‘Dave… what did we learn in your session today?’

I was with a new group of Under 15s girls a couple of weeks ago and at the end of a two hour session where we went through a Rondo/Possession/final third series of activities. I felt it had been a good first session with players I didn’t know.

Richmond Park FC U15s girls

At the end Zahra came over to me and asked me “Dave, what did we actually learn today?” I was slightly taken aback as we had spoken about the sessions and the areas we were covering. But Zahra wanted more specific answers and countered what I had coached with “but I know that already”.

I hadn’t seen the girls play a match or train or do anything really so I was shooting in the dark whether they had already worked on what I wanted them to work on.

I realize it isn’t every day that we as coaches take over a new group or take a session with players we haven’t met before. But sometimes it happens –and it always makes me wonder how coaches chose the sessions they put on.

So it is always good every now and then even with teams you have coached before or coach all the time to sit them down and give them a quick Q&A about what they know and what they should know.

When I was coaching my Under 10s, I asked them what they knew about soccer. Of course, they knew all about the game and were experts from watching it on TV, but what did they know about how the skills worked or what skills they would need for a particular technique?

This is a useful exercise that you can try yourself. The next time you have a topic like running with the ball, try to work out what they know, like I did. “Do you know how to do it?” I asked my team. They all said yes, of course. After all, we all know how to run with the ball.

So, what aspect of that skill should the players be learning about from my coaching session? They should know WHY they are running with the ball. It’s because they have lots of space with no pressure from opponents, or because they are fast runners and can outstrip the opposition.

When I’m building my session plans, I need to think WHY players would run with the ball in a match situation under match pressure, and how I can make this a realistic happening in my session.

I asked them the question. “WHY run with the ball?” This was harder for them to answer, but it made them all think a lot more. Then I asked them: “WHEN would you run with the ball?” Working out what players know, and what needs to be learnt, is all part and parcel of building your session.

Going back to my skills curriculum, I’ve had a lot of questions to ask my players, and their answers have helped me to realise what is required from a session and what I can give to my team.

My mistake was not asking the girls what they knew when I created the session. As a coach I am learning all the time. And getting information from the kids, as well as from the experts, is a great way of researching what it is that I need to coach in order to develop my players over the course of a season.

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