Coaching Day 20: Managing physical limitations


Last week’s session was one of those where as a coach you don’t feel it went very well but you know this means there are things you can learn from and improve on in future sessions.

Our session took it’s usual recent format – Warm-up, “training” and the we finish with a match. Within the warm up all of our players will have a football and whilst our main focus is to get the players warm (when the weathers cold!) we also focus on ball-work as we get the players to experiment with turns and also do a lot of dribbling. It was here where I found last week that I was trying to teach the players a turn which they perhaps weren’t physically capable of doing.

In recent weeks we’ve been working on different turns using different surfaces of the foot so last week we demonstrated the Cryuff turn, a turn which seems easy to an adult but I soon noticed that some of our under 8s players struggled with the movement required by the non-standing foot when trying to perform the turn. As the players tried to do the turn some were able to do it but others couldn’t and instead reverted to using the sole of their foot.

Having demonstrated the turn the players would then practice it by running 10yards with the ball, trying the turn and then running back to where they came from. Those who were mastering it would shout to me to watch, some would ask me to demonstrate it again whilst others would do something different which worked for them. It was the latter players who appeared to struggle with the basic movement and therefore it was those who I allowed to continue without wanting to push them to do something which they were clearly struggling with.

There is a judgement call required when working on this type of exercise with young players – do you feel they’re physically capable of doing it and require help or do you acknowledge they’re not ready to do it and avoid applying any pressure which could impact their self-esteem.

Is this something which you as a coach experience regularly and if so, how have you handed it?

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About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

2 Responses to Coaching Day 20: Managing physical limitations

  1. It’s definitely something I’ve seen in coaching U7 and U8 kids. There’s maneuvers we consider basic – like understanding which part of the foot you strike the ball with to pass – that when you watch the player, you can tell there’s something awkward to them about it.

    A lot of it works out though with repetition. In some cases, the best instruction is standing right alongside the player and helping them position their foot and doing the maneuver slowly with them.

    I’ve volunteered in my kids school classes and worked with students on tasks like math, reading, and spelling – and it’s a very similar type of learning process. When a student is reading and can’t get past a word, we break it into smaller pieces of “sight words” that they do know (like “Foresee” is for-see.) Breaking the field skills into chunks helps a lot of the kids learn.

    There are also kids with physical limitations – that when you see them run, they have a noticeable difference in their gait or that seem to be growing into their foot size. In those cases, I’ve tried to modify or simplify what we do for them.

    • Simon says:

      Thanks for taking the time to reply Denis, insightful and pertinent as always. I also agree that breaking a trick, pass etc into smaller chunks works very well for the younger player.

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