Coaching Development: Mnemonics

A conversation on Twitter (where else?) with Jamie Devlin today has inspired me to attempt to see if we can gather a collection of coaching mnemonics which could be used by football coaches anywhere to help them remember some of the key lists which form coaching techniques, drills or skills. Aaron Danks made reference to an absolutely brilliant mnemonic last week when he mentioned TITS as a way to remember the key aspects of dribbling, that is – Technique Intelligence Tricks and Speed (who will ever forget that?!).

From a previous job I know mnemonics are commonly used in numerous practices as a way of helping people to remember stuff – so I thought I’d see if we could gather a collection via this site and I’ll compile a list which can then be managed and maintained.

I believe the Level 1 course already touches on one in particular which is ABCs (Agility – Balance – Coordination) so we’re already seeing that the FA are using these formally.

So, answers on a postcard (via the comments box) and we’ll see what we can do. Remember: these are a great aid to learning & remembering!


Coaching: Keeping it uncomplicated

It occurred to me earlier today that coaching young footballers is (and should be) uncomplicated but coaches can get it wrong by making it complicated. Uncomplicated though, does not mean easy.

What do I mean?

There was some excellent discussion on Twitter earlier amongst coaches following a particular question which I posted up on behalf of another coach. The question centered around an under 11 player and we discussed what the best position might be for him to play and how a coach might go about improving his speed but whilst we pondered the answers to this question we were missing a very important point – is he enjoying his football?

When asked the question I found myself started thinking about the footballing answers when in actual fact I needed a different hat on, my youth coach hat. What a youth coach asks himself is – is this boy enjoying his football? Are we giving him opportunities to try different positions and, why are we worrying about improving his speed (which in itself is really a genetic attribute) at 11 years of age?

It would be easy as a coach to start thinking too deeply about player development, positions and systems when coaching a young age group and the danger of this would be that the complexity is passed on to your players. Young footballers don’t want complexity, complexity isn’t fun and the impact of this could be a young player losing interest in the game because you’re not allowing him or her the freedom to grow naturally, develop naturally and enjoy their football.

Youth football coaches have other challenges which mean the role is not simple but we shouldn’t make it complicated, instead we should focus on making it fun, fair and teach the basics. There’s plenty of time at a later stage for complexity – experienced football coaches will tell you this and I think I’ve realised it today.

Coach Development: Two new courses booked

Due to it being half-term we’ve got no training this week so I have no coaching diary entry to write. Instead I thought I’d create a new tag line for blog posts, ‘Coach Development’, and tell you that I’ve enrolled on two coaching courses today.

The only formal coaching course I’ve been on so far is the FA’s Level 1 course which I went on back in August 2010 so I’m very much looking forward to these two courses.

FA Youth Award Module 1

The FA Youth Award Module 1 is receiving lots of plaudits from people who’ve attended the course and I know the FA are pushing it hard as they referenced it numerous times during the Level 1 course and some of the content is also mentioned in their Future Game book. The course is the first of three modules under the ‘Youth Award’ series and from what I’ve read I believe Module 1 will focus on how children learn, how to motivate them, how to avoid knocking their confidence and it also introduces new games following those which are demonstrated during the Level 1 course.

I had to choose between taking this and taking the Level 2 course due to an overlap in dates but I hope this course is going to provide more immediate benefit as I’m currently coaching a group of Under 7s.

Click here for details on the FA Youth Award Module 1

The FA Introductory Certificate in Coaching Adults

I stumbled across this course but it looks exactly what I’m looking for. Whilst passionate about coaching & developing young players I also have ambitions of coaching at a senior level so to come across a course which covers a range of topics from training drills (aimed at adults), to team management, fitness and motivation was to good an opportunity to turn down.

The course is only 1 day and at £45 I’m hoping it’s going to provide value for money. I’ve not come across anyone who’s been on this course so please let me know your thoughts if you’ve already been on it.

Click here for details of FA Introductory Certificate in Coaching Adults

Other learning

In addition to these two I’ve signed up to two sessions being run by the Oxfordshire FA’s Coaching Association in the next couple of months; one is an introduction to coaching goalkeepers and another is a session which looks at how Wolves FC develop their academy players so both of these should also be useful learning experiences.

And finally, I’ve seen various Futsal coaching courses dotted around recently and wanted to ask what might be a fairly stupid question – is there value to be had from a Futsal courses for non-Futsal coaches? Just interested…

Coaching Day 10: Boisterous Boys

Despite a lower than normal turnout tonight we still had the full range of coaching emotions and skillset required – we’ve coached, we’ve been physios, we’ve been comforters and we’ve been parents/teachers. So another eventful 60 minutes in the world of youth coaching 🙂

My first aim tonight was to spend some time working with the boy who I’d mentioned in my previous post and so I used our warm up routine to help him develop his dribbling. He responded quite well to the fact that he had all my attention and I managed to improve his dribbling from kick & rush to something more controlled. However, he later lost interest in the games / matches but I think the extra attention had at least helped keep him engaged for longer than I’ve seen before.

It’s worth mentioning that I love to use the dribbling warm-up routine to encourage the players to experiment with tricks and it’s something I’m always repeating, “try a trick”. I find if you ask any of the boys to show you a new trick they’ve learnt then you’ll generally find they’ve got something to show you and I believe it’s important to encourage them to show you the trick, praise it and get them to try it during the session. This can then give them the confidence to try it in a match situation.

