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By aggression, I’m not talking about encouraging children to attack opposition players. I refer to legitimate, full-on commitment in the tackle in contact or limited contact sports – an important part of the game.
I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but are some players not more genetically predisposed to fly into challenges without a care in the world. Physical size may be a contributing factor as children mature but, from an early age, you see those who are willing to ‘get stuck in’ and those who shy away – with ‘get stuck in’ arguably the most popular expression you hear being shouted at the sidelines, from both parents and coaches.
So, can you and should you be encouraging your participants to be more aggressive on the field of play, and will this aid their development?
Interesting question, Blake.
Although I might re-phrase it a little - can you coach the confidence required to enter into a physical challenge?
And, by re-phrasing the question, I get to answer the question in a slightly different way.
Rather than coaching aggression, coach the techniques needed to make (or to ride) a tackle, and I suspect the players will come to relish the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of a new technique.
As an example - Manchester United brought in circus skills trainers to teach their youth team players how to fall and roll.
Interesting question. I think there's a fine line between aggression and passion, but I also believe that there is a lot of other psychology complexities that result in a player being classed as 'aggressive'. Confidence is a huge part of it, confidence in taking responsibility and challenging for the ball. Another thing which I think links in to this well is arousal and anxiety. At times players can become over excited or overly anxious which may result in them playing more aggressively and not always to their benefit. There's lot of research on these psychological aspects of personality and their effect on performance.
From a coaching point of view I think it's about helping the players develop their passion for the sports. Having said that, this also depends on the age. I currently work with the North Wales Elite Regional squad on a weekly basis and found myself encouraging the players to be more aggressive in their manner during small sided games and oppositional drills. Again, by aggressive I don't mean hurting one another or shouting at one another, I meant that when the opposition had the ball you tried your absolute best to get it off them. We were also working on crossing and finishing in the box and I also encouraged the players to be more aggressive when attacking the ball as they started off being very passive.
All in all, I think there is always a need for passion which sometimes may be perceived as aggression but as long as it is used purposefully and in a positive way that's all that matters.
I agree with Andrew, confidence is the key here. Confident (not aggressive) players know when to play the ball more aggressively and when to pull back. John O'Sullivan from Changing The Game Project has written a good article about how to raise a 'lion chaser'. I believe this is exactly what is needed from players.
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