Coach Development: Decision Making

When I stepped in to the world of football coaching around a year ago I remember one of the pieces advice I heard was regarding the importance of decision making in a child’s development and it’s something which I keep at the forefront of my conscience when delivering training sessions to the U7s I work with.

What also makes this interest for me, and perhaps why it stays with me, is because I work for an education company. I don’t work directly in educational establishments but my line of work does give me exposure to some of the topics being discussed within the education sector and quite often you hear stuff which takes you back to your football coaching.

Today was a good example of that. I happened to stumble upon a blog which is written by a primary school in the UK. The school were blogging about a new piece of hardware and in what was presumably a message to parents they wrote the following…

we have always believe that the children have the choice. Whatever we are doing in class, we provide the children with the task and give them options to complete it. This philosophy allows children to push themselves by trying to use new tools or equipment. As an example let us look at an art session. The children are given the choice to colour in a piece of blank paper. In a class of 30, 12 of them choose felt tips, 9 choose colour pencils, 5 choose wax crayons and the final 4 decide to use paint.

What has this got to do with technology? At [the school] we believe the same applies to ICT. As a school we provide Windows, Apple and Linux technology for the children to use. Teaching the children about the range of platforms available, and giving them experience of them is key to providing the children with the skills they need in the 21st century. These are not just ICT skills but it also allows them to make choices of the consumers of tomorrow.

I find it incredibly interesting thinking about decision making within the context of football because even in a small sided game, we’re asking kids of all ages to makes tens or hundreds of decisions on a frequent basis and that’s even without the instructions we (or tens of parents) could be providing them with.

I think from what I’ve seen in my short time coaching is that some coaches are acutely away of the need to allow young footballers to make their own decisions and come up with their own solutions but others aren’t and this should perhaps be an area that requires more focus.

What also strikes me is how much we as football coaches could learn from the education industry, they’re essentially the same thing. Do other coaches read up on teaching techniques and theories or is this a relatively untapped area from within football circles?

About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

7 Responses to Coach Development: Decision Making

  1. Hi Si,

    Great points made here, there isnt much transfer of information and approaches between coaches and teachers. I work a min. of 2 hours a day in schools, and have learned a lot from teachers. They have given me loads of pointers, which have changed the way I coach. Equally I have had head teachers, who have taught for 25 years, say “thats a good way of doing that, i’ve never thought of that!”.

    I think that we need to think of all the roles as coaches we have to fill; teacher, mentor, guide, friend, role model, parent,..etc and the MASSIVE skill required.

    I often have a nose round the staff rooms, chat to teachers and share experiences. There’s a reason some teachers have great rapport with the kids, some kids love, some have the ability to communicate..etc. We could learn a lot.

    The benefits of creating sessions that kids HAVE to make decisions are obvious. One major benefit is that you get chance to observe what the kids are doing, focus on what they can and can’t do and what needs to be worked on.



    • Simon says:

      Hi Dan,

      I think you’re pretty fortunate if you’re getting exposure to teachers and are able to learn from them and I expect a lot of coaches wish they had access to such a pool of teaching knowledge! I could be wrong, but it feels like football coaching is only just starting to realise some of the benefits that can be gained from learning from those who teach on a daily basis, or maybe it’s just taking more attention to it.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply, much appreciated.


  2. Very true! It’s important to keep parent expectations level – the kids will make errors in judgment on the pitch and it’s expected. And in comparison to errors in judgement we ask them to avoid in “real life” like not riding their bicycle down the middle of a busy road or checking both ways before crossing a street – the cost of failure is very small.

    Through coaching, I’ve come to have a new appreciation for the work professional educators do every day – corralling more than 20 7 year olds in a room and teaching them from the starting point on topics like math and reading.

    Luckily in the case of the sport, experience and observation does the biggest part of teaching the player decision making – with some guided discovery provided by the coach or teammates.

    • Simon says:

      You and me both Dennis! An hour with the U7s can wear me out, or at least it did when I first started so I have nothing but a huge admiration for the teachers who do it every day across a variety of age ranges, it really is a gift to be able to teach well.


  3. Coachandy says:

    Simon, just catching up on the blog – thought provoking as ever!

    Unless you have exposure to the education establishment in some form or other you may not know how vastly the teaching of young children has changed.

    Fortuantely coaching has changed too during that time too, unfortunately so many parents become coaches in the belief that how they learnt is the appropriate way – all too often it is not.

    • Simon says:

      Hi Andy – long time no speak!

      “Fortuantely coaching has changed too during that time too, unfortunately so many parents become coaches in the belief that how they learnt is the appropriate way – all too often it is not.” <– Now that's a very very interesting point. Teaching methods have moved forward but our young footballers are being taught by a percentage of people who are applying old-school teaching (not coaching) methods. I'd never considered that.

      I wonder if the FA have acknowledged a need/want to learn from the teachers of today?


  4. Simon says:

    “Mourinho attended the school but dropped out on his first day, deciding he would rather focus on sport, and chose to attend the Instituto Superior de Educação Física (ISEF), Technical University of Lisbon, to study sports science.[13] He taught physical education at various schools and after five years, he had earned his diploma, receiving consistently good marks throughout the course.[14] After attending coaching courses held by the English and Scottish Football Associations, former Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh took note of the young Portuguese’s drive and attention to detail.[17] Mourinho sought to redefine the role of coach in football by mixing coaching theory with motivational and psychological techniques.”

    Interesting that Mournhio was actually a teacher before he became a football coach.

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