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.”
It’s really sad that people have forgotten what kids football is really about.
- Is it about winning at all costs? No!
- Is it about politics between parents/coaches? No!
We know, the same as in a lot of life situations that some children are more talented than others in sport. The same as I know there are people out there that are better brain surgeons than me.
Should we make the children feel inadequate because of this? Absolutely not! Should we involve the children in club rivalry? No! Should there even be club rivalry at grassroots level??!! As long as they’re playing and having the time of their life’s getting caked in mud on a Sunday morning.. what else matters?
We’re draining the life’s out of these kids week in week out.. The question is would I love my children and be any more proud of them than I am now if they were to be signed to an academy tomorrow..? The answer to that is.. I couldn’t possibly love or be more proud of my children no matter what they do!
I have a son that is a goalkeeper that makes some actual WORLD CLASS saves that I couldn’t..even if I tried stop myself.. and he thinks nothing of scoring goal kicks every now and then.. does he make mistakes.. yes… don’t we all!! But he loves what he does! And so do I!! I have another son.. that takes free kicks like I’ve never seen a 7 year old child take before, he’d put Beckham to shame and that’s not even being biased it’s been said by many people.. is he the strongest player on the pitch? No.. But do I burst with pride every time he touches the ball.. yes!
I have a TEAM full of players that have their own unique little things that make my Sundays and hopefully their Sundays amazing.. are they lucky to have me as their coach… No.. I’m the lucky one!! I don’t vision that we’re going to go on and be world beaters but that doesn’t mean them nor I don’t put the effort in each week purely on the basis that we love the game! No matter what, I can say I’ve taken part in their DEVELOPMENT not only as football players.. but actual human beings as well.
We have a right old laugh week in week out.. At the end of most games they’ll literally come and pile on me and bring tears to my eyes with the little smiles on their faces beaming up at me, hanging on my every word.
It doesn’t end there.. as I don’t just run a team.. I run a club.. and everyone that is part of our club I am proud of.. more so the kids.. after all.. they are what make it!! Let’s give them something back! They are not machines….please for the love of god stop treating them this way!
Disheartened grassroots football manager.
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.
A coaches worth isn’t found in their win/loss record or on the resume of which team they have coached, it is found in the impact that they have on their players lives.
FREE Grassroots Mag HERE
“A good coach takes his love for the game and instills it in you. They mold you into the player they see inside of you and watch your talent and dedication grow into a skill that you both can be proud of. His payoff is the smile he sees when you’ve reached your goal. His drive are the tears you cry because you want it so bad, knowing that he has the same feeling inside him is what motivates the player”
A good coach often without realising or even trying when will help a child fall in love with the game they love and hopefully have a lifelong involvement in some capacity be it playing, coaching, refereeing etc.
Instilling the value of teamwork, sportsmanship, integrity, honesty and respect are equally important into a child’s outlook on sport and life.
Children should look back in adulthood at there grassroots years with fondness and remember there coach, most will hold there coach in high regard.
Speaking from personal experience I can honestly say my years playing grassroots were fantastic, made so by my coach. A man I still look up to, there first person in my thoughts when I need advice and the first person I will ring for a beer.
Because you see a coaches worth isn’t found in their win/loss record or on the resume of which team they have coached, it is found in the impact that they have on their players lives.
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.
For the majority of us, we coach or manage our football team because it gives us a sense of joy. We enjoy the feeling we get when we help a child achieve something within the game that makes their face light up.
We’re not professionals, but we were the ones that stepped forward to run the team when others didn’t.
And that is the point. We are not professionals, nor do we claim to be. We’ve all sat on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in our armchair and shouted at the television as if we know better but we know, deep down, that we are no Pep Guardiola. Some of us, fortunately not myself, have come across parents who believe that they could be but ultimately they, like ourselves, had the chance to run the team but shirked away at the opportunity.
I’ve heard the horror stories. I’ve witnessed them in fact. I began coaching at an early age, helping run a local team at aged only 17. I stopped shortly before my 24th birthday to concentrate on the birth of my first son safe in the knowledge that my coaching days were over (little did I know that only six years later I would have a team of my own). Several years ago, whilst helping out with the aforementioned local team, I witnessed one woman actually slap the manager because her son had been named as a substitute. These are the kind of stories we hear about almost on a weekly basis.
But that is not my point. My point goes back to the fact that we are not professionals. We have full-time jobs in which we fit the running of our team around our already hectic day-to-day schedules. Now I am the first to admit that when I was first ‘awarded’ the manager title I felt out of my depth. Granted, I had coached before but not six and seven-year-old children. I didn’t have a clue where to start. However, shortly after I struck gold.
I am fortunate enough to be involved with a club that has many years experience when it comes to running a club at grassroots level. They had found a UEFA B licensed coach who was willing to help out and take a block of training sessions for whichever of our teams felt that they would benefit from some professional coaching. The fee was small, minimal when taking into account the small fee which we charge for training anyway, and all of my parents were willing to pay an additional £1 each to take up this opportunity.
I can’t stress enough how much this benefited everyone involved. The children learnt plenty and I picked up some invaluable tips that I feel have made me a better coach all-round. From how to treat the children in a manner that is fun but still gains respect, to drills and football related games which keep every child engaged at all times, hence stopping them from becoming bored.
I took this coach on for a four week block before our season began and it definitely helped my team prepare themselves from the massive step up involved from training to their first matches as grassroots players.
I can’t recommend this approach highly enough. The whole experience enabled the team to form a bond which perhaps I could not have achieved. I’m not a professional and neither, at least not yet, are any of the children. Getting help from one was a great experience and I would jump at the chance to do it again. It’s not a permanent thing, it’s almost a treat and the children loved every minute of it. Unfortunately for myself (not so much the man himself), the coach was snapped up by Manchester City shortly after to help run their new academy in China.
There’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, taking that jump does have major benefits for all involved.