How do you know what to coach your players?

Working with the Richmond Park Under 15 girls has given me a real insight into how players view training sessions – and the questions I should be asking before I construct my practice.

Richmond Park FC U15s girls

I am writing a curriculum for the U15-U18 age groups and where I start my coaching from – what I mean is how much should a player of this age already know about playing the game.

At the younger age groups every player will be able to kick a ball and they will all know what scoring a goal is, and older players will have some idea of tactics and player positions.

But this got me thinking. What do the U15 players know when they arrive at training and have they actually learned anything by the time they go home? It struck me that maybe I was showing them something they already knew, so their development had hit a brick wall and they went home with the same knowledge they turned up with.

And don’t think the girls will not tell me if they think the session is going over old ground when they should be doing something different – they give fantastic feedback on every part of the session that I coach.

As coaches we should always listen to our players and ask them for their feedback. It may hurt sometimes but there is no better way to become a more competent coach than to learn from the team. It also encourages them to understand what it is we as a team are trying to achieve and helps them to see where there are problems in the team and how they can be solved.

Write down what you know

So last week, when I was running an exercise, I brought a large sheet of paper and some pens and asked the players to write down what they knew about counterattacking. I started by explaining how it worked: “it’s when a team wins the ball off your team when you are attacking with a lot of players”.

I then got them to write down the key things to remember then attacking and defending in a counterattack. Some of the answers were fantastic. Under ‘attacking’ they wrote: speed; turning; passing; dribbling; shooting. Under ‘defending’ they wrote: get back; run; help out; catch up; get in front.

So immediately I knew the players understood the concept of the tactic, so I didn’t need to go into great detail telling them about what players needed to do during the session. This cut out at least 10 minutes of them listening to me and instead I got 10 minutes of listening to them – far more entertaining and a lot more sense!

What then do I do next week? I’m planning some passing and receiving sessions so I guess I will do the same thing again and ask them what they already know about the topic – and maybe this time I will do it before I design the session, so they will have played a part in designing their own activities. How great is that!

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