Coaching Irish Grassroots Football

Advice for Coaching children from the very first time and after!

The vast majority of coaches are parents. Usual Mums or dads and mostly coaching their own child. They mostly start out assistant coach or a helper but soon enough find that they have taken over the role of Head Coach. That was my story to coaching anyway!

No two ways about it. Coaching with no experience is one of the hardest things you can do and more often than not you’ll get a lot of things wrong before you start to do things right.

“A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.”

Your philosophy will be ideas that determine everything you do as a coach; from how you speak to your players, how you handle the parents and communicate your coaching style and ideas about the game – i.e. the style in which you want your team to play. Your coaching philosophy will give the players and parents an insight into what you are all about.

The ‘Sandwich Approach’ is sandwiching your instruction between two supportive communications: Start with a compliment – Give the instruction – End with a positive statement that’s intended to motivate the player to use what you have just communicated.

Here are a some coaching tips that have helped me along the way:

  1. You are most likely going to coach your own child. This isn’t something I recommend but it’s also something that virtually impossible to avoid. Let them know about your decision and ask them how they feel about it? Make sure you explain that when you’re coaching you will have two hats – the dad hat and the coach hat. That way your child is prepared for both scenarios.
  2. Set out your goals and standards from the beginning and includes the players and parents. Hold a team meeting explaining how you like to run the team. Don’t let your standards drop and be consistent with everything you do. The players will respect you more for that. Everything you do will rub off on the players, (make sure you are a positive influence). That is why it is so important to stick to your philosophy, standards and values. The greatest managers in the world all stick to what they believe in and ingrain those beliefs into the players. Repeating the same things over and over again until the players themselves are the ones repeating it back to you. You will tweak and change as you evolve as a coach but for the most part your standards and values will stay the same.
  3. Be clear and concise with your goals for the team. Be 100% player focused and always be fair!
  4. Never try to keep the parents away from training and games. Be open and transparent.
  5. Always be positive, be prepared for training and start on time. Greet the players with a smile and go out of your way to interact with every players during the session.
  6. When your session is organised, challenging and fun, children are less likely to mess and get distracted. Avoid doing line drills or at least don’t have children waiting too long to get involved.
  7. Try not coach the individual or the small group.
  8. When instructing, keep it short and simple (KISS). If demonstrating try and get a player to do it if they can. When talking to the players, face them away from any distractions (sun), keep your message to around 60 seconds, max! If it’s 1-2-1 you may need to get down to their eye level.
  9. I use the ‘Guided Discovery ‘way of teaching, a teaching model where students learn through explorations, with directions from the coach; this model is a great method for coaching.
  10. Don’t create too much confusion in your session. Keep it to 1 or 2 topics to introduce and repeat over and over again. At the start of practice you might, let the players know what you will be working on and show them the area or space you will be working in. Ask them, “Does everyone understand” Keep your exercises (Drills) game related and age appropriate.
  11. Reaffirm with positive instruction: use the sandwich effect. The sandwich feedback method consists of praise followed by corrective feedback followed by more praise. In other words, the sandwich feedback method involves discussing corrective feedback that is “sandwiched” between two layers of praise.
  12. At the end of training or the game call in all of the players. Ask them: “Who saw one of your teammates do something well?” The kids are actually good at answering this question and players love peer praise. Reaffirm your points and ask them, “what are key messages they take away from the session?”
  13. During the game, remain came and step back away from the action. How your players react on the pitch is a reflection of how you react on the sidelines. Let mistakes happy. Never highlight mistakes with anger. Mistake are stepping stones to achievements. You should always give encouragement after mistakes are made.
  14. Coaching is not easy, especially when you’re starting out. You are always learning and evolving just like the players. Everyone goes in with very high expectations, and we don’t have control over the outcome! You are not alone here. We have all started this way and we are always learning and still making mistakes. Reach out to other coaches, there will be some at your club willing to help. Twitter is also a great place to connect and attend coaching working shops. All these things can serve as wonderful resource to getting better and more confident!

Let’s look at some takes homes from the topic above and The Important Attributes For A Coach Of Young Children:

  1. You should never want to win more than the kids themselves.
  2. Your team tells you a lot about who you are.
  3. Be Approachable (Qualities) – someone we can talk to about the game or if there is a problem, Trust is very important.
  4. Be Enthusiastic (Qualities) – Tries their best to make training and games as much fun as possible.
  5. Be Fair (Quality) – Will give everyone a chance, even if we are not very good players. Is Loyal to players who consistently train and work hard
  6. Be Organised (Skills) – They are ready prepared for the game or training, so we know what we are doing straight away.
  7. And Be presentable, Be approachable and Be a good communicator;

It’s Not The Wins, It’s Not The League Titles, It’s Not The Skills You Teach. It’s The Words You Use And How You Made Them Feel. That Is Your Coaching Legacy. COACH BEYOND THE GAME!

Children Learn In Different Ways:

  • No two kids are the same, they all develop and learn at different rates through the various stages. Every 6 months, some improve, some regress and others stay at the same and 6 months on things change again.
  • Great coaches do not coach the sport; they coach the PLAYER. There is a big difference. Every PLAYER is different. They learn differently, they hear differently, they respond to teaching differently.
  • Bad coaches know only what worked for them as players and cannot understand why everyone does not respond the way they did. Master coaches recognise that connecting with each individual PLAYER is what makes for great players, and great teams!!!

“Youth sports in America is still failing too many of our kids. We adults are still not providing the fun environment, or the potential for true nurtured learning and emotional growth, that should define the core mission of sports for children and adolescents. Youth sports in America is simply
not meeting the needs of ALL the children whom we as adults have a responsibility to serve. The failure is particularly noticeable at the younger age levels, for kids 12 and under.” – Prof Doug Abrams


We always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say or content to share, please comment below or email me 

If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary and @LetTheKidPlay

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