Coaching Irish Grassroots Football

Take The Break!

This is not the first time, I’ve posted about this and for many years now, I’ve always enjoyed the break away from coaching. Our Senior season started back in July 2021. I’m due to finish my UEFA A-License very soon (fingers crossed), just need to do 1 more assessment (all going well); for that reason I’m still coaching some teams until I get over the line.

This post is mainly for you, The Coach who needs a break or the coach who wants to take a break but feels pressurised to keep going. Even if the players are keen to keep going, I suggest you take the break for as long as you can. It will benefit the player, the team, it will benefit you and most importantly, if you have a family and a partner, it will benefit them.

Although training is important, it is also equally as important to ensure that you take adequate breaks in order to aide recovery. Doing this can actually help improve performance, focus and commitment in the long run.

We worry so much about taking time off because we are so afraid of falling behind or we hear other teams are still going and we are afraid of losing our players to these teams. You can’t be worrying about this. If they desire to keep training, suggest other forms of exercise such as swimming, running or even bike riding to provide some variety in their training.

I made the mistake of training through the summer some years back and by October everyone was tired, we had been going for 15 months without stopping and everyone needed a break. The players were sick of hearing the same things over and over again and I was getting agitated. Christmas couldn’t come quick enough and I haven’t made that mistake since!

Another season over – That’s 13 Seasons done now!

Our season finished early May this year, in fact our second last game was April and we had to wait 3 weeks to play the next one. The lads were already on holiday mode. We ended in a win and a promotion. So it was a great way to finish on a high. Generally, I would take an extra long break and not return until July. However this year with the assessment, things are a little different. The Senior season usually starts a couple of weeks earlier than the under age one. So I won’t get as much time off now but I’ll get enough.

Preparation and Family time..

The time off I get, will allow me to research, prepare a 6 week training plan and devise new coaching methods, strategies, session plans and complete my Principles of Play….. along with devoting this time relaxing and spending time with family and friends. It’s also important for me to do some work around the club, meeting with coaches and helping other fellow coaches were I can but Family time is the main priority now.

“Texas Health Resources Dr. Damond Blueitt said soccer can take a toll on feet ankles and knees–not to mention the occasional concussion–but most injuries are the product of simply playing too much soccer”


Many children only play football or 1 sport, so this a great opportunity to try new sports or new activities. Specialising in just one, has many downsides. In fact children those who specialise in just one sport can become ‘vulnerable to burning out both physically and mentally’ said Dr.Alan Goldberg a sports & child psychologist.

Playing a single sport all year round can be very tiring and kids can even get tired of playing the game altogether. In many cases the joy and passion they had at the start of the season can diminish and playing can become a chore. Too much of anything is not good for anyone.

In sport, too much use of certain body mechanics or too much repetitive movements can lead to over-use injuries. Study after study has shown that moving in various directions, using both sides of our body is much more beneficial and will help develop much better movement patterns and cause less injuries in the long run.

 “I had been coaching pretty much nonstop for the previous seven years, and this is as a volunteer who also had a job, a family of six and other commitments. Simply, I just burnt out from the schedule demands. I felt like I wasn’t being as good a coach as I should be, and I felt like I wasn’t as good to my family as I could be. Who knows, maybe my burnout contributed to the issues with parents during that last season” – Coach Tom

That’s why rest, relaxation and taking time off is so important to the development of any player and The Coach. Coaches can suffer mental & physical burn out too, leading to becoming disillusioned with the game, or even anger on the sidelines. Engaging in other activities, can help you de-stress from the sport you coach or play the most.

“Taking time to do NOTHING, often brings everything into PERSPECTIVE”

This time is for you. Use it!  

For a Coach, it might even be spending more time with your own family or for the Parents, it could be devoting more time to your other children or for a Player, just taking time away from the pressures of the game and having fun doing other things with friends and family. Even trying new games or sports.

So many, devote so much time to other peoples children, we tend to forget about our own.

  • If you’re a parent-coach you might want to stop talking about the team to your son or daughter.
  • Leave the team issues to during the season and try not to discuss team matters when you’re away from team set-up.
  • You might let you child practice alone and simply engage as a parent and not their coach.
  • You could set an agreement with your family about this.
  • If you meet players during the off-season, chat to them as people. Ask them about their life and what they are up too?
  • Try stay off social-media and engaging in discussions around your sport.

Some simple tasks like the ones above will enhance the BREAK you need. Time away from anything you love doing, will make you want it even more when you get back to doing it and the same goes for the players. Everyone comes back re-charged and ready for the new season.

The Players can still improve away from the organised coaching by practicing with their friends and on their own. After all, that’s how the game began for the majority children in sport….. kids did fairly well without us….up to a certain point and/or age. We don’t always need to be coaching and they don’t always need to be coached!

Take a break, we all need one and we all deserve one too!

Enjoy that break folks!


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

If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend/coach. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary and Facebook

Irish Grassroots Football

When does sport stop being about activity and just about competition? – Dr Colman Noctor

Is Sport about activity or competition?

