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Emotional attachment to practice design - are we doing the players a disservice? | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Emotional attachment to practice design - are we doing the players a disservice?

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  • Richard2591

    Recently I've been thinking about how I plan my sessions for 5-11 year olds I coach on a day to day basis. You can probably agree that every coach has a favourite practice, or type of practice (e.g. Small Sided Game, Skill Practice, Fun Game, Constraint, Rule or Condition). 

    From my personal experiences planning sessions, I'm not sure if they are actually relevant to the players at that particular time. 

    So we get home, partially reflect on one of those great sessions we've just had. Kids were buzzing, players were engaged, things worked and you have got great feedback from both players and parents. When the next session comes, do we become emotionally attached to delivering that session again too often? I often face this dilemma as I work with around 14 different groups a week. I've seen it with colleagues as well, that when something works really well, that session is repeated for around 2 weeks with various groups. Also, when I've seen a really good session, I can't wait to try it myself... Is that right?

    The main thoughts I have are;

    • Are we trying to find lots of different ways to do the same session?
    • Do we become reluctant to give what players need and base the session around that, rather than the other way round?
    • Does time become a factor, and is there a severe imbalance of the Plan - Do - Review process?
    • Do we become attached to certain sessions, and not challenge ourselves enough with new ideas?

    Would love to hear other people's thoughts on their experiences. 

  • JonWoodward74

    Great questions Richard....

    I agree that the sessions that you as a coach think went well, will be repeated with other groups, and you might see ones and deliver them.

    The key factor is that one is right for one group (or an individual) may not be appropriate. My view is that no 2 sessions should be the same, as the time, the place, the context and those involved will be different.

    The key is to adapt, tweak, advance, etc (whatever phrase you want!) so they are most relevant at that moment in time. In may not be in a reflective moment, it could be in the moment!

    Time is an obvious factor, but I also think that your comment around 'becoming attached' to certain sessions is spot on. It is the comfort of what you know, but for me the joy of creating new sessions is the key to coaching.

    I also think that just because someone says that this session plan produces a great session is not always true. It may have been a great session for them, at that moment, for that group of players but it is important to put your own style or take on it, and not be afraid for your session to go wrong

    The only person who knows it isn't going the way you intended is probably you....

  • Richard2591

    Hi Jon, I completely agree with the points you made above. In my opinion, if you are going to do similar practices with different ages and abilities then;

    • Its important to recognise that if we are doing a complex practice with 6 year olds, then we need to expect what it will look like when 6 year olds do it! I have done lots of constraints and small sided games with 6 year olds and it's important to be patient, and to unravel the complexities of the game to that age 
    • On the reverse, if doing a practice with adults, it needs to be just as stimulating weighted with a lot of relevant detail, and be prepared to answer and justify your decisions! 

    You put this perfectly when you referred to tweaking. And thinking on our feet comes from deep reflection! 

  • LawrieOK

    Good question Richard - guilty as charged!!! But, in mitigation I do tweak/modify the 'successful' session if I use it for a new group of players as suggested by Jon Woodward in his reply to you. TBH I seldom use the session back to back, but rather come back to it with ano group when the circumstances prompt me to.

    Earlier this week, whilst waiting for my group of Y7's to arrive, I watched ano Coach working with her group of players on an adjacent pitch and noticed how disengaged the players were as they queued up to participate in the various drills setup for them. The Coach was on her own with 32 Y6 pupils of vastly varying abilities. It struck me that she was 'going through the motions', and using an often repeated session plan to get her through the allocated time. She had too many players and too little time, so she appeared to rely on some session plan probably used many times by her and her colleagues over the years; little or no consideration for the needs of the players, and most certainly no challenge for either her or her charges. Sad day it was for me as the observer, and most certainly for the young athletes involved.


  • Richard2591

    There's nothing wrong with tweaking our best sessions - ultimately we are the best prepared to give our players the most relevant, realistic and enjoyable sessions. 

    Regarding your 2nd comment, it amazes me schools are still prepared to pay for such low standard coaching but this will improve over time... If something goes wrong in our sessions do we refer back to type or hold our nerve and see what unfolds within the session?

  • sgreen

    Richard, some good points, i think every coach has a favourite set of drills or games that we feel confident in delivering. however as we develop as coaches, then we have a resposibility to our charges to develop our thinking and move with greater creativity and thought. I imagine every coach has watched a really good session at some time in their career and then gone on to deliver the session within the next couple of coaching sessions you do, however on reflection, whilst it may have worked and the players may have enjoyed it, generally if often doesnt fit in with your on going plan, and becomes a session in isolation.

    Similarly whilst we often have to continue the theme over several sessions, we have a responsibility to plan a series of sessions with progression, regression, and game related specific practices, which allow us to build and develop the skills or techniques required, but also to create situations where the players understand the why, and where the picture fits into the game.

    I had an interesting conversation with a coachon sunday, whilst watching an under 13 rugby session, he asked me at what age children get the " light bulb " moment...... probably as a result of being frustrated at the slow development of some of his players. What a great question it turned out to be, because it made me think straight away, and ponder even further over the next few days...... I gave him my honest opinion at the time, and agreed with him that players developed at different rates, however I honestly felt  (and told him ) that they develop it as fast as we show them where the switch is !

    Talking to good coaches, you continually think and develop your coaching phylosophy and i feel strongly that with good planning and keeping lots of game related practices, with simple constraints or conditions, in attack and defence, we can create situations to switch on the players"light bulbs ", and by asking thought provoking questions, and allowing them to see solutions they begin to understand where this fits in the game.

    In most cases, if we can get players to get their heads up and scan early, and not just follow the ball or look at where the ball is they begin to develop that peripheral  vision, and seem to have more time, but actually they can read,plan do much quicker and as such are seen as better players. They see where the defence is, or its shape, and naturally choose better options to defeat it. 

  • Richard2591

    Completely agree Simon - unless we extend our players and push their boundaries then how do we know how spectacular they can be?

    Rules and constraints trigger emotional and psychological responses which influence behaviour. The more players are comfortable with the ball or the task, the more they will scan and interpret all the information around them! 

  • robertepetersen

    When we teach new trap shooters the basics that they need to get off to a good start, we have several drills that make sense, appear to work, and are remembered as effective when you check with the students years later.  What I try to do is identify what each drill is expected to improve: identify rising targets, the effectiveness of watching the target rather than the gun site, etc.  Then I ask myself, and the student, which aspect of the game they seem to be struggling with and pick the drill to address the problem.  

    This works with one-on-one, but in groups the dynamics become complex, so it's more difficult to move one student of a group onto a new drill leaving the others behind.  I look to identify other activities (like patterning the gun, a single person task) that I can move those who have outgrown the drill to quickly before the others become intimidated by how long it takes them.  It's not always obvious what the drill can do as distinct from what I thought it was going to do.  Usually it touches more aspects of trap shooting than I originally understood.  But with this approach I better understand what the drill can, and does, teach. 

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