In the first of a three-part special, we turn to experienced coach and FA tutor DAVID STREETLEY for advice on some issues faced by youth-team coaches MORE
Picture the scene. You’re a coach new to grassroots football, adjusting to your surroundings – but have been delayed en-route to your first game in charge.
You turn up with just minutes to go before kick-off, which can’t be delayed due to other matches being played later in the day.
How do you adapt your preparation to make sure players are both warmed-up and fully focused on the game ahead?
This is one of the questions we posed in part two of our feature with David Streetly – known as ‘Streets’ – a tutor of the FA Level 1 and Level 2 courses and a coach mentor.
This week, we look mainly at issues that might crop up around matchday…
DS: “If you coach correctly, your team- talk and tactics have already been done in training – so on matchdays, it is just a case of reminding them of team and individual tasks. These can be written on the tactics board so you don’t have to talk too much.
“If we allow ownership in training, and players are used to taking responsibility for warm-ups or dynamic stretches, depending on what age they are, then it is easy for them to do it on a matchday.
“The foundation phase can play a tag game and then go into a game, The older ages need a little bit more of a warm up. “I’m confident the 16-19s I coach could warm up on their own, because we have educated them about what they need. I think if we trust them, and they do it in training consistently, you just leave it to them.
“That ownership is important because we can then step back and make matchday a more chilled out and relaxed experience.
“Typically, as coaches, you have got to set up nets, chat to the ref, speak to parents, exchange match cards, and so on. You actually want, on a weekly basis, to be taking a backseat and maybe just overseeing it.”
DS: “On the FA Level 1 and 2 courses, we do some fun little arrival games off the pitch that you can do to warm up.
“We have to create a safe environment where young people can make mistakes…”
“But it’s also an ideal chance for coaches and the children to be creative – warming-up in tight areas, the match movements, dynamic stretches, fun games, tag games, things with a football, can all be done in a tight space, as long as it is safe.
“The age group will dictate how much they need. But there are ways of engaging children in tighter areas, and they can still get themselves ready to play.”
DS: “There is no right or wrong, but there are some key things we have to think about.
“First of all, we have to create that positive, safe environment where young people can make mistakes, because they are a really important part of the learning process. And the younger they are, the more mistakes they are going to make.
“Our response dictates how people feel. So if I criticise someone, that is going to make them feel a certain way. If I respond differently, and encourage and support them or even just don’t acknowledge it to let them self-rectify, that will have an impact on how they feel.
“Every person is different – as coaches we need to get to know the person. It is really important we understand what each person needs, and this links to challenging our communication.
“So our responses to the mistake could be you say nothing, they just self rectify; it could be a smile or a thumbs up; it could be encouragement; it could be a little question to refocus them on to what they are doing.
“It could be a specific challenge. If, for instance, they have given the ball away, it might be to say ‘next time, try to have your eyes up’, or ‘do you need to pass? Maybe stay on it and dribble’.
“It may be that you just encourage team- mates to support them, because sometimes even the younger kids – four or five-year-olds find better ways than us to deal with “Also, what is a mistake? A mistake to you might not be a mistake to me. If the intention was correct, and they just got something slightly wrong, you might praise the intent, rather than focusing on the error part of it.”
DS: “I think it depends on the age. For me, in the younger age group, you want everyone to take a penalty.
“Typically, coaches are pretty good at that they will have a little penalty competition in training and some do it after matches, just as a little practice for further down the line, particularly if they have got cup games coming
“I want everyone to be good at everything, especially in the younger age groups. When you go up the age groups, you might have a designated penalty taker, or there’s competition between a few people, or it might just be you give them the ownership. For me, it will just be whoever wants it is going to take it. It’s not a big issue for me.
“What is a mistake? If the intention was correct, you might praise the intent…”
“I think when you get to competition football, further up their journey, and it means a little bit more, then you probably have practiced more, you have probably got a designated penalty taker – or two or three options – or you might dictate as the coach who does it.
“But, for me, ownership and everyone having a go and getting a chance to practice is really important.”
DS: “The common mistakes are that we commentate on the whole game – ‘shoot!’, ‘pass!’, ‘dribble!’ – and we use terminology that children and young people do not understand.
“A friend of mine works in a primary school and when she said to them ‘shake hands’, they literally shook their own hands as if they were trying to dry them off rubbing them dry.
“I think it’s a real challenge of communication – what we say or mean is not necessarily what the other person has received.
“So the younger they are, the more simple the terminology. For the younger age groups I coach, we use things like ‘little toe, big toe’ rather than inside and outside of foot, and ‘stop and squash’ – so stopping and squashing the ball, rather than some other terminology.
“It is just educating people not to keep shouting out ‘pass, pass, pass. pass’, because that’s not what we really want, especially in the younger age group.
“For coaches, it’s just about reflection. A really good tool is to audio-record yourself during a matchday or training, and then play it back and go, ‘which bits actually makes sense?’.
“If you talk too much, people need to filter out the information. Brief is good, but also use terminology that you’ve used in training, specific terminology that everyone understands – ‘travel’, ‘time’, ‘turn’, ‘hold’, ‘man on’.”