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Concentration is the toughest on-task outcome for any coach of children. It requires every ounce of coaching application to achieve it on a windy evening after a long day at school
One way of improving concentration is to make sure the kids have fun. Though some coaches will still work through a series of drills and tactical set pieces in team sports, most of us recognise that we need to engage young players (and old players for that matter).
There is problem though. If we have too much fun, some players become silly.
It can even start with us saying the word “fun”. The players switch into “fun” mode and believe that being silly is fine. Normally sensible players become silly.
Silly players constantly disrupt training. A training ground seems to give them even more oxygen to mess about. Why? There are fewer sanctions to start with. Plus, the venues for training often make control measures like your voice more difficult to implement.
Stop having fun
Let’s be clear. You won’t stop silly players continuing to be silly. However, you can reduce their impact.
Below I outline some ideas on increasing involvement while reducing silliness. My list is based on the fact that players should enjoy the session, not have fun. There will be some laughs. These are fine, but quickly passed by as the session rattles along.
So, to create this pace, here are a few subtle changes to your session.
1. Shorten the session
Take 10 minutes off your normal session. That’s probably two to three minutes off each section. This ups the pace of the session.
2. Simplify the session
Keep the instruction levels to a minimum by using old games and exercises perhaps with one or two modifications. Perhaps only introduce a new game or exercise every other week.
Again, that keeps the pace of the session sharp, reducing the chances for questions.
3. Structured games second
Start the session, but don’t coach. Let the players play a game by themselves. Then step in, split the players up into groups and give them a structured game. Yes, chaos is good. But, at this stage, keep to a simple game.
The unstructured start allows players to arrive, sort themselves out and, wait for it, have fun. If they muck around, they only frustrate each other. The serious stuff of enjoyment starts with you.
4. Small-sided games
If possible, depending on the coaches available, play two games at the same time. Play for a short time and then either swap over coaches, or swap the teams between the pitches. In each case, a slightly different environment means a silly player finds it difficult to carry over the behaviour into the next section.
5. Seek answers, don’t ask
Questioning is an important part of the feedback. Keep it snappy by asking a question and then directing it to specific players. Ask more open-to-the-group questions nearer the end of the session.
6. Code-red games
Have a couple of games/activities ready to play if you feel the session is going poorly. It will happen and many times for reasons beyond your control.
However, don’t indicate to the players that you are using a code-red game because of poor outcomes. Make it sound and feel part of the session.
7. Positively smile, never have fun
Be firm with your instructions, smile when you praise. Avoid jokes or joking a player’s expense, even if it is light-hearted.
Enjoy the session by being enthusiastic.
You can see that the theme is pretty clear: a sharper, more upbeat session. Move swiftly from situation to situation, and keep the training purposeful.
That doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. Far from it. Keep reminding the players of the effort they are making. A young player who’s puffing and panting at the end of your session is a great indicator of enjoyment, because it means total involvement.
And, for me, when you tell the players they will doing a certain exercise or game and they cheer…job done.
What do you think? Please let me know your thoughts by adding a comment below.
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