I may not be a coach however I still attend every game cheering on every child as if they were my own. I may not be a coach however I attend every training session arriving before and leaving way after collecting subs, taking messages and helping sort kits etc.
I spend hours watching other peoples children play football when my own are not even playing. I have lost count on the amount of times that our family life has come second – late night calls, rushed dinners as my partner has to leave to go to league meetings, attending parent evenings on my own as it clashes with training. Continue reading “I am not a Coach. I am a Grassroots Coaches partner and a parent.”
First aider, counsellor, lace tier but most of all their friend,
Someone they look up to, forever remembered when one day this will end.
High fives, clapping and encouragement, Now that’s what we want to see,
Not shouting from the sidelines undermining me.
It felt like watching Neville and Carragher discussing a Premier league game…….
Yes that’s right.
On my travels yesterday I was invited to a training session in Leeds to observe the kids, what I observed were a great bunch of coaches with excellent rapport and a healthy team-coach relationship.
The coaches explained to me that they train twice per week and play on Saturdays. It was great to see the interaction between the coaches and children U10s.
I couldn’t help but over hear 2 parents who I happened to be standing next to, they were analysing all parts of last weekends game to a level only surpassed by Sky Sports or MOTD.
I said it’s great the coaches (working lads) spend 2 nights per week every week come hail or shine for your children and spend their weekends on the team.
I was shocked at the reply, both parents told me…
They need to pass more, they need more structure, they need more discipline, they give up to easy, coaching could be better, little Johnny is in the wrong position, the formation is wrong etc etc.
I said “When I look out onto the pitch I see volunteers giving up there time to allow your kids to play a game, they’re doing it for free, they have raised money for strips, hoodies, tracksuits, coats and I see the respect that only a coach gets from their team. I see happy kids laughing with their coaches and banter between teammates.
What I saw was inspirational, I saw only happy children playing a GAME they love.”
Over the coming months, many coaches will brave winter conditions to deliver coaching sessions to young players. Here, FA regional coach development manager, Martin Dighton, provides ten top tips to help fully engage with players when working outdoors.
1) Young children are not mini-versions of adults
As much as they will be adults one day, the young players in your care are certainly not there yet. We must understand and recognise that we can’t treat them in the same way as we would our peers. We must always have the well-being of each of the children in our care as the priority. The session must fully engage the young players no matter what the weather.
2) Get the players moving as soon as they arrive
In poor weather keeping the players busy is vital. Young children will go cold quickly – almost without noticing – and once they are cold they will really struggle to warm up again. Telling them to run around a bit more won’t help either unfortunately – it’s too late by then.
An arrival activity is vital. The children should arrive warm and getting them active early is crucial. Little games of tag, mini 1v1s or 2v2s, and small fundamental movement games will all do this. Make sure you have this section in your session plan ready to go whatever the weather.
3) No queues and keep all the players involved
Having queues of children waiting for their turn is a big no-no in any session let alone on a cold, wet day. Can you find ways to make sure all the players are all involved all of the time? If you are struggling for equipment could you set up two or three smaller areas rather than one in order to cut down any form of waiting?
4) Use games during training
Consider what the players expect football to look like. What’s the first question they ask: ‘When are we playing a match?’ Wet and cold sessions are perfect for match time as it keeps them all involved and active. Play mini 3v3s on a couple of pitches to keep all involved and then carefully manage how you intervene to coach.
5) Work with individuals rather than stopping the whole group
Children don’t like coaches talking for ages at the best of times but on a wet day it’s even more important to keep communication concise. Can you coach individuals whilst the game plays on around them? Could you give quick challenges to players ‘on the fly’ as they pass you? Could you set yourself a challenge to intervene for no longer than 30 seconds? The kids would really appreciate this.
6) Consider practice design and progression
Spend time on planning the session. Will you use a technique-skill-game format or whole-part-whole or a myriad of other templates? Which will increase playing time the most and which may lead to times of relative inactivity? How can you create excitement and therefore engagement? Can you always have a scoring system in place? Can you ensure that if any defender wins the ball they have a way to attack and score too to keep games flowing?
How you progress the session needs to be thought about too. Can you progress some players without stopping all of them at the same time? Think about working the session with players in groups; perhaps advance the better players first before gradually progressing the weaker players later on, meaning that they’ll get the extra practice time they need. This also means that as you talk to each group two-thirds of your team are still active and warm.
7) If in doubt: play matches
If you’re ever in doubt or get caught by the rain or bad weather half-way through a session revert back to several small matches. Smaller sized matches promote ball contacts, in and out of possession play, transition and game craft. They also ensure that players are never more than one pass away from the ball, so engagement and activity levels stay high.
