Knowing when to shut up?


The other night I’d been taking part in a training session with the side I play for and at the end of the session I decided to head over and watch a coach working with an U10/U11s team to see how he was working with the players and what kind of games he was using. As I watched, the first observation I made was the amount of time he spent talking to the players and whilst I was too far away to give an opinion on the content it started to get me thinking, “How does a coach know when to shut up?”.

If I hadn’t been on the FA Level 1 course recently I may not have given this a second thought but it reminded me about a guy on the course who our instructor had made a constant point of picking out because of his enthusiasm for talking. In one practice session he’d spent 10 of the allocated 15 minutes talking, leaving 5 minutes for football! The coach encouraged us to keep our content brief, relevant and make good use of Q&A.

So, as someone with little/no coaching experience to date I headed over to the footy4kids forum and asked them what they thought, whether they consciously chose to keep verbal communication to a minimum and what the general consensus was on this topic.

This is what they had to say:

  • Try to keep any instruction/description of the next game brief
  • Use demonstrations
  • Use visual aids, such as diagrams, if required
  • Make it two-way / interactive, ask the kids questions and allow them to ask questions back
  • If you need to stop a session to make a point then keep it brief, check understand and let them carry on
  • If you have a point to make give yourself time to think about what you want to say, this will reduce the chances of you rambling
  • If you need to talk to them for a longer period of time, this could be perfectly valid, so don’t limit time for the sake of it
  • And remember: people learn/understand in different ways, so sometimes you’ll need to instruct, demo and give a visual description to help people understand

As always, I’ve used this blog to answer my own question and shared the advice I’ve acquired in the hope it might be useful to others. And as always, if anyone thinks I’ve missed key points, or want to counter what I’ve written above then please share it with us.

P.S If you haven’t seen or registered at the footy4kids forum then I thoroughly recommend you do so, there’s some excellent advice and experience to tap in to.

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Keeping goalkeepers motivated


Whilst at training last week it occurred to me that goalkeepers can quite easily become de-motivated when taking part in shooting and finishing games/drills. A game centred around either shooting or finishing should work on improving both forward players and goalkeepers but it was evident that if the forwards were scoring freely then the goalkeepers were becoming de-motivated.

There could be a few reasons why this might be happening ; the goalkeeper could be struggling for confidence and therefore to see the ball flying past them could be doing further damage, it could be that the coach has allowed the game to become too easy for the strikers or it could be that the game isn’t relevant which would lead to the goalkeepers failing to see that it’s helping them to improve.

Whatever it is, I think it’s important that coaches are aware of the impact these games could have, especially when shooting/finishing games are incredibly popular with outfield players and therefore it’s likely that they may push for you to do this kind of game during a session.

I think a coach needs to ensure the following for finishing/shooting games:

  • Is it relevant?
  • Does it benefit both the forwards and goalkeepers?
  • If it doesn’t benefit the goalkeepers, should an alternate outfield player be used in goal?
  • Would the goalkeeper benefit from some sort of protection, such as a defender to put pressure on the strikers?
Those are just some thoughts following last week’s session, so I’d be interested in understand others view on this?

What do I know about coaching under 7s? Nothing, actually…


As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m going to start my coaching efforts by helping to coach a team of Under 7 boys from (hopefully) tomorrow evening. So, having understood that I’ll be starting with U7s I asked the obvious question, “What do I know about 6/7 year old children and how to coach them?” The answer? Very little, if anything…

To help give myself a fighting chance I decided to do some brief reading over the weekend to see what I could find out about coaching U7 footballers and then be in a position to re-visit this list after a couple of months.

So, what did I find out?

