, France and Germany in the She Believes Cup. It’s a daunting prospect, but Neville is far from put off: “One of my strengths is analysing football games. The She Believes Cup can’t come quickly enough because ultimately what it will give me is the opportunity to coach the team.”

And that is something we all want – an opportunity to coach our teams.

Often it is difficult for girls to find new teams, especially in some areas of the country and get the coaching they deserve.

Mixed teams

Where I live girls are well catered for, with a lot of clubs they can join, but that isn’t so all over the country. My own teams have regularly had girls involved and I know how much they love the game – last season, in one of the younger age groups, a girl was the best player.

How she loved it when the boys on the opposition would look over and shout, “it’s a girl!” They were not so vocal at the end of matches when she had run rings around them.

Mixed teams in the youth game really work well. Girls can push the boys to greater levels of achievement. Earlier this year I was asked by a coach what he should do because a girl wanted to join his team. What did I think of that? My advice is always the same as with any new player – if they fit in with the other players, it’s brilliant.

The coach took the girl on and she has slotted into his team with ease. Girls have growth spurts and times when they seem to have grasped the ideas you are coaching and show great development. Then there will be times when they don’t seem to develop and need more attention from the coach. Just the same as all the other players.

Girls I have coached do seem to have a great determination to succeed and that’s something you can’t coach in a player. My own daughter plays netball, hockey and tennis – even though, with two brothers, she is great at football. She is still very young though, so I’ve not given up on her being at the heart of one of my teams now that I am working with girls teams.

I will keep an eye on how Phil Neville gets on coaching women. He has never done it before and as I found out myself it isn’t always the same as coaching men or boys

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