You don’t know until you try

Blimage Challenge

The blimage challenge, a cow on a trampoline, strange right? and how can I possibly put this image into a coaching context? For numerous days now I have been thinking and coming up with different thoughts of how I can put a cow stood on a trampoline into a coaching context.

Seeing a cow on a trampoline was for sure a shock to the system, would seeing a 6 year old kid doing 30 kick ups be a shock? Im sure it would, but why is this? How would you know that a cow can’t stand on a trampoline or a 6 year old kid is unable to do kick ups unless they try?. You don’t, which is why I believe giving children or cows as we see in the imagine the chance to try things they may surprise you.

Of course I’m not saying that every 6 year old kid can perform 30 kicks up on a regular basis and its clear that each child is different but how do we as coaches know kids aren’t able to do things unless we give them the chance to try things?. As a coach its easy to persume that kids can’t do things maybe because of their age, height or stature but whats the harm in giving them the opportunity to try it and yes failure might occur more than you would hope but kids won’t learn unless they try things. Im sure many coaches are reluctant in giving kids the chance to try things because they don’t want failure in there session or ensuring everything is performed with the technique instructed by the coach, as a coach will that surprise you? will that make you sit back and think “wow, I didn’t know he could do that” personally, I don’t think it will, I think it will take away the personal identity of the player and limit the opportunities they may take to try things.

So back to the image, a cow on a trampoline isn’t something people would be used to seeing and may think it wasn’t right and question why that was happening…

Surely you can link that to football? Seeing a young player dribbling with the ball taking on 4/5 players on a regular basis, I’m sure many coaches aren’t used to seeing that happen and maybe the player gets called greedy by parents for not passing to their son/daughter, for me seeing that identifies the player being given the freedom by his coach to try that, having the confidence to dribble past players with the ball, trying it time after time when I’m sure a large amount of time they may lose the ball. Yes I’m sure the players may get tackled a large amount of time but would the player dare to try that with a angry coach on the sideline giving the player abuse every time the ball is lost, questioning why they didn’t pass earlier, not using the “easiest” option, I don’t think they would.

So how do I get the cow on the trampoline in the first place?

Being restrictive as a coach is not something I enjoy, I enjoy having freedom in terms of letting sessions “look” messy, giving players leadership to create things how they see fit, for example creating areas they believe are suitable. Coaches should enjoy doing things differently, seeing different things, letting players do different things, it’s all part of the learning process for both coaches and my players. Without trying new things it will limit the learning and development process. In the image above the cow challenged itself to stand on the trampoline just like players and coaches should challenge themselves to develop new skills.

To conclude my blimage challenge, in my opinion coaches should strive on allowing players to develop different skills, giving them the opportunity to try new things, with doing this coaches will see new things, things they probably wouldn’t expect to see from players but thats all through giving the players the opportunity to try.


Playing to learn

So how are coaches able to use a game based approach within sessions effectively? Well below I have attached a video comparing two coaches and the way their coaching styles differ when using a game based approach.

After watching the video two to three times, I started to jot down notes to pick out the key messages of the video and how the coaches approach differed from one another and how did it affect the players performing?

I found coach ones approach was very instructive through demonstration and telling the players the position they “have” to stand in and how to hold the racket when playing a specific shot. Chelladurai (1993) focuses upon coach-athlete focus and belives coaching is “in essence the art and science of decision making”. Do I think coach one’s approach to the session is enabling the players to make their own decision’s? No and although the session claims to be realistic to a game, the coach wouldn’t be there during a game instructing his players what positions to stand in and how to hit the ball so why do it during sessions?.

The instruction throughout the session is taking away the opportunity for the players to make decisions, be creative and take risks without the coach correcting them every time they don’t use the “correct” technique they were shown. The FA Futures game quoted “A young player who is made the feel confident, capable and trusted to be creative will have a greater chance of fuffiling their potential than one who feels afraid to fully express themselves”. To which I feel sums up the session produced by coach one on the video, instructing players to perform a shot in a specific way shown by himself and correcting if the technique shown to them wasn’t correct. So, the technique wasn’t the same as what he showed them but the result was what he wanted, do you intervene and correct the player?

So how did coach two’s approach differ? When watching the video one thing stood out for me more than anything with coach two, the opportunity he gave the players to practice in a game based situation with no instruction on how to play a specific shot. Instead he used questioning to pick the players knowledge on how to overcome certain situations and when they may play a certain shot, he then provided them with an environment to play in a game like situation. For me, I found this approach extremely more beneficial for the players compared to the approach taken by coach one, (Thorpe, 1992) quoted “when there is an emphasis on drill, children are often turned off, with their greater emphasis on game play, such alternative teaching approaches can be more motivating” which backs up the approach used by coach two. By using a game approach, the players were challenged to think about what they were doing and why. It places the focus of a lesson on the student in a game situation where cognitive skills such as tactics, decision-making and problem solving are critical.

