Coaching Day 2: U7s

Tonight was better, much better. We had a lower turn-out, presumably due to the colder weather, which meant we had a football for each of the kids and this helped no end.

To start with, we could play a proper game of sharks v minnows as a warm-up with all the players dribbling a ball from one end to the other and this worked so well that we played two games.

We then split the groups in to two again (as last week) and so I started by playing traffic lights. This worked ok but I think I played it a bit too long, or didn’t vary it enough as the kids seemed to get a bit bored. I also had two boys who did the opposite to what I said – quite frustrating, but I eventually found a way to coax them in to playing the game properly. As for the game – I had a cone for stopping, one for changing direction, one for sitting on the ball and one for doing a trick – the final one worked really well as they suddenly all engaged and all wanted to show me what they could do. It was also much easier to dish out praise as it was very easy to spot the kids doing good tricks, or those attempting them at least!

I then did some shooting, where the players would dribble from a point before having a shot. They enjoyed this (who doesn’t enjoying shooting?) and we progressed it by making them have to take the ball round me before shooting so it included dribbling and shooting.

I then moved in to a game of 5 v 5 and made sure the focus was on passing. I found the kids quite responsive to simply asking “who can you pass to?” whenever they got on the ball. They didn’t seem as greedy as in the bigger game we played last week, perhaps because there was more time on the ball so they could get their head up. Next week I think I’ll attempt to stop the game every now and then to ask them to look at where the space is.

The only downside tonight was one particularly unruly kid who seemed to want to do the opposite to what I instructed, torment other kids and generally disrupt the session but I guess that’s what happens when you have U7 players. I managed to quieten him by putting him in goal (his favoured position) for the shooting and 5v5 games.

I think the session had a good flow to it, I think the players as a whole probably spent far longer with a ball at their feet as they did last week and I found a previously supplied tip of getting them to sit down when talking to them worked really well.

I’ve also acquired two nicknames in a short space of time, apparently I look like Joe Cole to some and Clint Dempsey to others!


No battle plan survives contact with the enemy

If I learnt anything from my first coaching session, it’s that to be an effective coach you have to be able to be flexible with your plans at any time. I went along to my the first session  with what I thought were fairly cast iron plans because I knew what games I was going to use and had planned in my head how I was going to carry them out. Within 2 minutes of being given half of the kids at the session my plans were in need of alteration, and it threw me.

I’m now planning for the next session on Wednesday and I’m planning with an element of caution. I’m planning to use games which have a theme and work on a particular skillset, I’m planning to use games which are easy to explain and fit with the equipment available but I’m also trying to ensure I have options so that if any one game doesn’t work I have other alternatives to use.

I’m starting to understand that the ability to be inventive with sessions and be able to change ideas at short notice is what might make the difference as a coach and I’m hoping that the preparation I put in to a session will ensure it’s a good session and a session which gives maximum benefit to the players. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to seeing if this week’s preparation stands me in good stead come Wednesday…

Coaching Day 1: The U7s

So, just under 3 months after creating this blog and I’ve now completed my first coaching session! I spent an hour helping another guy/coach with his U7s side and it was a fascinating first experience. Oh, and by the way, when I say U7s what I really mean is 5-7 year olds.

There were a few interesting initial observations about the children who we were coaching. Firstly – their age range (as stated above), secondly – the mix of boys and girls, thirdly – the fact there were players from other villages and finally – there were quite a few there for the first time. This differed to my expectation whereby we’d be working with a fairly standard group of regular players who were all within the appropriate age group. Anyway, not that it mattered, but worth sharing my thoughts on that.

The session started with a warm up and the main coach used the game Sharks v Minnows to do this (or bull-dog, whatever you want to call it) which proved a fun and energetic way to start the session.

After that, we split the kids up in to two sections – he took one group and I took the other. This took some quick thinking because all the planning I had done before the session had assumed there I would have a football for each child, but I didn’t have this luxury. I’d also intended to start with a game of sharks v minnows but because we’d done this as a warm up (without footballs) I didn’t want to repeat it – time to think on my feet.

I tried a few games with the children, a group of around 10, over the course of the next 30 minutes. I tried Moves in Twos (from Level 1), a game of 5 v 5 scrimmage and I also did some basic passing. I learnt quite a lot in this 30 minute window and am quite happy to admit that at times I found it quite difficult. So, what did I learn?

  • It was very difficult, bordering on impossible, to get every child to listen to my instructions. Even when my instructions were very brief.
  • They were mainly interested in when they’d get to play a match
  • They quickly lost concentrating when they weren’t involved (I feared this upon realising we didn’t have enough footballs for one each)

On the games I used:

Basic passing
Worked ok and kept each child fairly involved but I could see they were getting bored of it fairly quickly.

5v5 scrimmage
Worked reasonably well because it forced them to have more awareness of the other goals (I used 4 goals) so you could see them thinking a bit more about where the space was. The only downfall was that they defaulted to wanting a goalkeeper for each goal (interesting) and therefore a couple of the ‘keepers got a bit bored. I think this proved useful though so I’ll do scrimmage again next time but I’ll probably make the teams even smaller and create two pitches so that the kids get more touches of the football.

Moves in twos
I believe is too complicated for 5 – 7 year old children so I’ll probably not use this again.

So in summary, an insightful hour:

  • It was useful because I now know what to expect next week
  • Which means I can be more prepared and take along games which I know will be useful to the children whilst ensuring they’re simple to understand and implement
  • One of the problems I knew I’d have is that I don’t know much about children of that age as I’m neither a parent, nor have I coached before
  • However, I did try to ensure anything I did focussed on developing the kids technique, rather than on anything competitive (i.e. just a match)
  • I introduced myself to as many parents as I could so that they knew who I was and why I was there

I’m really glad that I have now completed my first bit of coaching. I can build on this experience, get to know the kids better and understand more about coaching – learning as much from the other coach as possible in the process. Role on next week!

P.S Any tips on keeping their attention gratefully received!