Before we moved in to groups tonight we had to have a word with the boys because for some reason they were even more boisterous than usual and this had led to over zealous tackling, hacking, kicking and punching – so we stamped on that pretty quickly. However, it was something we needed to pull one or two of the boys up on a couple of times across the evening. Hard to know if it was just them being overly excited or not and I guess you expect it from them at that age but we had to let them know that their behaviour wasn’t acceptable.

Once I had my small group together we worked on dribbling, passing and shooting within a couple of short games and this also allowed me to continue to work on their communication (calling for the ball). During the games I had a couple of boys in my group who are already looking like promising players so it was key that I ensured they were challenged during the shooting game because otherwise they’d find it too easy and get bored. Then, on the contrary, I had a couple of boys who were struggling to score so I had to make sure I offered them praise for hitting the target, dribbling well etc. Ultimately, ensuring that each player felt he was succeeding in what he was doing and that each boy was being challenged – something which I believe the FA are keen on ensuring coaches do.

Tonight was one of those sessions where it feels fairly low key but when you think about it and digest it you realise that a) there’s never a dull moment in youth coaching and b) if you’ve helped at least one child improve a little bit then you’ve done your job.

Did I let him down?

I had an interesting situation at training last week which I found a bit awkward and it’s had me thinking about it ever since. I’ve been coaching the under 7s at this club since the start of the season and there’s been one child in particular who stands out a bit from the rest, primarily because he doesn’t really take any interest in the football part of the session (or in fact, any part of the session).

He’s quite reserved and will generally take part in the warm-up only to end up sitting away from the kids and either doing his own thing or standing on the sides as the session progresses. Both of us (the manager and I) have encouraged him to be more involved in the games we’ve played in the past but ultimately if he’s not interested then as a coach you revert to focussing on the other 15-20 kids who’re there to play football.

In the past I’ve noticed that he loses interested when he’s had shots saved during a shooting game (for example) so I’ve tried to improve his chances of success but he still ended up sitting on the periphery of the session. Which is kind of what happened last week…

We’d split in to two groups and this child had started with the other group. I’d set up a SSG (Small Sided Game) for the players I had with me and was watching and coaching from the side of the pitch when he came over and stood next to me. He didn’t say anything at first and then grabbed my hand and asked if he could join in with the SSG I was running. I asked him why he wasn’t with the others anymore and he stated that “X kept saving all my shots” (with X being a boy who was playing in goal) so immediately I’m aware that once again the failure-factor has steered him away from the game he was involved with.

I told him that I couldn’t add him in to the SSG I was running at that point because the teams were even – note to self: I should have just let him join one of the teams, not sure why I didn’t. So he just held my hand and started to ask me what were (I assume) the maths questions he’d been taught that day/week. From talking to the manager of our team about this boy in the past I understand that he’s very bright for his age but where his intellect is clearly good (I could tell this from the maths questions he was asking) he’s obviously struggling with his social development.

So, apart from the fact that I should have just allowed him to join our game it begs the question – is there anything I should be doing with this boy to help him enjoy his football training more? And, ideally, incorporate him with the others? It strikes me as being a classic example of what the Level 1 course teaches you – you’re not just a soccer coach when you’re working with children of this age.

(P.S Aware that blog posts such as this might verge on the border of being a bit too personal but I wanted to share it as it’s relevant to challenges coaches have to overcome).

Coaching Day 9: No Shooting, No Fun.

I’ve got mixed emotions about tonight’s session. On the one hand I tried a couple of new games and experimented further with what sort of stuff the kids do and don’t enjoy, but on the other hand I don’t feel the kids got as much out of the session as they have done in previous weeks.

I’ll explain.

In recent weeks I’ve concentrated quite a bit on dribbling, control & shooting and this has ultimately led to games focussing on shooting but with the other attributes built in around them. However, tonight I wanted to work on the kid’s passing because it’s something we’ve not worked on much in recent weeks and hence I felt it’s something which it’d be good to focus on – this meant the games didn’t evolve around shooting at one goal.

I’d canvassed both Twitter and the World Wide Web for ideas and selected a couple of games which I felt would work well – that is, they incorporated passing & shooting.

Game 1 – having completed a quick session on heading the ball, I split the boys up in to two teams and had them playing a SSG which had only one rule, “All players had to touch the ball before a goal could be scored”. I’d hoped that this would require the boys to pass it more but the game went a long time without a goal being scored, the kids were finding it difficult and therefore I decided to change the game.

Game 2 – no goalkeepers and goals could be scored in one of two ways. Number 1, “Stop the ball on the line” or number 2, “Pass the ball through the goal and to a player on the other side of the goal”. To be fair, I probably hindered the success of the game as I hadn’t provided a demonstration of the two types of goal but the idea of the game didn’t go down well with the boys and they started to lose concentration during the match (presumably because they found it too difficult and success was limited).

Game 3 – a simple SSG with no rules, but players encouraged to call for the ball and pass it where they could.

We ended with a match but unlike previous weeks I hadn’t had much of a chance to work with the players on parts of their game which they could apply to the match.

So, mixed success because I’ve learnt a bit more as part of improving as a coach and whilst the success wasn’t as tangible as recent weeks the kids were being challenged throughout and I learnt that they enjoyed working on headers 🙂

Complexity of games aside, we (the other coach & I) also felt that an increase in the number of kids at tonight’s session had reduced the quality of our coaching. Instead of the usual 6 or 7 kids in a group I had 10 tonight and two of them were fairly disruptive which in turn meant the other kids lost concentration. The milder weather will no doubt see an increase in numbers so I guess it’s up to us to learn quickly and adapt!

Roll on next week.