  • As young children, they are still developing physically which includes areas such as balance and aerobic capacity:
    • As such, their football coaching should include games which help them develop in this area (i.e. controlling the ball with various parts of the body)
    • They don’t need 5 mile runs for fitness
    • Their body isn’t fully developed in regulating their temperature which means they have a tendency to get very hot very quickly, so ensure they get plenty of drink breaks
  • They are likely to dwell on negative feedback and therefore do not criticise, or give negative feedback. Only reinforce positives, “catch them in”
  • Focus on technique, games such as ‘Sharks v Minnows’ and ‘numbers’ feature heavily on sites such as http://www.footy4kids.co.uk when looking for games for young children
  • Their attention span is short, so keep game descriptions brief and demo all the time
  • Tactics are meaningless to children of 6 or 7 years old
  • Finally, and most importantly, they must find football enjoyable – so make sure you have fun and make sure they have fun too.

 That’s a top level summary of what my weekend’s reading told me about coaching U7s! I’m sure there’s a million other points available for me to note but half the fun should be learning about these as I go! I’ll ensure I revisit this post after a couple of months and share my views having spent an hour a week with our local U7s team.

 In the mean time, if you’re reading this thinking “YOU’VE MISSED SOMETHING IMPORTANT!” then please share it as it might help me and it might also help anyone else who comes across this post 🙂

Coaching U7s


I attended the monthly committee meeting for my local youth setup last night and had a really useful discussion with a number of the people in attendance. Firstly, it was great to be welcomed in to the club and made to feel like they valued the fact I wanted to help out.

Secondly, I was able to talk to some of the team’s coaches and managers who were all keen to understand what age group I was looking to get involved with or what age group they thought I should / should not get involved with.

I’ve been given the CRB form so I’ll be filling that out quickly as it’s the final hurdle I need to get over before I could get involved. Also, the club have kindly offered to pay for this.

The output of the meeting was that I’d start by helping to coach the U7s but they were also happy for me to spend time with some of the other age groups which would be really useful and is recommended as part of gaining experience and understanding how other age groups train, what ability they are and what children at varying ages are like (behavioural), so I shall certainly take full advantage of their offer!

All in all a really positive night and one which will hopefully lead to an exciting season, my first as a football coach!

P.S Any tips on coaching U7s welcome. Please leave a comment if you have any!

Repetition pays off, team pass it like Arsenal!


This blog is aimed at my beginnings as a youth football coach but from time to time I’ll cover other coaching related topics which come to mind, especially anything related to the side I play for, hence where this blog comes from.

Since returning to pre-season training in July we’ve focussed on two things – fitness and passing, and they’ve been covered at every training session from the first session to the final session before our first game of the season.

They’ve been covered in a range of methods and they’ve maybe not always been covered as the FA might advise but the emphasis has been clear and the hours have been put it, which is why it was great that the first game of the season saw the team looking fit, sharp and above all else, passing the ball superbly.

Being a player I hadn’t appreciated this too much but on reflection it’s clear to see that the repetition of areas we wanted to improve has really paid off. I ‘d even helped in a few of our sessions by running some passing-based games/drills, mainly because it’s a key ethos of mine – teams must pass the ball.

What was more impressive yesterday, was that without prior-recognition, the players all realised that their work over the last two months had come to fruition and suddenly it all made sense. The running, the passing without a goal [which had been questioned] – it all came together.

Come the next game we might find that we can’t pass for toffee but I doubt it. I doubt it because I guarantee we’ll focus on passing again in training this week, and next week, and the week after – and it’ll continue to develop our team with the players now knowing why we’re doing it…

So even as a player, I’ve started to see the evidence that repetition can bring reward, the challenge is to avoid repetition = boring.

Chomping at the bit


It’s been just over a week now since I completed the FA Level 1 Coaching Course and I’m absolutely itching to get involved in some youth coaching – the only thing standing in my way now is CRB clearance!

I’ve been pushing the club to get this sorted for me ASAP because I’d hate to start forgetting about some of the fantastic stuff I learnt over the course of the last two weekends and so hopefully it’ll only be a couple of weeks before it’s sorted.

In the mean time I’ve been reading back through some of the notes I jotted down during the course and I’ve also used a few of the games we learnt on the course at a training session for our adult Sunday side, all of which seemed to go down really well! I’m yet to watch the DVDs supplied with the course material so they’re the next thing I’m going to cover, well, amongst all the blogs and forums I’m reading!