Player Development "The Role of Parent and Coach"
John Allpress - English FA
How easy it is to criticize from the sidelines. Instructions are easy to give but not always that easy to follow, especially if the person giving out the instructions is over 35 years old and the person receiving them is 11 or under. Views of the world and frames of reference are totally different – a complete mismatch. What is vitally important to one person may not even have occurred to the other.
In soccer great emphasis is placed on the result as a measure of success. Certainly for first teams and first team managers at every club it is the points and the result that is paramount. But in development soccer, the greater emphasis should be, but often is not, focused on learning.
In development soccer some coaches ‘play the game’ for the players by constantly shouting instructions from the sideline, never letting the players make the decisions or solve the problems the match presents. There one principal reason for this – the coaches’ desire to cut down on players’ mistakes so that their team will win the match.
Some parents too can fall into this trap. It is sometimes said that parents may try to live out their ambitions through their children. Soccer in particular seems to lend itself to this kind of behavior, and it is especially true where parents were under-achievers but now find that they are parenting a child with the potential to make the grade. How often do we see dominate their child’s activities, almost to the point where the child rarely seems to have an opportunity to have a say or make a decision either on or off the pitch?
‘Player development’ is all about problem solving and decision making because ‘player development’ is about learning, and learning is a long-term, some would say ‘life-long’, process where decisions, mistakes and consequences are vital if lessons are to be learnt.
A youth soccer match is a short-term event and simply part of this learning process – a test in which the youngster can experiment and find out what he or she currently knows and can do.
By constantly trying to make decisions and solve problems for the players, coaches and parents are in fact disempowering them in favor of short-term solutions with a short-term reward - a win!
When disempowered the players never learn to become self-reliant or trust themselves – because the coaches and parents obviously do not trust them. Therefore they find it more difficult to make the right decisions and solve their own problems both on and off the field. This is a major issue for ‘player development’ as soccer from the grass roots up to the World Cup final is a decision-making, problem solving game.
How can coaches and parents help and support player development more effectively?
The answers for the coach lie in the qualities required to be an effective player developer, some of which are outlined below.
- Personal Resourcefulness – The ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances in a learning and development situation and to remain positive and capable as you do so
- Assessing Learning Environments – The ability to make judgments about the learning environment you have created, consider what good practice is within it and how this will impact, influence and support the needs of the young players i.e. are you catering for unique individual learning styles and giving young players ownership, responsibility and choices?
- Presentation Skills – The ability to strike up a positive rapport with, and communicate information effectively to, young players using the most appropriate strategies and mediums
- Identifying Development Needs – The ability to identify the development needs of individuals and groups and plan appropriate activities and practice to meet and challenge those needs
- Designing Learning Activities – The ability to design appropriate learning activities and creative practice as part of a wider, long term development program. This requires consideration of the principles of the game and ensuring strategies are in place so that these principles can be practices effectively – i.e. creative use of space, overloads, conditions, rules etc…
- Facilitate Learning – The ability to manage groups of different sizes and abilities and help and support their learning effectively
- Supporting Individuals – The ability to use a range of strategies to support individuals and help them towards greater understanding and improved technical performance
- Add your own ideas
All children need to learn is that life is an on-going journey with no pre-determined destination and that the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. It is helpful, with coach and parent support, for young players to set small, bite-size goals for themselves with a developmental focus on trying to improve performance gradually and in small increments. If at times progress is swift, accept it; reassess the goals and move on to the next challenge.
Many young players give up hope when they think they have failed. Failure is often linked to a final result or to unrealistic coach or parental expectation. Players, coaches and parents should understand that performance moves in upward and downward cycles. During difficult periods players need support from parents and coaches. Players also need patience and resolve, and should not expect instant success or unjustified praise.
Young players need to learn how to organize themselves – easy tasks like packing their kit bag and making sure equipment is clean and in working order before training and matches. At training they need to be included in the decision making process – sometimes coaches should let the players decide. They can be asked to organize what size of area they should be working in for a particular activity or what the make up of teams in training or practice should be to achieve a particular outcome. All this provides young players with a framework in which they are given respect, trust and responsibility.
Shown respect, trust and responsibility young players may begin to understand that the game owes them nothing but a wonderful chance to go out and express themselves in a challenging and creative way. If they appreciate this then they may have a better chance of ‘developing’ and ‘evolving’ as players and people.