Get them thinking.

The argument continues, WHY are England not producing players capable enough to win major tournaments for their country?.

Well, creativity is the word that is currently being banded about to coaches of all levels across England, HOW can we produce players like your Messi’s, Neymar, Gotze, Suarez and Aguero’s.  Nick Levett (FA National Development Manager) used an excellent example in regards to creating creative players. He quoted “As a coach we need to be clever and creative at finding ways for young people to learn for themselves. Did you learn how to use a computer from someone telling you what to do the whole time or by exploring and finding your own way round it? Do music teachers sit in piano lessons shouting at children “black key, white key, white key”?.  For me this example is an excellent way of getting coaches to think about how they can maximise the possibility of their players being as creative as they can.

After today’s session based around creativity this got thinking deeply about what actually is creativity?. (Franken, 2003) states “Creativity is defined as a tendency to generate or recognise ideas, alternatives or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems and communicating with others” . Personally I would agree with everything Franken stated although, I would go even further to add that in order to create creative players they need to be able to be put into positions where they have to think for themselves and have a confidence in order to try new things which comes down to the way coaches are able to produce sessions to implement all these things in order to produce these creative players the country is striving for.

For me as a coach who agree’s fully with the FA’s youth review in football on wanting to produce more creative players, I believe coaches needs to be able to produce an environment where players are not afraid to make mistakes, take risks and attempt new things, players should be made to make their own decisions in order to improve as thinkers as well as players. (Horst Wein) produced a statement to which I believe English coaches are currently not able to provide their players with the opportunity of doing because the term WINNING is too important to them. He quoted “Young players should not be pressured by their coach to quickly pass the ball in order to allow better team play or winning. They should frequently have the opportunity to be in love with the ball, to dare to improvise their play and take risks, without fearing the possible consequence of having committed a mistake”.

It’s all well and good saying coaches need to be able to produce more creative players but how do we do that? or is Gareth Southgate’s comment that “I am not convinced you can coach creativity and that players will do things naturally that are creative. Sometimes allowing them to see what creative play is and them recognising that a lot of things they do in games are already creative. is that they way players will learn best in order to be creative?”

The previous comment made by Gareth Southgate linked nicely into my own personal views and that in my experience using small sided games where the session is player led rather than coach led is extremely effective. Small sided games will present players with the opportunity to make key decisions on a regular basis, the chance to try new things/skills, enable players to be confident in getting on the ball and taking lots of touches compared to giving every player instructions on where they should be, when they should pass the ball, how many touches they should take.

As well as giving players the ownership on the session it will also give them the opportunity to create a fun session for themselves rather than the coach producing a session where players will be working robots up and down lines. As a coach I try my upmost to hit the players needs as much as possible by creating fun sessions where players are given the environment where they are comfortable to try things without having the fear of making a mistake, I give players the ownership of the session where they are comfortable to play in a area created by themselves where they are made to make decisions on a regular basis which will help to enhance them as learners as well as players. My opinion around small sided games being more effective compared to working in lines is backed up by (Raab, Hamsen, Roth, Greco, 2001) who stated “Young players who experienced small sided games show considerably greater growth in creative capabilities compared with young players who receive guided play sessions”.

Allowing players to develop as thinking learners, giving them ownership, the opportunity to make key decisions as players as well as people is key for me as a coach and letting them have fun along the way will go a long way towards that.


Levett. N (2015) Available at:, Accessed: 22nd October 2015.

Franken. R.E (2006) Human Motivation. 6th Edition. The psychology of engagement with everyday life. Andover. Wadsworth Publishing.

Wein. H (2015) Available at:, Accessed: 22nd October 2015.

Southgate. G (2013) Available at:, Creativity needs the right environment, Accessed: 22nd October 2015.

Rabb, M., Hamsen, G., Roth, K and Greco. P. (2001) ‘Amount of incidental incubation as a predictor for expert creative performance of Brazilian and German national team soccer players’ in ISSP World Congress of Sport Psychology.


Developing the player….

During my coaching session’s over the past week I have been doing some deep thinking into whether I truly believe I am helping the children develop their skills individually. I hear regularly many Sunday league coaches talk about how they have the best team and how they are the best coach at U11’s level because they went the season unbeaten and demolish teams week in week out 8-0 or more. This got me thinking, maybe you do have the best team in the region, maybe you do beat teams by 8 or more goals each week and maybe you did win 3 league titles in a row and have them in your trophy cabinet at home… But how many of the players have you actually made a difference to and delivered skills development sessions to help improve themselves as players, my thoughts would be not many.

