Overcoming the impressions

After working within a grassroots team up to u16’s, I now felt it was the right time to make the step up having been offered with the opportunity to share responsibilities at an u18’s youth team. Generally when turning up to training sessions I get the buzz of being there and delivering however, when turning up to my first session here I felt nervous, anxious and honestly a little bit scared. Why did I feel like that?

Well throughout my coaching career I have found myself working with lads from 12+ and most recently working with an under15’s and under16’s team, being only a young coach myself I am sometimes conscious of whether the players have the same respect for me compared to an older coach due to their only being a small age gap between coach and player. So when turning up to my first u18’s session being only 19 years old I felt nervous of whether I would get the same response in terms of listening, effort, motivation and actually taking part in the session.

When coaching I have huge confidence in my ability and being able to develop players regardless the age of the player however, my first session tested me – I felt I had to deliver a session in order to express my knowledge to the players, show them I actually knew what I was talking about and therefore, delivered a session I would never usually deliver, I found myself turning into an instructor rather than having the usual confidence in my ability and the sessions I would deliver to which I have no doubt, would have got a better response than the response from the session I actually delivered.

As I highlighted earlier I have taken over the role with another coach, this coach is currently the U16’s manager and has worked with the youth team before in which he has worked with the same group of players for the past 9 years, within the youth team squad we have a number of u16’s players that are involved in the youth team.

So, did this effect the impact of the players work rate and motivation when I delivered sessions?

In the first few weeks after taking over rather than the players trying to make an impression on myself in order to get a place in the starting 11, I felt it was me that was having to make an impression on them, this was difficult. During sessions their was no intensity, no motivation to work hard, a lack of effort and overall a difficult place to be. After having a conversation with another coach around this issue, they felt they had the same issue. We both addressed the fact that the coach knew and had worked with the players for years has the respect of each player and had a good coach/player relationship and due to him not being in attendance they chose to ‘test’ my ability as a coach.

As a coach I had never had this issue before and working with effectively grown up’s, this situation was extremely challenging. During one activity a well-advanced player questioned my progressions, I had to think quick, be creative, be adaptive – this could make or break building any relationship and respect from the players. My reply changed everything; the player was given the opportunity to create his own progression to challenge the group. The progression he created was openly better than my own and he and the other players loved it. They loved the fact I had given them responsibility, ownership and that was a risk I had to take. It was a start, as well as portraying I had a depth of knowledge and proved I could help to develop individuals and the team helped to gain the respect.

Creating an environment where players were given ownership and responsibility helped me to gain the respect and build a coach/player relationship with the players. Let’s be honest, the players could have turned around and questioned my coaching ability – I couldn’t come up with a good enough progression to challenge the players? Did they think I was being lazy by asking them to? How can I create a better progression than him? These are all questions the players could have quite easily asked themselves and the others. But it didn’t and that’s the risk I had to take.

In recent weeks and up to now sessions are now delivered providing players with create ownership on decisions, progressions, and ways to improve. This has helped to eliminate the lack of motivation, effort, intensity and instead turned it on its head. I now used scenario based practices to create intensity, this has been a major reflection point within my coaching – understanding how I managed to create the intensity and motivation within the session and did the players thrive off the scenarios.

For example, I recently used a scenario during a high pressing practice where players had to be able to press and win the ball back high up the pitch, I proposed a scenario to the high pressing team where they were 2-0 down in the Champions league final with 7 minutes remaining. U18’s, stupid right? Completely the opposite, the players thrived off it; I had never seen the intensity higher, it improved the quality – they now wanted to work hard for the team and myself. Ensuring when it is right to use scenarios within a session is key and is something I am ever learning.

I am forever learning and developing my relationship with the players, having taken over 3/4 into the season was a great opportunity/challenge to test myself as a coach. Bring on next season!

So – Key Messages?

– Believe in your ability!
-Don’t be afraid to take risks!
-Be open to learning new ways to coach!
-Enjoy the challenge!!


Don’t be afraid to know

Impression management within my coaching is something that has really got me thinking recently. As I coach various age groups starting from four up to eighteen years old being able to make the right impression on them and their parents is something that has got me thinking and how can I ensure that I am able to adapt dependent on the age group I am working with.

When starting my coaching journey making the right impression was extremely important and something I got nervous about regularly. In fact, I can openly admit that making the right impression on the parents was more important that the kids at first. This led to the session that I delivered being boring, full of blocked practice, a lot of the time unopposed (limiting the kids opportunities to make decisions) and in fairness my coaching behaviour would be extremely instructive and commentating all the time during the session (delivering praise). Cushion, Ford, & Williams, 2012a state that a deliberate behavioural strategy or ‘what coaches do’ contains a mix of instruction and positive verbalizations which relates to the exact behaviours when I first began coaching.

As I developed as a coach through on field experiences and learning academically, I began to gain an understanding of ways to approach sessions in order to improve the learning experience of players. This lead to me focusing on delivering regular opposed sessions (attempt to improve decision making), kids providing me with new ideas such as progressions to activities, providing them with ‘playing’ opportunities or free play within the session. The way I began to approach and deliver sessions all came through reflection of previous experiences, It enabled me to begin to form an understanding of the Why?. I began to create a reasoning behind why I was doing what I was doing, rather than delivering sessions to make a good impression on the parents.

During a recent session I overhead two parents in conversation where the topic of conversation was my coaching and questioning what I was doing. During this period the kids were sat around a tactics board discussing solving problems I had posed to them based around creating space within a game situation, to which I had given the kids 5 minutes to come up with ideas to improve how they can create space as an individual and how that will help the team. I must admit the conversation made me extremely conscious and nervous, at the end of the session I was proposed a question by the parent in discussion ‘Why were the kids sat around wasting playing time answering questions when you could have told them the answer?’. Although I was nervous about being questioned on my delivery by a parent, the reasoning behind the why? provided the parent with a clear understanding about how this activity will help the performance of their child when being put back into a playing environment.

Providing a parent with a clear explanation of the Why? and providing them with an understanding of how this benefits the children in the long run went a long way to gaining the respect of the parent. This therefore, provided me with two important areas to develop  my coaching to ensure the right impression is made;

– Ensure you know WHY you are doing, what you’re doing.
If you understand why and how this will benefit you’re players then chances are you are doing things right. Never be afraid of what others think, if questioned you have the answer.

– A thing I am going to begin to employ into my own coaching is at the start of a new season sit down with parents and players individually to discuss my philosophy and ways of coaching to help improve each individual. This will help to ensure that coaches, players and parents are all working off the same page.