Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
In the January 2007 issue of Champions magazine, Sir Alex Ferguson states, “You see training sessions where the coach is talking all the time and the words get lost in the wind. I remember when I was a player wanting to get on with it and the coach was rambling on.”
Hundreds of thousands of youth soccer coaches across America do the same thing at the matches as well as the training sessions. When the coach takes center stage in this way it takes the game away from the players. Yet the game is all about the players and the players are the game.
In the National Coaching Schools it is taught to interrupt the training session infrequently. Make a coaching point or ask a guided question at natural stoppages. Rarely “freeze” the activity to interject as the coach. This style of coaching gives a better rhythm to training. If the challenges and rhythm are right then the players get into a flow of play. That flow is a powerful learning environment. Indeed if the coach is constantly interrupting the players’ flow then when do they touch the ball?
These points are not meant to convey that the coach should be silent at a training session. Well-timed questions and comments to the players are crucial for the kids to learn. But they also need a chance to talk among themselves to sort out the challenges of the game. Whether you call it football or soccer and whether you are male or female you certainly are more effective when you put your mind into the game as well as your legs. The skillful and soccer savvy player is the one coaches should strive to develop. Coach this means you are now the guide on the side.
Coaches must be skilled in the art of “asking meaningful questions.” This will give players the opportunity to practice problem solving and will help them to become more capable of solving problems that arise in training sessions and matches.
Our goal is to develop more “soccer savvy” players who are more self-reliant during a match. Players consistently coached with this method will be more adaptable to the demands of the game. This coaching method is also likely to produce more creative players.
While the training session is the best time and place to interact with the players with critical thinking and guided discovery, during matches may be a time to further the coach’s efforts to get the players to “sort it out” for themselves. Questions could be posed to the players on the bench and thus better prepare them mentally/tactically for when they enter the match. Appropriate questions to the team during half-time can get them all on the same page for the second half. Furthermore, if the players are sorting it out among themselves at half-time then the odds of them actually executing the second half game plan improves.
Soccer is easy to teach to children because many of them already know a good deal about it and many are so keen on it. Simple principles, professional organization, appropriate incentives and unlimited encouragement – any coach worth the name can hardly fail. Even more important, he or she will gain enormous gratification from the pleasure and satisfaction gained by the children.