Helping children becoming better players…

It’s fairly well recognised that our role as coaches is to help children get better, whether that is becoming better people or better players. However, what is also becoming more apparent to me the more I read about things is that it is ultimately about children becoming better learner’s too. 

There are many quotes from inspirational football managers from Pep to Sir Alex that talk about the importance of having a player that can learn but as a grassroots coach what role can we play in that process? Well, there are simple things we can do to encourage young people to develop these skills and foster a brighter outlook towards improvement. 

Self-talk is recognised as playing an important psychological role within both the practice and performance phase of taking part in sport and how a young person uses that inner voice can have an effect on learning. As coaches we spend all of our time trying to help a player master a specific technical aspect or solve a tactical problem but if all the time you are competing against a voice internally in their head that tells them they can’t do this it is going to be a real struggle for us. 

The cycle then has the potential to spiral downwards… “I’ll never get this” in the player’s head becomes the coach thinking “they are hopeless, why can’t they understand” and dangerously can move towards the coach considering “I’ll find another player that can do this instead” and all because we didn’t support their tape being played internally.

So, consider helping the player change those words. Discuss these with them, talk about how it affects them, get them to print them out and stick them on the fridge, use this how you like!

Instead of:                                          Try thinking:
I’m not good at this                             What am I missing?
I’m awesome at this                             I’m on the right track
I give up                                              I’ll use some strategies we’ve learned
This is too hard                                   This may take some time and effort
I can’t make this any better                  I can always improve so I’ll keep trying
I made a mistake                                 Mistakes help me learn better
Plan A didn’t work                               Good job the alphabet has 25 more letters
It’s good enough                                  I can still make it better
He’s so good, I’ll never be that good     I’m going to figure out how he does it to help me

I found this lists on a photo somewhere so not sure where they came from but they were linked to classroom learning. However, these are absolutely appropriate for the sport’s world too. 

So, as well as helping the player’s with the technical and tactical aspects of the game try affecting the little things that could make a massive difference, to them as player’s and as people. 

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2 thoughts on “Helping children becoming better players…

  • August 3, 2015 at 11:08 am

    The main question for me is how changing the child mind in order to make them thinking that way. Explaining isn't efficient for most of them.
    Your point is definitely interesting but I would be even more with some tips in order to switch them from fixed mindset to growth mindset!

  • January 26, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    As in all walks of life and various age groups. Our kids all have their own personalities and ways of handing difficulty and their development. Coaches are with these kids for a few hours a week, if that. They are influenced by others at school, home and multimedia. Like all other people, some youth footballers will soak up these kinds of advice and thrive of this approach. As coaches all we can do is make sure they enjoy themselves and implement these techniques as and when the opportunities arise.


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