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Do we place enough emphasis on the social aspect in our sessions?
In football and largely any invasion sport, kids need to get better at mastering the ball. We want them to be able to move well to execute the fine techniques even better, make excellent decisions, manage their emotions and be spectacularly creative. But do we consider planning strategies to make them better socially?
In any environment when working with 5-12 year olds from grassroots to 'elite' players, kids will misbehave, often be poor at managing relationships (they're kids, why wouldn't they be selfish?!) and will sometimes struggle to absorb learning. When we turn up to sessions we want them to be better at the sport and to be the best they can possibly be. But what if these social factors inhibit their development and we get bogged down with constant misbehaviour which eats into precious time and doesn't give us the opportunity to get stuck into all that juicy learning, frustrating huh!!
The environment is often spoke about, relating to a positive place where players can have fun and learn. If children are made to feel safe and secure by the coach, then there's a large possibility their learning will be accelerated as they will take risks. Often we have the opportunity to give children their best social education (and this is nothing against schools by the way!), so we MUST consider how we approach the social aspects of our sessions. With the constant changes in society and external factors children face such as an unstable family, problems at school or a family bereavement we must realise the environment we have is probably the most secure environment for that player, it should be made to feel the safest place.
Relationships are key. If you trust someone, you're likely to do more for them. You're likely to take risks and do anything for that person in return for their appreciation and support. Isn't that what players want from their coaches? We must make every effort to know everything we can about the child, from what they've done at school to what their hobbies are. A simple conversation can start from asking what their favourite team or player is. These build attachments and form a relationship. Often for players they won't make a career out of sport so it's vital that they are equipped with skills to support them in the wider society. Consider what they would want to expect from a coach. What words spring to mind? They might want kindness, honesty and thoughtful coaches who are consistent with their actions and unconditional with their support, where a fresh start can always be made. Everything starts from the attachment, often players will be better behaved, realise when they need help, be creative, be good at relationships and be committed to learning. They'll need heaps of reassurance and this can also link to yours and their relationship with the parent.
So what if players do misbehave? Have we got intervention strategies?
Your environment is an environment where learning time simply cannot be wasted. If players don't look or listen they won't simply won't learn. What if we go straight to sitting them out of practice, what's your next step? Write down some steps for misbehaviour, because if they're consistent and unconditional then your players will respect you. We will often do 'the look' or stand near them to make your presence known, or simply stop talking. These are all strategies you might consider before going for the big one of sitting players out, because ultimately we want them to play and be better! If we ask players WHY they are misbehaving, does that give them the power and the attention they want to give an excuse? Make it stated fact that what they are doing is not acceptable, but only in this environment. We don't want to make it personal because we want to be excellent at building relationships! By all means, sanction the unacceptable. Perhaps allow the players to create their own rules for misbehaviour, such as missing game time or not receiving opportunities to lead the group. BUT when they are doing something really good, celebrate the spectacular, praise the good and notice the normal. Sometimes praise can be devalued if what the players are being praised for is the norm for them.
Building those attachments and allowing players to build relationships with others is key. Your ball rolling time or session time will often be a direct impact of how well you manage behaviour. If you want your players to be better at the sport, flip the outcomes you want on it's head and develop some social strategies. The better the social environment, the more they will improve technically, the more decisions they will make and the more they'll want to learn.
I've only just started implementing this in my own work, so I'd be interested on anyone's ideas or strategies to build relationships and manage behaviour!
Totally agree that the better the social environment, the more children will learn both in the game and beyond the sport itself. Too often it is forgotten that we are more likely to see our players becoming coaches, parents and citizens (all three in fact) than we are likely to see them reach the pinnacle of the sport. With a 'four corner approach' well publicised, I personally think that the Social and Psychological corners should be significantly larger. Get these right early on and Technical and Physical are more likely to take care of themselves?Is 'Misbehaving' just another form of communication, conveying fear, anger, self-doubt or worst of all, boredom?I have seen a coach produce a 'Behaviour Contract' for players, consisting on a blank piece of paper to fill in themselves. Interesting idea which produced very good outcomes.
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