11 important pieces of coaching advice to grassroots football coaches
In this blog we look at some of the common challenges for grassroots football coaches. We will use this blog to explore these challenges and provide some coaching advice and coaching tips that may help you when working with your grassroots team.
Before we begin, it’s important that we acknowledge the importance of a grassroots football coach and the role and impact they can have on children’s lives as well as their community.
Grassroots coaches have a wide variety of different roles. Whether it’s setting up goals, cutting the grass, or dealing with parents. One of the key elements of being a grassroots coach at junior level is to create a fun, safe learning environment for young people to learn and prosper within a sporting environment. Children participating in grassroots football will have different motivations – but what is important is that they enjoy playing football.
Junior grassroots coaches will often have to work with children of different abilities, gender, and needs. Therefore, it’s vitally important that grassroots don’t overlook the importance of participation and providing equal opportunities for all. We all know that children learn and develop at different rates, therefore, coaches should embrace the opportunity that comes with this and be there ready to support those children through those highs and lows of playing football.
In addition, grassroots coaches should take responsibility for their development as a coach. Coaches should look to maintain their level of commitment to their CPD and ensure that they have the minimum qualifications required to coach. Therefore, it’s the role of the coach not only to go above and beyond to help their players but also to be the best that they can be when working with them. As we are always challenging our players to be the best that they can be, coaches should also embody this too with how they develop themselves.
Coaches also have a responsibility to represent their club and community in the right way. All coaches should ensure that they fully understand the values of the club and what they’re representing. Coaches’ will need to demonstrate the behaviours both on and off that are aligned to the clubs’ values.
Some of the feedback we have received is the challenges that parents can provide coaches both on and off the pitch. Grassroots coaches can become inundated with messages after games about results, training and because of an issues that has arisen.
Coaches have also provided feedback on the pressure that parents can often place upon young children when playing football and it’s widely acknowledge that behaviours on match days in particular can be detrimental to the enjoyment and fun that children have playing with their friends. It’s important to acknowledge the importance of the parent, player and coach relationship. Click here for more advice to parents.
Dealing with Mixed Abilities
Another area that coaches commonly have issues with is dealing with mixed abilities when coaching. As all grassroots coaches will know, you are not in a position to hand pick the best players to play for your team and grassroots should be about creating an inclusive environment which prioritises participation over results.
There is lots of benefits from mixed ability learning with children learning to deal with difference, with every child having their own way of playing, interacting and learning through playing football. Therefore, as a coach you should embrace the challenge of creating an environment which is based around difference and find a way of supporting the needs of every individual that you are working with.
We need to ensure that as coaches we create an inclusive environment that promotes equal opportunities particularly at grassroots level. Game time can often be an area that is widely highlighted by coaches when working with their team and how they should provide game time for games across the course of the season. As we know, parents in particular if you’ve set the scene that you will be providing equal opportunities and equal game time throughout the course of the season – you must make sure you don’t deter away from this otherwise you can expect to have to conversations with parents.
Your time with your players is precious, so make sure you are planning each session to ensure no time is wasted on setting up, transitioning to different parts of the session, etc. Your sessions should have structure (warm up, skills, small sided game, etc) and, ideally, a theme , e.g. pressing, moving through the thirds, counter attacking, etc. Even things like water breaks and cooling down periods should be considered to ensure you are making the most of your time. For help with planning, check out some of these free resources.
Complete your qualifications
To be employable you must be as qualified as you can be, but you also must get out there and practice your coaching. It’s crucial that you make the theory you gain on your qualifications work in your environment by practising your delivery as much as possible. For more information on courses, click here.
Get a mentor
Seek out an inspirational coach who you can observe, learn from and ask questions. If possible, get them to watch you work and then begin a process of review and reflection. Ask them what their pathway has been in the game and ask for advice.
Develop your own personality
Our aim should be to develop a future generation of creative and innovative young players and it’s no different in coaching. Complete your qualifications and learn from others but also don’t forget to add your own personality into your coaching, that’s how you will establish a strong rapport and connection with the players and teams you work with. It will also help you stand out from the crowd.
Make an effort to understand your players
Communication goes both ways, and a good grassroots coach is able to understand their players as individuals as well as as a team. Players – particularly children – have different learning styles, motivations, and of course strengths and weaknesses, so you should make an effort to tailor your approach to training accordingly.
Observe other coaches
Whether you have been coaching for six months or twenty years, there’s always more to learn. There’s no better way to do this than by picking the brains of other coaches – coaches with more experience, coaches in similar situations to yourself, even opposition coaches. If you’re facing a particular problem, chances are you’re not the first. Speak, observe, and listen to other coaches wherever possible.
As with any pursuit, the best way to improve is to understand where you are currently. Record your training sessions, watch yourself back. Is there a particular coaching style you’re trying to emulate? A particular coach you admire? What hits the mark? What doesn’t? Watch how your players react to your instructions – do they understand what you’re asking them? Do they listen when you are speaking? A general rule of thumb is to ask yourself regularly, after each training session:
1) What went well?
2) What could I improve?
3) What would I do differently next time?
Make sure your players are having fun!
If your players aren’t smiling and sweating when they come off the training pitch you’re doing something wrong. There are many benefits to children of playing junior football. However, mostly children play football because they enjoy it. Make sure you are providing the right balance between a competitive environment and space for them to express themselves, and keep your sessions fresh – your players will thank you for it.