INSPIRATION | CONFIDENCE | SUCCESS

Streets’ solutions to grassroots gremlins

If you are a beginner coach, the chances are you will have encountered a few stumbling blocks along the way.

Even if you haven’t yet, a bump in the road may be around the corner – and you might appreciate some expert advice.

This is where SCW can step in. We have picked the considerable coaching brain of David Streetly – known as ‘Streets’ – a tutor of the FA Level 1 and Level 2 courses and a coach mentor.

He has taught the very youngest to kick a ball for the first time, introduced walking football to the elderly – and coached everything in between.

On this pages, over the next three weeks, David puts forward suggestions on some common issues at grassroots level – this week, it is about youth playing time, parental buy-in and avoiding burnout…

David Streetley coaches under-fours, fives and sixes at Witham Town FC, as well as the 16 to 19-year-olds

HOW DO I ENSURE EVERYONE GETS A FAIR AMOUNT OF PLAYING TIME – AND HOW DO I SECURE PARENTAL BUY-IN?

DS: “I’ve seen loads of different ways to rotate players. Some people like Excel spreadsheets and there’s various links out there that can work out playing time for you, based on the squad size and format of the game you play in.

“Some coaches do it on a weekly or monthly basis, playing people in different positions and for a set number of minutes, and if you have a large squad, it may be you can give some players rest weeks, where they can go and do other other things.

“At younger age groups, coaches often ask to split the game into quarters. That way, you can potentially have four different teams, in four different formations, and people can rest and recover and all get a chance to start.

“Quite often people think equal playing time is just for that particular game, but it’s usually across the season.

“With player development, we have to remember our role as coaches. Is it purely to win football matches at grassroots level?

Or is it to create a safe, positive, engaging experience for everyone, developing them as people and players?

“The important thing is the inclusion, because it can have a negative impact on children and young people about how they feel about their experience of football.

“We have to keep this in mind when developing young people, and link it to the technical, tactical, social, psychological and physical parts of the game.

 

“Quite often, we’re dealing with the cure. We need to think about prevention…”

 

“With the parental buy-in, I think that just comes with engaging with them. The trick is to get them on board, engage with them and share our coaching, playing and club philosophies.

“It is our role to speak to them, include them, get to know them and find out what they want for their children. Quite often, parents don’t want the winning – that’s a by-product.

“They want them to be included, they want them to be safe, they want them to play, they want to see them develop and they want the social part of it as well. I think our role is to include them and let them know what environment we’re creating for their child.”

 

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY OF REGULATING PARENTS’ TOUCHLINE BEHAVIOUR? SHOULD I TALK TO THEM BEFORE THE SEASON STARTS AND SAY ‘I WANT TO HEAR MORE OF THIS AND LESS OF THIS’?

DS: “I think it’s exactly that. Quite often with these things we’re dealing with the cure. I think we need to think about the prevention part – things like your meetings at the start of the season, and your codes of conduct.

“For me, it links to our philosophy, but it is also our responsibility as coaches to engage with parents and educate them to say, ‘I don’t shout instructions, like ‘pass’, ‘shoot’ and ‘dribble’, so I don’t want you to do it’, along with the reasons why.

“I want them to make their own decisions, to feel fun, to feel freedom, to be creative. I want them to try things.

“All those things are linked to the environment. If we walked into a school classroom and a lot of adults were shouting ‘write this’ or ‘draw that’, we would probably have a problem with that. But for some reason, when it’s football, people get carried away a little bit.

“Matchday is like the exam – you’ve been training, now go and show us what you can do, what you have learned about passing or dribbling or shooting or working as a team.

“The first thing to look at is our own behaviour. If we are shouting and screaming on the sidelines, we can’t then say to the parent, ‘excuse me, you can’t do that’.

“I think our behaviour is a reflection of what we want to see. I’m confident that if I’m at a youth match, I won’t be shouting and screaming, so I don’t expect anyone else to.

“We have opportunities in meetings to share our manner, our environment and the things linked to our long-term player development plan.

“I think it’s really, really important if we want people to stay in football.”

Keeping subs engaged can be tough – David Streetley suggests giving them observation tasks, like noting down key stats relating to the team’s objectives for that game

HOW DO I KEEP MY SUBS ENGAGED?

DS: “It depends on the age group. It might just be that they’ve got a fun little game to play in a safe area.

“They can make notes on tactics boards, they can keep an eye on a team or individual challenge, or they can have their own little player-cam where they are watching a certain certain player.

“They can have observation tasks, like recording shots on goal, how many dribbles, how many times someone intercepts the ball and travels with it, or whatever it is that links to your training.

“They might just be watching the game and you say to them, ‘you’re going to go on and play in this position, so just watch the opponent or who is playing in that position’.

“They can be mini-coaches, involved in the team talk, and can give feedback to positions.

“If it’s cold, they can just be given a safe area to keep warm and active, because the younger age groups might not be interested in watching the game, like we as adults do.”

 

SOME OF MY SQUAD ARE PLAYING FOR OTHER TEAMS TOO, OR ARE INVOLVED IN OTHER SPORTS. HOW CAN I MANAGE THEM TO AVOID PHYSICAL OR MENTAL BURNOUT?

DS: “Firstly, the fact they do other sports is brilliant. I think, statistically, the children that do lots of different activities, their social, physical, psychological, technical and tactical development is typically better, given those experiences. We don’t want to get into the habit where it’s football, football, football.

“Ultimately, we have a responsibility to keep young people healthy and safe, both mentally and physically. We should get to know them and what else they do in their school sports and other activities.

 

“I want young players to make their own decisions. I want them to try things…”

 

“Part of coaching is observation and I think we can all see, typically, when someone’s limping or sore, or struggling mentally or emotionally – they don’t look quite like they usually do.

“So you have conversations with the parents, and the child as well. Those signs of behaviour that may suggest something is wrong would need to be addressed with them and their parents.

“Again, that comes back to including parents in the process. It might be a conversation – ‘I know they do karate’, ‘oh yeah, they had a tournament last night, they didn’t get home till 10pm’. I think those things are really important.

“With the older age group I coach, they all play other football, possibly too much. So if they played on a Tuesday night, they just won’t be selected for the Wednesday because physically that will harm them.

“I think if you’re always doing what’s best for them, it will usually be correct. We have those conversations every week – who had a game at the weekend? Who’s got games coming up? Do you have training?

“It Is the same with the young people doing other sports. Also, if you create that line of communication, parents will tell you – it’s just an ongoing conversation and building a rapport with them, and meeting the needs of their child and doing what’s best for them.

“If parents know that, they’re going to trust you and share that information. You as the coach can then make decisions about what’s best for when they rest, when they play more or when they have potentially some time off.”

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