I am a child psychotherapist and I must admit I have an ambivilant relationship with children’s sport. The reason for this is that I have borne witness to stories where sport was a life saver for some children. The structure, the camaraderie and the sense of belonging was achieved through sport when it was lacking in school or at home. However I have also heard stories where children’s self- esteem and self worth were decimated by a sporting experience that involved exclusion, a life time on the subs bench or being told at a young age they are not good enough.

“In my experience as soon as a child masters the basic tasks of a sport, the grading and weeding process comes in”


It has gotten me thinking that there are 2 types of approaches to sport. Those who are ego driven and those who are task driven. Those who are ego driven are keen for competition, they want to win medals, being the best is important to them and they have a natural competitive instinct. On the other hand those who are task driven want to play for enjoyment, to learn new skills and to engage in an activity that is social, keeps them relatively fit and is enjoyable.

The system of children’s sport is notionally set up to accommodate both, but in my experience as soon as a child masters the basic tasks of a sport, the grading and weeding process comes in. Often this system strongly favours the ego driven children and very soon there is an expectation that children will commit to twice a week training and a match at the weekends. This is a big commitment of time and effort, but the possibility of league medals, championships and winning becomes the motivation for attending. Often this culture is created by the coaches who set the tone of the sport and the team and soon the task driven children are often driven out.

Just because they do not believe that winning is everything, or just because they don’t want to commit to three intense scheduled sporting commitments per week, or just because they don’t go to play sport to be roared at when they make a mistake means that they either get side-lined or leave of their own accord. The system of children’s sport is designed to support the elite athlete and not the task driven casual sports person. There is no room for that lack of commitment.

The reality is that of the 100% of club players, 1% will make the elite level in most sports. The other 99% will be made up of varying degree of casual sports people. However the system is focused on that 1% often at the cost of the 99%. Another interesting statistic is that despite only 1% of club players making it to the elite level, 26% of parents believe their child is capable of making the elite level, which if you do the maths looks like a lot of disappointed parents.

Even the concept of Junior C football is changing. Traditionally this grade was made up of a few casual aging gentlemen who went out for a match, without a matching set of shorts and socks between them, perhaps stopping to have a cigarette at half-time. This grade is gone. Junior C GAA is made up of fit young lads, on diet plans with strength and conditioning coaching sessions as part of the schedule.

So why is it so? In adult sport there is the capacity to engage with sport socially. I play 5 a side soccer most weeks and Tag Rugby too. The text goes around to see whos available and wants to play and you can say yes or no, there is no issue. Why is there nothing similar for young people. If playing soccer or tag rugby required me to be there twice a week and a match at the weekends, I would not be playing. This does not mean that I am not competitive, I am. I give it 100% effort for the hour that I am playing, but when there is no leagues or medals at stake, the losses don’t sting as badly and don’t last passed 30 seconds of the final whistle. We return the bibs to be washed for the following week, pay our €5 to the kitty person, and we head off to repeat the same next week.

Why can we not have something similar for young people. It is my view that this type of a model would be very popular for young people and it would mean that their participation levels remain for longer and they continue to play well into adulthood.

We need to think about the structures of children’s sport. Most give up because it is too serious, they are told they are not good enough or because the time commitment is too much. The ‘all or nothing’ approach is failing our children. In a world that is ‘On Demand’ and we can tailor most things to our personal needs, children’s sport is not moving with the times. The archaic expectations of needing to give all for the club or county and sacrifice all else for your sport will not suit most and therefore participation will dwindle, only to maybe take up sport again in their 30s or 40s.

Follow Dr Colman Noctor on twitter @colnoc77


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 

Irish Grassroots Football

Horst Wein: How To Develop Creative Potential Within Each Child

Horst Wein,  first coach to be awarded the title of FIH Master Coach, was born in Hanover, Germany in 1941. In this post we share some of his teaching as we remember as one of the greatest Children coaches in hockey and football of all time.

Horst has majored in the ground-breaking concept of Game Intelligence, since 2002, having written and lectured extensively on the topic in four continents.

Wein was one of the deepest and most influential thinkers within the game. He was one of the first to strongly argue in favour of smaller-sided games (although he prefers the term ‘simplified games’) for younger players; views that everyone now seems to be accepting and enthusing about but which were considered as idiotic for a long time..

Horst Wein:
“The 10 Most Important Conditions To Develop Creative Potential Within Each Child”

In the “big game” on a regular field, the young player is generally condemned to become passive, participating very seldom in plays where he can exhibit his creative skills.

Children should be exposed to more game plays (global method) and less practice with the analytical method. The practice should happen in the game.

We should give children the opportunity to explore and to discover through “playing”, to infect them with the creativity shown by their teammates and opponents and without having the coach interceding frequently.

Young players up to 13 years “should have the opportunity to play in different positions in order to discover the roles and functions which these positions characterize”.

When the children play, they should have fun and be keen on the game. If the young player does not identify himself with the proposed game that the coach has designed, the creative capability will remain asleep.

Frequent rule changes, introduced by surprise during the practise of the game, force the players who want to win to adapt to the rule changes, using their creativity.

