I’ve got 14 things to think about this year – consider these points and see if you can work some of the principles into your everyday coaching. If you can, you’ll be a better coach because of it, I promise you.
1. Listen to your players
Your players will always tell you if a training session is “right” – they will tell you if it’s fun. Listen to them. I have two big ears and one little mouth when players are giving me feedback. It’s invaluable – ignore it at your peril.
2. Go with your gut reaction
Does the coaching session feel like it is working or are your players getting nothing out of it? Instincts are rarely wrong. I always look back and wonder why I ever doubted my gut reaction. I’ve learnt to trust it more.
3. Success doesn’t come quickly or easily
There’s no such thing as an overnight sensation. There is no shortcut for developing players – the learning curve comes from working with your players and using the right structure to help them love playing the game. The journey for you is the fun part – it has been for me.
4. Karma will out
Like most people I’ve had tough times with coaching – parents, players, training and matches all have their bad moments. The right things will happen eventually, but sometimes you just have to keep going until they do.
5. Know your limitations
Don’t take on too much with your club or your coaching responsibilities. I have to make sure whatever I do fits in with my work/life balance. Taking on too much will make coaching a chore rather than a fun part of your life.
6. You can never over-communicate
I like to think I’m a good communicator with young players but you can never assume children will pick up your direction or feeling by osmosis. Young players need to understand what is happening and what it is you want them to do.
7. Structure is key
Plan your sessions, plan your warm-ups before a game, think about what you will say at half-time and full time, and be sure of the message you want to get across at training.
8. Don’t let people mystify coaching
I’ve learnt not to be afraid to ask stupid questions. People tend to overcomplicate coaching with jargon speak. Never be afraid to ask “what are you talking about?” The fool is the person who sits and nods pretending to understand. Many grass roots coaches think there is some whole other world where the best coaches exist – there isn’t!
9. Know your coaching style but let it evolve
Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you need to use a whistle to get attention, use it. Don’t think you have to behave like Jose Mourinho or Alex Ferguson. I’ve given up worrying what the players’ parents are thinking on the touchline if I keep quiet when the team is losing or not playing well. It takes years of confidence to feel like that – but it’s very liberating!
10. Embrace every bit of coaching education you get
Some coaches go on courses and do nothing over and above what they learn, while others use what they have learnt to expand their coaching influence. I love going on courses and soaking up all the coaching knowledge from teachers and peers alike.
11. Be humble
Don’t be “the big I am” with your players and their parents. Honesty coupled with humility is a winning ingredient.
12. Consider every opportunity
There isn’t enough time to do everything but I often ask myself “how would I feel if I didn’t do it?”
13. Take inspiration from the past
Modern coaching techniques borrow from the past – you can’t reinvent the wheel. Keep all the sessions that I send you and use them as often as you want. I’ve learnt to look at every session I can to give me inspiration for new ideas.
14. Standards are key
Finally, I won’t compromise my standards for anyone – parents, governing bodies, coaches from professional clubs – because I have learnt that not everyone gives good advice. My standards create a great experience for young players