8) Have some rules about correct kit
It’s important to have some rules or conditions regarding kit. I’ve had children arriving in t-shirt and shorts to sessions in December and I’ve had to take the hard decision to turn them away. Parents sometimes feel that it’s okay because they’ll be running around at football – yes, but they will only be warm if they start warm in the first place. Perhaps having a club wet-weather policy would be a good idea?
We can take note from cricketers playing in early April or late September. They wear lots of thin layers rather than a couple of large ones to keep heat in. Encourage your players to do the same. It’s nothing different to what my mum used to shout as I ran off to training: “You can always take some off, if you get too hot”.
9) Safety and welfare are top priority, but each individual is different
We have a responsibility to the children and their parents to look after them and always to make decisions in their best interests. Safety and welfare are the top priority but we also mustn’t shy away from playing just because the weather isn’t great.
In a grassroots setting I worked in previously we had a rule – if the kids turned up then we would play. It was the choice of the group and their parents if we played. This meant that sometimes we played for just 30 minutes instead of the full hour, sometimes the session plan went out of the window and we just played little games and sometimes we led sessions with only three or four kids.
What we must always understand is that every child is different, some will love and thrive in the terrible weather whereas others will hate it. Either way, they are both likely to remember it for a life time.
We must make certain that our coaching fosters a love of the game and a love of playing it. Make sure that when you are next faced with bad weather you make decisions and plans based on the best interests of the little people that turn up each week to play the great game of football with you.
10) Find a way to use the weather to create memories
Some of my fondest experiences as a kid were playing outside in terrible weather. I still remember my first game in snow and the excitement playing with an orange ball for the first time gave us, the sliding tackles that seemed to last a full 30 yards through the midfield mud-pit and the diving headers that gave such a splash landing that if you timed it well could soak the watching parents.
We must appreciate that we could be building memories for our players; let’s make sure they are positive ones where the kids can’t wait to play the next time it rains. Starting to implement all of the above is a good foundation to start from.
Courtesy of The FA.
A recent grassroots survey revealed a whopping 89% of teams have had a player approached by another coach to play for them.
We asked why the craze towards poaching the best players from the area to create an elite team, who does this benefit? Is it best for the kids? Is it to feed a coaches ego to win everything?
I recall a conversation 2 years ago between 2 under 7 coaches at the end of season presentation. Whilst discussing plans for their respective under 8 season one coach said he was to advertise in local papers and social media for trials as he had a few “weak links” he wanted to bring in players who were better.
The second coach challenged this and said he thought it was wrong to have a team at this age for so long and then have trials to ultimately have them replaced.
He said a coaches job is to coach, develop and nurture his players, and not to cast aside kids he has and poach other teams kids for a better team. This he argued was not coaching.
Both coaches continued the debate for a while but could not agree.
Ultimately the trials happened and about 60% of the team changed, again he did this from U8s to U9s and was in his eyes extremely successful winning leagues/tournaments and cups.
At U10s things began to change, knowing that there own children’s positions on the team were constantly at threat, parents began turning there back on the trophies and uncertainty and instead turned towards consistency and certainty, the penny had dropped.
This wasn’t a sustainable or happy team, it was filled with stressed children worried about there place.
No child should have to have this worry, what had started off as something for the kids had turned into an ego trip for the coach.
The good news is that poachers are uncommon. Over time, clubs and parents figure things out as the poacher’s methods wear thin.
The short-term benefit of a league or Cup is overcome by the poacher’s reputation and remember, if your playing for a poacher’s team your very place on the team is under threat at all times.
If your child has a coach, and not a poach, take a moment to thank him or her for doing things the right way because ultimately something much more than football is at stake and a coach knows this, your child’s happiness and wellbeing.
And in the end, the U-7s premier or U-10s holiday park tournament won’t be nearly as important as the good character your coach displayed each day for your son or daughter.
I want to thank you coach for all that you do,
I know that my child looks up to you,
Not only are you helping him develop his sport,
I am aware of how much consideration and thought..
Goes into your sessions and goes into the team,
How your efforts are rewarded,
When you’re seeing them beam.
Some nights I can see that when you arrive,
You look tired and hungry but hold it inside,
Your commitment to my son is second to non,
You listen, your understanding your keeping it fun.
You are supportive and calm in everything you do,
You have respect for your players,
In return they respect you.
I appreciate your efforts, I appreciate your time,
I appreciate your politeness whenever we whine !! (sorry)
I appreciate your dedication that you give to my child,
Your fun and sense of humour when it’s crazy and wild.
So I just want you to know coach that although I may not say,
your kindness is always noticed,
In many different ways,
It’s noticed from the sidelines, it’s noticed from my son,
It’s noticed from the parents, it’s noticed all day long…
Thank you coach for all that you do,
A Role model i’m proud that my child looks up too.