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Wannabe Mourinho or just a Dad doing his best?
Every weekend, as I sit and thumb through Twitter, I come across message after message commenting on the poor actions or reactions of some football coaches across the country. Very occasionally, you might see a Tweet congratulating another coach on a shared philosophy or an enjoyable experience at that morning’s match but this is all too rare. Sadly, slagging off fellow coaches is a hobby for some people out there.
So, what is the norm? Is this type of one-upmanship exclusive to football coaching or does it exist in other sports? Is everybody out there a ‘Wannabe’ or is it just a case of a Dad, wanting to do his best for his kid and the rest? I hope (and believe) that it’s the latter. If I’m right, is it necessary for all the derision from so-called ‘better’ coaches when surely we’d be better serving this game of ours by helping them as much as we can?
It seems to me that many of the tweets are about ‘u7 managers’ or a guy ‘running the under 8s’. Is it not the case that these guys are almost certainly taking their first steps in coaching children? If children are to be given time and assistance to learn their craft, make mistakes and improve, then surely the same should be true of coaches? Many of us claim to be always learning. Do we remember and re-visit the time when we knew little? In short, I don't believe the stereotype of the Grassroots Dad is fair.
So what qualifies somebody to judge? Experience maybe? Badges? I’m not a big one for listing certificates (although I’ve a nice selection) and my Twitter profile picture certainly shows my love of the game at Grassroots level. I have opinions but opinions aren’t a measure of being right. Nor are your number of followers a validation that your short summing up of somebody's coaching prowess is in any way fair.
Once upon a long ago, I dropped into my local club, wanting to be involved in kids’ football and ended up, as so many do, with the youngest age group under my wing. I’ve always been around football and thought I knew what I was doing from the off but looking back, I was fairly clueless. I’m pleased to say, I don’t have the character to be aggressive or dominating and I was never a shouter but I’m sure I was a commentator. Did I let my players make decisions on the pitch? Not really. Did my training sessions look like the game? Doubtful. Were there a couple of well qualified, experienced coaches nearby nudging each other and whispering ‘what the hell is he doing?’ Probably! Back then, I had so much to learn.
But I was learning. I still am. Every week I watch, listen, read, think and transfer it into sessions which I know look better and are more relevant. I manage Matchdays better. Respected judges think of me as a ‘good’ coach. Every kid plays, although I’m still trying to work on letting the last ten minutes be the same as the first and I still have problems treating Cup Finals the same as Friendlies. I’m close and I’ll get there with the support I’ve got around me. Friends, Coaches, Mentors will help me get to the next step and I only know of these areas of weakness because people have helped me see them. In one of my roles, I’m back working with U10s. What I learnt first time round and the period in-between is priceless for this new crop. Perhaps when I get another bunch in another 10 years, I’ll be much better again? The sad reality is that many coaches get to a level of education and experience but don’t get the chance to drop down to work with the youngest kids and so the cycle starts over again? Specialisation in the younger age groups would go a long way to creating fruitful environments across the country.
I also wonder if this is just football’s disease, with its culture of punditry promoting controversy on every management decision? Do people try and second guess you tennis, cricket and gymnastics coaches out there? Maybe it’s just the way we treat volunteers? I once enjoyed watching my daughter being coached by a decent and knowledgeable bloke, as she took her early steps into archery…….with another Dad telling me how much better they do it in South Korea!
So, next time you see somebody coaching a bunch of 7 year olds just starting in the game, remember that the Coach may well be new to all of this too, as you once were? Can he be helped? Can we start a conversation and at least try? Maybe he’s not a ‘Wannabe Mourinho’. Maybe he’s the next Mourinho?
Ten years ago, I started out as just a Dad doing his best. That’s all I am now.
Thanks for reading
Hi RichGreat read 👍 . We all have to start somewhere when it comes to coaching, like myself most coaches have probably been in the same situation, I for one have been fround at and even approached with the attitude "I'm watching you" . When I first started coaching nearly 9 years ago I found myself being left with the youngest athlete's which I didn't really mind as I didn't have any experience in coaching although I have attended college gaining sports qualifications this didn't mean that I was a coach. My passion was long distance running and cross country having been an athlete myself I felt this was my passion to coach this event, unbeknown to me there was other coaches also qualified to coach endurance event which meant I was a threat to other coaches this being something I had never experienced before, I had coaches approachin me tell me they were the endurance coach and that any athlete's I had I was to give to them , as a first time level 1 coach I was rather upset about this, I was being watched every training session , I didn't want to give in so I went for them next level a year later, gained more confident with my coaching, I passed my level 2 athletics coach I then started to gain more respect from other coaches. Why did I have to go through the process of being vetted before being accepted? I think parents are the first to judge coaches especially during training sessions, when I have had problems I have tried to engage parents in the activities and allowed them to help out this has help stop parents being judgmental and also made them realise how hard coaching can be especially when coaching young children. Coaches judge coaches, I've witnessed it heard from parent's and athlete's.
