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).

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About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

8 Responses to Did I let him down?

  1. Hi,

    If this kid really is pretty intelligent, how about trying this? Put the idea into his head that by taking more and more shots, he will be helping the other kid (the keeper) to improve his game? It might just take away the need for him to win all the time (by winning I mean scoring) if he feels he can help some of the others?

    Only you can really know what to do as you obviously know them…..

    Jason

    • Simon says:

      Hi Jason,

      Hmm, hadn’t thought of doing something like that but will think about giving it a go. Had some great feedback to this situation so looking forward to getting back to training next week.

      Thanks
      Simon

  2. Martin Haskins says:

    I like the sound of that suggestion, as football is a team thing then they should be working for each other.
    Maybe, like Jason has said, if he is helping someone else then the goalie can help him out and they could advise each other how to improve. Improvement is obviously always a good thing but of course he shouldn’t be too hard on himself…

    I have noticed recently from some Under 9’s football matches I have been to that the parents can be hard on the young lads/girls playing, always picking out the negatives, NOT something I’m keen on, I prefer encouragement … even more so when some of the parents give conflicting instructions to the Manager/Coach.

    I will be reading these blogs from now on.

    • Simon says:

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’m going to try Jason’s suggestion and certainly encourage this boy as much as I can. I think the best I can do is try to help him but it could be that football isn’t his game and he’s there because of a parent or to be social. I’ll keep his progress updated via this blog.

      Thanks
      Simon

  3. Patrick Kehoe says:

    Regarding your post about the boy who has a difficult time joining in… the reality of coaching sometimes means dealing with difference and not only uniformity… I remember coaching three such children when I was coaching at the developmental level… my ‘solution’ was to get one person to do one on ones with the boy (which was often me or the assistant coach/could be a parent… then next time/practice expand to he and two teammates… its a progressive intergration approach… some coaches resist ‘accomodations’ of this kind, and yet it can work with patience and reasonable attentiveness… NOTE: there are children that learn best with verbal ques… others need visual… others verbal and visual information… that’s something to keep one’s eye on… AND children are often ‘put’ into sports they don’t REALLY want to be part of, even up to the teen years or interests change… regardless, attention tends to follow interest… as coaches we must guard against BELIEVING that all the guys FEEL PART OF THE TEAM… often that is NOT the case… personal intergrations are difficult for kids/teens… as a coach that’s why I have ALWAYS resisted players constantly partnering up with their pals, best buddies… because pockets and cliques can form even at very young ages and coaches often are not attentive to this phenomena.

    • Simon says:

      Thanks Patrick, some food for thought in there. He’s an interesting character and show’s appetite for the game in the early stages of our session but can then lose interest later on. Going to work closely with him over the next few weeks and see if I can spot why it is his interest suddenly disappears – it might be a lack of success (as mentioned in the blog) or it could be something social. If he enjoys his football then I hope I can improve his enjoyment of our sessions and get him more integrated with the other kids.

      Cheers,
      Simon

  4. Pingback: Coaching Day 13: Decision making « A coach's journal

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