Traditional Coaching v Games Based Approach

Traditional Approach

Games based Approach

Warm Up

Warm Up

Skills Practice

Game followed by questioning

Repeated Drills

Play Analysis (tactical/ technical)

Small sided Games/ Game

Game followed by questioning Repeat Cycle

Cool Down

Cool Down

How does the model comparing the “traditional” coaching approach compared to a game based approach relate to my coaching process?

During my session I try extremely hard to ensure each individual is engaged in my sessions, having fun and learning. One thing I used to hear every week when I began coaching “When are we having a game?” but now I would be extremely surprised to hear that question…. That being I try to make every session game based, I try to give my players the opportunity to play in game like situations when they are made to think for themselves rather than me giving them the answers. I often think to myself why should I stand here and instruct players on what to do and when to do it? its their game so let them play it.

One quote I hear all the time throughout sport – “Let the game be the teacher”. I couldn’t agree more, the best way players will learn is by giving them the opportunity to play the game and letting them learn for themselves.

Reference list:

1)Chelladurai, P. (1993). Leadership. In R.N. Singer, M. Murphy, & L.K. Tennant(Eds.), Handbook of research on sport psychology (pp. 647-67 1). New York [Accessed 13th November 2015]

2) Available at: [Accessed 13th November 2015]

3)Thorpe, R. (1992). The psychological factors underpinning the ‘teaching for understanding games’ movement. In T. Williams,L.,Almond,&A.Sparkes(Eds.), Sport and physical actiuity: Moving towards excellence (pp. 209-218). London: Spon.

4)Coaching through small-sided games [Available at:] [Accessed 13th November 2015]

Why question them?

For me as a coach effective questioning can be an extremely difficult process, knowing when, how and what type of questions to ask your players is an important coaching tool in terms of identifying your players learning process. “Teachers use questioning and discussion to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and promote pupils’ learning” (Ofsted, 2012).

i recently attended my ECB Level 2 Cricket coaching course of which ‘Questioning’ was a coaching tool which was highlighted on a regular basis as an important tool to use. Before the course questioning was something I thought i used well and on a regular basis in order to draw out thoughts and understanding from my players. The course gave me a different thought when focusing on questioning, before demonstration on a batting drill the coach educators used an example of giving players specific tasks such as “you 3 look at my hands, you three my feet and you three my head”. After demonstration they went round and questioned the players on what they thought they saw and why something may have looked like it did, for example “So you said my feet moved forward when playing the shot, why do you think this may help me?”. This form of questioning was not something I had ever thought of personally and links in nicely when performing a demonstration when relevant.

Questioning is a coaching tool I believe to sit high up in importance for me, it enables me to gain an understanding of what my players are thinking and how they are feeling which may lead to how they perform/act in a session/game. Although, this is a tool that will help me during coaching asking questions based around How has their day been? What did they do at school today? What have they had for tea?. The vast majority of the time these questions are asked by myself without even thinking as I am interested in each individual and how they are, which could lead into the way they may perform or act during my session if they have had a difficult day at school or have fallen out with someone at home. Which relates to the importance of knowing your players individually and how each individual learns and acts as I know for a fact each one of my players acts and performs differently during different situations.

When questioning I usually use open questions to my players, for me using open questions is the best way for me to understanding the learning that has taken place by my players. Using open questions will prompt a different answer from each individual, this relates to the comment by (Ursa. R, 2003) which he stated “Open questions are used to discover the responses that individuals give spontaneously”.Using open questions will allow players to give you detailed feedback on there thoughts and feelings. For example one question frequently is “What do you think you could have done differently?”. Rather than the players replying with a “YES” or “NO” answer the question requires them to recall previous events and gets them thinking about decisions they made and maybe things they could do differently if they did the same thing again.

When do you question them and Why question them?

I generally use questioning throughout my sessions, questioning players rather than giving them the answer will help to develop learners, players that think about things, plan for certain situations, know how to deal when they are put in certain scenarios and for me most importantly make decisions for themselves. Questions such as “How do you think that helped your team?” “What do you think to what just happened?” “Why did that just happen?” Asking these sorts of questions will help me to understanding what sorts of things my player is thinking about and why they are thinking what they are. If I don’t present my players with questions to get them thinking how do I actually know they are thinking? they might be trying to do something when your goal of the session is the complete opposite, so without questioning you could be in two complete different worlds. For me giving players the answers limits individual learning, by questioning you are giving them the equation but leaving them to solve the problem.