Nice piece and I agree with what you are saying. Often it is also the support around the coach that should be better for example a club or organisation can often expect too much too soon. Sometimes in my experience its almost as if once they have got the Dad (or Mum) to agree to Coach the team then the job is done and they should get on with it but be expected to display perfect coaching. Not enough CPD and on the job learning is offered as qualifications can sometimes been a bit meaningless in the context of a dynamic pressured club environment especially where young children are concerned. Organisations should stand up for, defend and support Coaches especially new and inexperienced ones and especially when you are being judged, either fairly or unfairly.
Thanks for feedback! Certainly, as far as football goes, the FA does offer support in CPD, mentoring and resources but unfortunately this attitude isn't always apparent at the training grounds in a sport where everybody is an expert? I only recently recognised the lack of experience in my younger self, which makes me very aware that we might not know what we think we know early on?
Hi Rich, a post I can relate to. Having coached for a number of years when my own children started going to coaching sessions, I found it very hard not to be critical - but there are some situations where I'm much more understanding and accepting of the coaching. Parents being realistic about expectations is important.When I'm paying around £5 a session (which is my experience of most sessions across swimming, gymnastics, judo, BJJ, athletics) then there is an expectation of a certain level of quality and care - especially when some of these coaches make a living from this and promote themselves around their qualifications and professionalism. Unfortunately this is all too often not the case. But when I'm paying £2.50 to cover the cost of pitch hire for a Saturday morning session, run by enthusiastic volunteer parents then I'm grateful that they're willing to do that. Its something I'm much more qualified to do than them, but I don't want to commit my Saturday mornings to it right now, and I also have my youngest to look after during the session. Plus I know what they put in goes way beyond the one hour on the pitch. So I'm grateful that someone else has stepped up. And as long as my kids are having fun and its safe then I may wish for more, but the realism is there that actually they're doing something that right now I'm not! Although parent-coaches would benefit from CPD the FA offers, its another demand on their time. As Henry suggested, the support around the coach from the club is vital - not by asking them to give up more time to attend workshops or training (great if they can commit to this but often not realistic), but perhaps give them access to info about the purpose of their role, how to encourage/give feedback, what to say, etc in 5 min video clips which take up minimal time, but may make a real difference to how that coach interacts with our children. Then just some basic session plans (recipes) so the coach doesn't have to spend time searching for session ideas, but can think about making it a positive experience for the players. At a job interview a headteacher once shared that he encouraged teachers to ask themselves "would this be good enough for my own child?". I don't have expectations of a volunteer parent-coach to have in depth technical and tactical knowledge, but I do expect that they draw on the basics of being a good human being, treating the children with respect and care, and modelling these behaviours too - that's what I looking for in a parent-coach who is coaching my children.
This is not confined to football it also persists in Rugby Union in my experience over the past 20 years. It is true that any Dad will want to do his best for his kid as a natural instinct. When you become a coach of your own child's age group, where your own children are involved, you have to manage that situation for the good of the group & not single out you own offspring for special attention in either direction, that is for later when you have a one on one. You have to be seen to be scrupulously fair with the whole group where you have a child involved, which is how it should be. A coach has a great influence on the group they coach especially in the younger age groups where the coach is giving the participants life skills in many areas, good practice & bad practice will be remembered in equal measure. The RFU has some great guidelines currently within their coaching techniques for younger players, with an "ask not tell" regime being dominant. I coach a large group on U10's with a group of other very dedicated coaches, who all have a child playing within that group. We all generally have an empathy with our group by encouragement & support as a coaching team, focusing on the positive, & working on areas requiring further development within the whole group. I have unfortunately witnessed the Miss Trunchbowl approach first hand from a coach who's child felt they had been mistreated by another player, which affected the whole group in a negative way for a long time. Shouting aggressively has no place in coaching at any level in my opinion, & where the coaches child within a group has to be spoken to, it should be handled by another coach or quietly with the individuals concerned, never in front of the whole group in a loud finger wagging way. By any other definition this is bullying . The other issue is far too many parents on the touch line trying to re-live their youth through their children, constantly shouting & barking instructions to their own children, especially those of a negative nature, all we should hear from them is encouragement & support of all concerned, without them thinking they are of some superior authority in the sport concerned. This is unhelpful & equally distracting for all involved, we are all volunteers in our local clubs working to deliver the foundations of good life skills & citizenship through sport , to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for all concerned to help them become the best they can be in that sport, accepting not all are destined for national or international levels. Enjoyment for all on sport is where we all should be always.