This leads nicely into the first reflective coach practical session that took place last week where we were given tasks in groups to produce a short game based around 5 cards given to us that included things such as Invasion, Target and racquet games, Agility, Balance, Coordination. All these factors had to be clear to see when creating the game. After receiving these cards the first thing that was brought to my attention was what do I believe skill development is and what do the other coaches believe? Questioning each other on ones views and opinions surrounding skill development enabled us to create a clearer understanding on how we all coach and our values and opinions.

Questioning each other, I believe was a great way to begin a challenging and thoughtful process when trying to create a simple yet creative game that would challenge participants in the skill development area. In starting the process I had an early thought on how we were able to strip everything down to basic’s and a game we were able to use in order for it to tick all the boxes from the card given to us. So to start with I collected equipment which included tennis balls, cones and hurdles, strange right?. With this equipment we were able to come up with a simple yet creative game where 2 teams must catch the ball between each other and score through rolling the ball through the hurdles, yes creative, yes simple but how did we know the participants could catch?. We didn’t, which is where Cliff (our tutor) intervened and questioned whether this may be too difficult for some participants, he was right we needed to strip it down even, all the way back to basics to help develop the children’s ABC skills.

Which is what we did, we stripped it all the way back to where the children would be bouncing a larger ball to one another and introduced techniques we thought would help the participants develop their catching skills and then developed it into the tennis ball and different catching techniques to progress the game. Once stripping it down and thinking about what we were doing and why we were doing it enabled us to tick all of the boxes as we were creating a fun, basic, creative and challenging game for participants to develop their ABC skills in an environment where they were happy playing.

Reflective on last weeks session, it outlined to me that sessions don’t need to look the best with grids scattered everywhere or be the most detailed in terms of the skill being performed. The best sessions are usually the most simple ones where skills are broken down into the simplest form and children are given the opportunity to try things. Aiding skill development is about picking out key parts and working on them individually and then putting things together bit by bit. This session gave me the opportunity to think about how to break skills down and think how am I developing the participant through this.

“Skills development is exactly what a young player needs to advance their game”(Sharone Wright). This links back nicely to my first point regarding grassroots coaches believing their is nobody better because they have won league titles with a junior side. Winning league titles should not be important for a grassroots coach, developing a player should be, providing participants with games that help to enhance their ABC’s and individual skills will develop the participant more than being part of a team where they do the same thing every week compared to trying new things.

Development does not happen over night so as a coach being patient and stripping skills down to basics is the best way to provide your participant with learning opportunities and in the long run will help them develop skills to improve them as a player.


Wright. S (2015) Available at :, [Accessed 14th October 2015]

Lead your own reflection

So why do people reflect?
How does reflecting aid a coaches personal development?

(Neville, 2001) states that reflective practice has been considered widely due to the support that it offers for both personal and professional development. Reflecting enables people to look back at a pervious event and analyse. It allows coaches to look back on the process they took to producing and delivering a session and why they did it? Which could lead to asking themselves questions such as…

what did they get out of it?
What did their players get out of it?
What was successful and what could have been done better? (Plymouth University, 2012)
What could be improved?
How would you improve it?

This breakdown of reflection is a key factor of being able to develop as a coach and being able to understand why you do what you do. Reflection helps to improve you as an individual; no two coaches will have the same reflection process and come up with the same outcome.

As a coach I find it important to be honest with myself, give myself criticism and understanding what I am doing well and how I am doing it. I am no coaching expert, I am a second year student learning how to develop myself as a coach every day and therefore, will make mistakes more often that not so learning how to react to those mistakes will help to improve me each day of my coaching journey. “The belief that learning from our mistakes is more important than learning from our successes” (Sarah Lee).

“Through self evaluation and improved awareness, the coach is able to consciously and purposefully improve their coaching practice” (Anderson, et al, 2004). As stated above no two coaches will have the same reflection however, if self-evaluation is part of a coach’s routine it will naturally help to improve their coaching practice.

Take time to think about what it is your doing and why you are doing it. You’re the leader of your own reflection…..

Reference list:

Plymouth University. (2010). Reflection. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 2nd October 2015]

Neville. (2012) Sports coach UK Research project

Lee.S. Three steps to improving your performance: Coaching through positive reflection and action

Anderson, et al, 2004. Reflection as a coach development assessment tool.