The second part of the course, only attended by the students applying for the youth license, was held in the next two weekends and consisted of sessions ran by the students and assessed by the teachers. The assessment wasn’t to qualify or disqualify the students. It was to criticize the sessions and coaching practices in a constructive way, in order to help the development of the attendants.
Differently from the first part, the target was the 9-13 years old age group. This is the time span classified by motor skill science as the golden age of motor development. At this age, children will learn fast and what is learned will be ingrained, making it the best time for technique development.
The course was ran by Dean Simpkins, head of the Skill Acquisition Program of Football Queensland and he stressed all the time the importance of finding and developing players that can decide games. Each group was assigned with one of the four skills according to the National Curriculum: Running With the Ball, Striking the Ball, First Touch and 1v1. Special attention was given to 1v1, which is the most rare skill to find.
A lot of attention was also given to designing and conducting the sessions and those were probably the biggest contributions of the course to me as a coach. There’s so much thinking to do that I definitely abandoned my plans to work during the day and coach or teaching dance during the night. This is a crucial moment of my life, since I’ll be dealing with 3 different age groups (U11s, U14s and Seniors), so I’ll have to use my spare time to assess everything I’m doing while at the same time studying to broaden and solidify my knowledge. I’ll probably struggle financially but it will pay big dividends in the future. There’s no way someone can become a world class coach without a LOT of studying.
Some of the most common mistakes found in the sessions were:
* – Designing sessions with non-realistic scenarios: Every exercise should resemble the game
* – Spending too much time in exercises with no decision-making: Even though isolated practices are necessary to master the fundamental skills, they’ll be useless if not combined with decision making.
* – Not demonstrating enough: Children will not learn efficiently from words. They need to see to learn and the coach should SHOW how it’s done.
* – Talking too much: Information should be limited, short and precise.
* – Providing good atmosphere: Children need to have fun and to be driven. Sessions should be fun and the coach should be energetic.
* – Not intervening enough or in the right time: Probably the most crucial aspect of coaching and the most difficult to learn: The coach should identify a mistake and stop the practice immediately to correct it, instead of fabricating football situations.
* – Not using the correct mindset: Children shouldn’t be told what to do, but encouraged to think by themselves through questions: “Why do you think I stopped?” “What could you have done differently?” and so on. Every situation is different, and if you tell them what to do he might do the same thing in a situation that required another solution.
The practice I ran was Running With the Ball into free space. I designed a session where the field would have 3 zones and the central one would be divided in 8 zones. Players should run from one goal line to the opposite scoring zone. The progression would be to use an increasing number of zones, from 2 to 6, which would encourage changes of direction and decision-making: . In the second part the zones would be removed and there would be 2v1s and later 3v2s, which allowed a lot of free space to run into.
The design and the atmosphere were pretty good according to Dean, but he said the progression is not game realistic (running into 6 zones would never happen in a game) and also I didn’t show enough what I wanted to be done. The coaching points were right but they weren’t demonstrated enough.
It was positive in my opinion. A big ice-breaker. It can cause some anxiety to present a session in front of 45 coaches, some of them very experienced but I think I grew to the challenge. Once the session started I was pretty comfortable. Probably because I’ve been running sessions in the weeks before. Also I got to say my name, where I coached and that I worked for the Roar. It’s very important, in these enviroments, to get to be known. Unfortunately I forgot to say I was brazilian in front of everyone. We are still automatically more respected just coming from Pele’s land, and I should have said that.
Now I have to take care of the video assessment. I will try to do it as soon as possible to finally get my C License and start thinking about the B.