just a Dad doing his worstDear Dad,I was afraid to say this to your face after the game today, but I was thinking that maybe you could stop coming to my games for a while. It doesn’t seem that fun for you anyway, and I know it’s not fun for me when you are there. I used to love when you watched my play when I was younger, but now, I wish you weren’t there. I think I am starting to hate playing soccer. I might quit. I bet you are wondering why.I heard you in the stands today during my soccer game. I was going to say I heard you cheering, but that wasn’t really what you were doing. You were coaching. You were yelling about the other team, the other coaches, and at the officials. I also heard you yelling at me every time I got the ball.I believe you think you are helping, but you are not. You are confusing me.It’s confusing when you coach me from the sideline. When I play soccer, I feel like I have to make so many decisions at a time. Should I dribble or pass? Should I cross or shoot? Should I step up or stay back? Where are my teammates? Where are the defenders? I am trying to figure all these things out while out of breath, and fighting off defenders. With all this going on, you want me to listen to you, too? It seems no matter what I do, whether good or bad, you continue to yell at me. It is impossible to listen to you and play the game at the same time.It is confusing when you and the coach shout instructions at the same time. I can’t listen to both of you. Many times the things you say contradict what the coach teaches me at practice. My coach is trying to get me to pass it out of the back, but you keep yelling at me to kick it long. My coach encourages me to dribble past players, but you tell me to get rid of it when I try to dribble. My coach tells me to pass the ball to feet, but you tell me to kick it over the top and our forwards will chase it down. I either get yelled at by my coach, or by you. To make matters worse, sometimes the other parents join in and yell, too! I am so stressed out there. It’s not a very good feeling.It’s confusing to me when you yell at the officials, especially since you teach me to respect teachers, coaches and my elders. Dad, some of these referees are kids that go to my school. I see them at lunch and in the halls and I am so embarrassed. Would you yell at me like that if I was a new referee? Even when the officials are right, and you are standing 50 yards away, you yell at them. I wish you would just let the game play out and let me and my coach handle what is going on. It’s confusing when you are still upset about the loss hours after a game. How long is it appropriate to be sad and angry? I mean, I am the one who played, right? We are supposed to win some and lose some if we play good teams, right? We got beat, but now we have to move on and get ready for the next game. I am not sure how staying angry will help me get better for the next game. I certainly don’t feel like learning much immediately after a loss. The best thing you can do after a game is tell me you are proud of me for competing, and showing good sportsmanship, and that you love to watch me play. What are we going to eat is helpful too. But that’s all. I can get better next practice.It’s confusing when you talk badly about my coach in front of me. You tell me to respect my coach and listen to what he says, but then I hear you and other parents say he doesn’t know what he is doing. My friends say that their dads tell them not to listen to the coach, and they don’t know who to listen to anymore. No wonder our coach gets so frustrated with us.baseball kid tunes parents outIt’s confusing when you talk badly about my teammates in front of me. I know some of my teammates aren’t as fast, or as strong, or don’t kick as well, but they are my friends, Dad. In school, they teach me that I should treat everyone with respect, but then you disrespect my teammates right in front of me. I wish you would try to see the good in my friends instead of pointing out their faults.It’s confusing when you yell and scream at mistakes and act like playing soccer is an easy thing to do. I am not sure if you remember what it was like to be a player. Do you remember what it was like to be going through a growth spurt, and feeling awkward when you try to run and jump (never mind the sore knees)? Do you remember how hard it was to learn to trap or pass a soccer ball, or for that matter hit a baseball, or catch a fly ball? Sometimes you try your very best, and still get it wrong. It doesn’t help or make me feel any better about my mistake when you yell at me for it, or tell me to “get my head in the game.” What does that mean, anyway? You yell things and most of the time I have no idea what you are talking about.Dad, I don’t want to tell you how to parent or anything, but sometimes I feel like your love is conditional upon how the game goes.When we win, everything is great, but whenever we lose, or I have a bad game, it seems like you hate me. I wish I was riding home with someone else, and not you. I think it’s because you keep talking about the game when I don’t want to. You go over every mistake. Even when we win, all I hear about is what went wrong. If you talked about the game at dinner, or the next morning, it would be fine, but please, not on the car ride home.I certainly appreciate all the time and money you spend to let me play. But sometimes it feels like we are out there playing just to entertain the adults. We just want to play. And we want you to watch if you can do so without yelling at the refs, screaming at other parents, and coaching from the stands.Could you do that for me dad? Could you just come, watch the game quietly, and then not talk about it on the ride home? If you can, I would love for you to come.But if you can’t, I would prefer if you just dropped me off and let me play. Dad, I love sports, I love my team, and I love my teammates. I want to play with these guys forever, but not if it makes you hate me and angry at me all the time. Not if it makes me feel worse about myself. Please let me know what you decide. I love you.Your son,
Sixty-five percent of mothers and 70% of fathers exhibit a preference for one sibling over another. Talk to most siblings and they’ll tell you in a heartbeat who they believe their parents prefer. While most parents outwardly deny having a favorite child, studies have proven time and time again that this simply isn’t the case. Many, if not most parents have a favorite and kids are well aware of it. Research has shown that many non-favored siblings use this situation to their own advantage, but that is usually damaging in the long run to their self-esteem and confidence.
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