So i now know why i question my players, But why does questioning help me as a coach?

Well questioning as a coach helps me to gain an understanding of whether my players are understanding the aims and objectives of the session, it enables players to become more engaged with the session by allowing them to think for themselves about how they are doing things and why they are doing it. This will help to develop the players psychologically which relates to the FA’s 4 corner model with giving players the opportunity to develop as thinkers. As a coach if I am able to develop thinking players it will go a long way in creating players that are key decision makers, creative, leaders and develop them as people for the future.


1) Questioning to promote learning [Available at:] %5BAccessed 4th November 2015].

2) R.Ursa et al Open Ended vs Closed-ending questions in Web Questionnaires 2003 [Accessed 4th November 2015].

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.

Thoughts and feelings

“Success in grassroots football isn’t about how many trophies you win. Its about the difference you make to people’s lives” (Nick Levett, FA National Development Manager for Youth Football). This statement produced by the FA’s national development manager is one I believe through my experience within grassroots football that the majority of coaches do not follow this statement. However, I as one do, for me coaching children within grassroots football is about helping them to develop as not only young players but people, giving them the opportunity to express themselves which they may only have the chance to do on a football field, giving them the chance to play with their friends week in week out and most importantly having fun doing it.

One of my current coaching roles is working with Clifton Rangers u16’s as a volunteer coach. The grassroots club is a well organised and professionally run club which enables children to play and develop in teams from u6’s up to u18’s. This blog post will enable me to reflect and evaluation my planning and performance of the session I conducted with the u16’s last Thursday.

Firstly, as I have been fortunate enough to work with these players for many years I have been able to gather a great understanding of how these players work and what helps to develop them the best, there personalities and ability levels therefore, I now find creating session plans for them easy as I know what they enjoy and what they need to continue developing as young athletes. On the Thursday evening I delivered a session based around creativity and being willing to express yourself. I believe the session that I put on for them was a great success as each one of the 15 players present gave me feedback after the session on how they thought the session helped them personally and what they saw from others within the team that they didn’t think they were capable of. Furthermore, as I believed the session was a success I then thought to myself why was it a success? surely something didn’t go to plan, what could I have made better for them? and these were the ideas I came up with;

Firstly, as a coach one of my key themes is letting them play, if you let players play then they will naturally develop therefore, throughout this session I gave them large periods where I set them off with various games where each player began with a ball and let them play, this gave the players chance to express themselves and by me encouraging creativity and wanting them to try things they may have not tried before enabled them to learn and develop new skills that they may not have known they were capable of. Therefore, I believe that this was one of the strengths  of mine as a coach within this particular session.

Secondly, throughout each of my sessions I ask the players questions with them feeding me back the answers rather than me telling them where they are going wrong or what they need to improve on. This helps to get the players thinking about what they are doing and why they may be doing it. Also, by the players feeding back answers to me may help to improve there confidence as they have a reason in to why they may be doing a specific skill or why they made a certain pass. “When teaching your athletes tactical skills it’s a good idea to put the ball in their court by asking them question that make them think” (Craig A Wrisberg).

Although, these are two strengths I believe I possess as a coach after reflecting on the session that I delivered I found that albeit the session came across as a success to both me and the players there are still things I believe I could have made better within the session. One being there is a variety of ability within the team and although my session was based around creativity and players attempting new things I thought I could have set the more advanced players within the team individual tasks to challenge them and the less advanced players that may have only been attempting basic skills that they could do already, challenge them with more difficult skills to bring the creativity out of them.

Another improvement I could have made to my session would be when making a suggestion for the players to attempt something which may enhance development I sometimes throw numerous coaching points at them at once expecting them to remember everything I have just said to them rather than giving them one coaching points and then letting them play. Furthermore, this would help to develop my session if I broke things down into small sections which will help the players to remember things better. From my experience of playing when a coach is firing numerous coaching points towards you, you tend to switch off and only take note of one or two things that you have been told which could impact on your development, which is why I believe my session would have been improved if I broke coaching points down into small sections to help the players take in the information.

Overall, my feelings towards the session were positive as I believe the players learnt and had fun doing it which is the most important thing to be as a coach. I also think looking back on the session and reflecting on the whole process and finding areas of strengths and areas to improve and having fun doing it will only make me better as a coach starting my career.

Reference list:

Levett. N (No Date) Where every youth footballer counts available at:  (Accessed 30th September)

Wrisberg. C (No Date) Sport Skill Instruction for Coaches (Accessed 30th September)