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Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks - Coaching Adults and Peers

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I have coached every age group from Saturday morning mini kickers, local club sides through to academy squads - I am now working with my local club veterans team - the first time I have coached players in this age bracket ( as opposed to coaching coaches in this age bracket)

I am now returning to a question I have asked myself many times, but have found an answer easy to find - until now...

How and what to coach?

As coaches we all have a default setting, our comfort zone and the measure of the development of a coach is how we push ourselves outsides of this zone, coaching to the needs of the performers and to the environment, and the application of these experiences. 

With a mixture of players from those who have played at a reasonably high level, some players who are themselves qualified at levels 1 and 2 and have great experience within the game, to some willing dads of our junior players who want to turn back the clock (as opposed to ankles...), the challenge is how much to they need a coach, or someone to turn up with the equipment, make sure the pitch is booked and divide the players into teams ( I still smile at the question from this forty-somethings "can we have a match yet?" ) 

During my first year at university, we were posed a question – Children are not Mini Adults – Discuss. It is widely recognised that children are not mini adults and sessions, delivery and support should be changed and adapted as such. However, I would say that many adults can be big kids.... 

Here are some of my top tips....

  • Plan – for whatever group you are coaching, you need to be prepared and have a clear view of what you are going to coach

  • Have a Plan B (or C or D...) – something I realised farily quickly was that some of the players may have never have received coaching and experienced sessions that children are used to. Be ready to adapt on the spot

  • Make it Clear why you are doing something – I turned up at a session before Christmas, and said we would be working through a Phase of Play – I was met with a whole host of blank faces and a few half nods. Related to the point above, the players had not seen a phase of play previsouly, but once explained, understanding was developed

  • Keep it Fun – especially in the warm ups. The simple games and activities aimed at children and youth players will be just as engaging for the bigger kids

  • Involve them 1– after watching the games being played, I asked the players what they need to work on and improve – it is a great way of imporoving your own planning

  • Involve them 2 - get them coaching! It builds a great understanding for you as a coach of them, but also improves their understanding of the challenges of coaching (and it may not just be confined to these sessions, but spread across their own sessions)

  • Physical limitations – something that is of great consideration for young and old – what the players are capable of doing and in the case of the veterans, what they think they can still do. The importance of an appropriate warm up is vital.

  • Respect – understand why they are there, what they want to do and get them to have an input

I often say (somewhat flippantly) coaching is coaching – no matter what the sport, the level or the population. The application and the understanding of what to coach, how to coach and when to coach is very different, but the end results can be great.

Jon Woodward is a Coach Education Advisor at sports coach UK. He is a parent, coach and coach educator fulfilling various roles with various sports – and can be found tweeting ( @JonWoodward74) and blogging about coaching and life


Comments (1)


Asking them what their goals are is an interesting exercise & noting their reaction to a relative program. Quite often their is a sudden change of mind, & goal.

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