Young players can take instructions like 'make the pitch big' and 'check your shoulders' very literally - so take a different approach, says HANNAH DUNCAN MORE
Streets’ solutions to grassroots gremlins – Part Three
During our chat with David Streetley, a tutor of the FA Level 1 and 2 courses, utters the phrase: “It’s difficult, coaching”.
You cannot argue with him. Whether you are full-time at a professional club or a volunteer, every session or matchday presents new challenges.
You are, after all, dealing with people (all different), situations (unpredictable), and plans (which may have to be torn up).
We have tried to address some of these over the last three issues. The final part this week looks at general points around coaching philosophy…
WHAT SHOULD MY POST-MATCH PEP TALK SOUND LIKE IF WE’VE LOST?
DS: “Sport, and football, teaches us all the lessons of life. Sometimes we lose. But we learn about ourselves, our ability to resolve issues and our resilience.
“I think questions post-match are really important – what did you try today? What did you learn today? What was the best bit? What is one thing you did today linked to your individual or team challenges? It might just be as simple as giving the group a question on a tactics board.
“Or, alternatively, get the parents to ask them on the way home about how they felt and what they enjoyed. It doesn’t always have to be us as the coaches, because sometimes we forget what it’s like when we’re young. We don’t want to answer questions in front of a group.
“On the Saturday morning sessions I work on, with four, five and six year olds, we get them to chat to a friend and they discuss something they did really well that day – the little skill or trick or turn – and they share it, because it is easier to do that then chat in front of a group when everyone’s watching.”
HOW DO I CONNECT WITH AN AGE GROUP THAT CAN’T REALLY IDENTIFY WITH ME?
DS: “Take me as an example. I don’t have children. Me connecting with the four and five-year-olds is thinking about my nieces and nephews, and what it was like when I was four or five years old. It is about putting yourselves in their shoes.
“If you’re going to plan a session, the first thing to think about is: ‘Who have I got in front of me? Why are they here?’ and then you’re meeting their needs.
“There is no point doing a Man City U18s academy session with five-year-olds…”
“For instance, trying to teach four or five year olds how to play five-a-side football when they’re not ready for that yet. They might just want to do fun movements, tag games or things with ball in hand – be a pirate or spaceship, linking it to something that’s a bit more relevant to them.
“Whatever age group you’re working with. it is about meeting their needs. If you go in with the intention of ‘what do they want? What do they need? What stage are they at?’, you’re going to get it right.
“There’s no point doing a Manchester City Under-18s academy session with the four or five year olds, it’s not going to work.
“It’s about meeting their needs, making it fun and interesting, and basically making it the best part of their week”
I FIND IT HARD TO MAKE TIME TO PLAN SESSIONS. AM I LETTING MY PLAYERS DOWN IF I AD LIB ON THE DAY?
DS: “It can be hard, but the common mistake that coaches make – and whenever I say coaches, I include myself – is not to plan.
“There are some coaches that just rock up and say, ‘I’ve been coaching for a while. I can do this’. But if you don’t plan, or have some framework in there of ‘What do they need? What are we going to do? What space have I got? Why are they here?’, there is more chance of getting it wrong.
“If you plan something, quite often it is going to be good, if you have met their needs, because they’re there for that reason – to have fun, to have that competition and to link it to football of the format they play. And if you do that, you’re probably going to get it right.”
MY TEAM ARE IN A CUP FINAL BUT MY SUBSTITUTES AREN’T NEAR THE LEVEL OF THE STARTING PLAYERS. IN A CLOSE GAME, DO I BRING THEM ON TO INVOLVE THEM AND RISK LOSING? OR DO I STICK WITH IT TO WIN THE GAME AND RISK UPSETTING THE UNUSED PLAYERS AND THEIR PARENTS?
DS: ” It’s difficult, coaching – it’s difficult making those decisions If you are in any decision-making capacity, you can’t please everyone all the time. But for me, it links to your philosophy.
“If, all season, you have rotated, included people, shared the workload and shared responsibility, and then suddenly you change because of one game, you are open to criticism.
“So it comes back to your values, your coaching environment and all the things you have discussed with parents along the way. If you have the confidence to stick to all that, players and parents will understand.
“The bigger impact comes if you change your philosophy for one game. There is no guarantee you win the game anyway, and there are examples of teams folding or players leaving because suddenly the philosophy and values change from what has been done all season. Some children potentially will carry that forever.
“It comes from that positive learning environment across the season, where things are the same – parents are then already on board. So even if it’s a cup final, nothing changes and you have the conversations – ‘we’re going to play this team, we’re going to rotate, we’re going to guarantee your son or daughter x amount of minutes’.
“If you give players a positive experience, you inspire them to make a difference…”
“Everyone is clear, then, and I think that has more weight and value in the long term than being blinded by the result or the occasion and just wanting to win that one game.”
SHOULD I THINK ABOUT CREATING THE NEXT GENERATION OF COACHES WHEN I’M COACHING? HOW DO I ENTHUSE PLAYERS ABOUT COACHING?
DS: “Ultimately, what all this comes down to is how we make people feel. We all remember those teachers at school that were brilliant – they probably got to know you, included you, supported you and challenged you.
“That is what we are trying to do as coaches and if you make someone feel like that, they are probably going to want to replicate that further down the line.
“As coaches, we are creating young leaders, and teaching young people to take responsibility, to love the game and be interested in physical development. They might be your future personal trainers or fitness coaches, they might have a talent for doing the video analysis, or whatever it is they have a passion for.
“Ultimately, we want people to stay in the game. Our behaviours have the potential to inspire other people to do that. It is our responsibility as coaches to give them a positive impact, linked to our behaviours.
“Then, suddenly, we are creating people who want to stay in the game – as development officers, as referees, as coaches, as volunteers, because all clubs need those.
“For me, coaching is rewarding – and if you get it right, it is even more rewarding. If you give players a positive experience, you are inspiring them to go and make a difference.
“If we can pass that on to young people, to create that positive experience, and then they in turn want to create a positive experience for others, something magic happens within the football family.”