I’ve had a major re-think about what it means to be a coach, I can’t call myself an expert, I haven’t been doing it long enough but I am an observationalist, my approach to coaching has changed for two main reasons; I’ve been reading a lot of articles from Changing the Game Project and I’ve been working more closely with kids, an opportunity that has been afforded to me since starting my after schools programmes.
As some of you may know the reason for starting the business was because I wanted something to fit in with my kid’s school timetable and also have something fun to do during the holidays from this D7 Multi Sports Academy was born.
I am mum two boys both of whom are sporty the eldest is a fairly talented footballer he is only 8 but he has a good understanding of the game, he has great pace and has a very accurate shot – when he started playing football for a team, training twice a week, matches on Saturday we were delighted and not to mention extremely proud of his achievements.
During his second year of playing football, he started not to play as well– he was flat footed, wouldn’t take any chances, he would rather pass the ball than try and make the play himself, he was scared of getting hurt.
As a parent I was confused, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to be the best that he could be, he thought he was doing well but I couldn’t accept it, I did everything that a parent shouldn’t do, I won’t lie I was annoyed, my high achieving boy was becoming average, it was a bitter pill to swallow. My own sense of my personal worth got wrapped up in how my child was doing during football sessions.
I projected my wants onto him
I Coached him from the side-line
I dissected his matches on the way home in the car
I told him what he should have done better
I stopped encouraging him and started lecturing him on how he should play.
NOOOOO but here’s the thing he’s only 8 what WAS I THINKING, he doesn’t want to be a professional footballer, he just wants to have fun kicking about with his mates.
If I take that freedom away from him what does he have left - not much - he’s told what to do at home, at school pretty much everywhere he goes - there is a code of behaviour that has to be abided by everywhere he goes.
He gets HIS freedom to express himself on the pitch, it shouldn’t matter how well or badly he does as long as he enjoys himself - who am I to take this away from him. As with all kids they develop at different rates, they come into their own at different times, improvement doesn’t happen progressively it is unpredictable and ever changing.
Which leads me on to a great point made in an article by Changing the Game Project, kids will stop playing sport in exchange for playing computer games or being on the phone snapchatting or instagraming because there is no one over their shoulder telling them what to do or how to be – its complete freedom, it’s very enticing and I can see the appeal in it.
In my generation we played– differently
I hear it all the time. ‘Times have changed I can’t let my kids outside without supervision’ I am one of those parents, I live on a busy road, where are my kid going to go and play? I have to take them to the playground everyday so that they can have free play but this might only be for an hour a day, when I was a girl I lived in a block of flats that had a green we were out all day everyday mooching, messing, building dens the things that you should be able to do as a kid, I wont even let my children cross the road on their own – free play is missing from a lot of kids lives hence the rise of organised sport with organised sport comes competition which is inevitable as there has to be an end result i.e. a win or a loss
On a team of mixed ability if you don’t have a fairhanded coach and your child isn’t at the same standard as others on the team yet, chances are that they won’t get played as much, it’s unlikely that they will ever start a match, and eventually they may get moved to the “B” team until eventually they are cut. Is this a valuable life lesson for a 12- 13-year-old – I don’t think so – we need to let the kids play without fear of rejection and constant instruction.
Which brings me on to early specialisation in sport – unless you’re a young Tiger Woods, Mesi or a Serena Williams early specialisation in sport is a definite no, if possible children should try a variety of sports (but not all at once ) that will allow the body to developed in a balanced way e.g. many of my football squad when warming up cannot touch their toes– this is at 10 years old, during one of my first Multi-Sport Camps my Martial Arts instructor did a drill which involved seeing how long the kids could hold onto to a bar suspended off the ground the girls won by a landslide, we couldn’t figure it out, until we realised that during breaks the girls played differently they cartwheeled around did more gymnastic type movements whilst the boys played football. It turned out that the girls had more upper body strength!
Most boys participate in sport that is lower body dominant which results in tight hamstrings and lack of flexibility (not to be confused with lack of fitness) tight muscles lead to injury – what should footballer do to compensate? May be a bit of yoga or even water aerobics? I’ve yet to test this but I am interested in the outcome.
Bob’s Bigelow has been a coach for NBA’s Kansas City Kings, Boston Celtics and San Diego Clippers, he identifies a Coaches key approaches for a better sports experience for children as:
Design sports programs that meet children’s needs, not adults’.
Ensure that every child gets meaningful playing time, up until College sports.
Make sure that coaches and volunteers are trained and qualified to work with young athletes.
Limit the number of games to prevent overuse injuries.
Encourage participation in multiple sports to prevent burn-out and enhance overall body development.
Avoid identifying “elite” players at young ages at the expense of later-bloomers.
Don’t over-coach from the side-lines — Let the Kids Play!
So, this is what I am aspiring to do as a coach and owner of a sports business. To start with I have changed the title of my football club from Spraoi Performance Soccer to Spraoi Soccer, as I want it to be inclusive for everyone.
My new football coach is entirely dedicated to the kids, in that he is not barking orders at them he is coaching them in a very informal way, he gives them the freedom to find their own solutions to certain issues and most of all to have fun I can hear them laughing and hooting all the way down the road during training sessions.
In my case as a coach of young boys and girls (JI &SI) I programme the session to meet their needs, and not to follow a curriculum of milestones and expectation, I also ask them for ideas which they love, they want to be involved with the planning and they want to have fun – so that’s what we’re doing we are devoting ourselves to ensuring that all the kids that come to us have EPIC FUN