The young players, especially those of 7 to 12 years, should not be pressured by their coach to quickly pass the ball in order to allow a better team-play and winning. They should frequently have the opportunity to “be in love with the ball”, to dare to improvise their play and take risks, without fearing the possible consequences of having committed a mistake or to have lost the possession of the ball.

Instead of the coach being the main character in the teaching and learning process, he should often transfer responsibility to his young pupils and ask them, through systematic questioning, to solve most of the situations that he presents. A true master in teaching never gives the answers to the problems, but helps his pupils to find and discover them on their own, guiding them to correct results.

“Let The Game Be The Teacher” – Horst Wein

Any flash of creative behaviour in a player should be recognised by the coach who should do everything to encourage his players to be different and to look out for original solutions to the problems inherent in the game.

The environment of the young player is an enemy of his creativity. Nowadays most of our young talent grows in an atmosphere which is noticeably hostile towards creativity. Their familiar and scholastic surroundings, especially between the ages of 7 and 14 years, are characterized generally by a “intentional direction” of learning (with strict norms), which is limiting personal initiative, independence, originality and the value of trying to do things in different ways. Basically: “instead of presenting fishes to the children, the students, or the players, the parents, teachers and coaches should teach them how to fish.”

Originally from HockeyWorld.Net

Horst Wein: Children’s 10 Rights To PLAY :

  1. The right to enjoyment both in practice and in competition, with a wide variety of activities that promote fun and easy learning.
  2. The right to play as a child and not be treated like an adult, either on or off the playing field.
  3. The right to participate in competitions with simplified rules, adapted to their level of ability and capacity in each stage of their evolution.
  4. The right to play in conditions of greatest possible safety.
  5. The right to participate in all aspects of the game.
  6. The right to be trained by experienced and specially prepared coaches and developers.
  7. The right to gain experience by resolving most of the problems that arise during practices.
  8. The right to be treated with dignity by the Coach, their team-mates, and by their opponents.
  9. The right to play with children of their own age with similar chances of winning.
  10. The right not to become a champion.


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 

Coach Talk Irish Grassroots Football

A Healthy Philosophy of Winning

An important issue requiring clarification is the difference between professional and developmental models of sport. Professional sport is a huge commercial enterprise, where the major objectives are directly linked to their status in the entertainment industry. The goals of professional sports are to entertain and to make money. Financial success is of primary importance and depends heavily on winning.

In a developmental model, sport is an arena for learning, in which the ultimate objective is to develop the individual. The most important product is not wins or dollars, but the quality of the experience for young athletes. In this sense, sport participation is an educational process whereby youngsters can learn to cope with realities they will face in later life. Although winning is sought after, it is by no means the primary goal. Profit is not measured in terms of euros and cents, but rather in terms of the skills and personal characteristics that are acquired.

Most youth sport programs are oriented toward providing a healthy recreational and social-learning experience for youngsters. They are not intended to be miniature professional leagues. Unfortunately, some coaches get caught up in the “winning is everything” philosophy that characterises much of our sport culture. This is not to say that coaches should not try to build winning teams, but some- times winning becomes more important for the coach than it is for the athletes. Winning will take care of itself within the limits of your athletes’ talents and the quality of instruction they receive. In your role as a teacher, it is important to recognise that skills are most likely to develop within a positive and happy relationship between you and your athletes. And while happy athletes don’t always win, they need never lose.

Young athletes can learn from both winning and losing. But for this to occur, winning must be put in a healthy perspective. More exactly, there is a four-part philosophy that Mastery Approach coaches communicate to their athletes.

Young athletes can learn from both winning and losing. But for this to occur, winning must be put in a healthy perspective. More exactly, there is a four-part philosophy that Mastery Approach coaches communicate to their athletes.

1. Winning isn’t everything, nor is it the only thing. Young athletes can’t possibly learn from winning and losing if they think the only objective is to beat their opponents. If youngsters leave your program having enjoyed relating to you and to their team- mates, feeling better about themselves, having improved their skills, and looking forward to future sport participation, you have accom- plished something far more important than a winning record or a league championship.

2. Failure is not the same thing as losing. Athletes should not view losing as a sign of failure or as a threat to their personal value. They should be taught that losing a game is not a reflection of their own self-worth.

3. Success is not equivalent to winning. Winning and losing apply to the outcome of a contest, whereas success and failure do not. How, then, can we define success in sports?

4. Athletes should be taught that success is found in striving for victory. The important idea is that success is related to commitment and effort! Effort is within athletes’ zone of control. They have complete control over the amount of effort they give, but they have only limited control over the outcome that is achieved. “You have no control over results. All you can do is play to the best of your abilities. Success is YOU giving everything that YOU have.”

The core idea in the Mastery Approach emphasises that success is achieved in striving to be your best. Thus, the focus is not on competing with others and trying to outdo them, but on developing one’s own abilities to the maximum. We saw this concept captured in John Wooden’s definition of success, and College Football Hall of Fame coach Frosty Westering expressed the same idea in this statement: “Doing your best is more important than being the best.”

If you can impress on your athletes that they are never “losers” if they commit themselves to doing their best and giving maximum effort, you are bestowing a priceless gift that will assist them in many of life’s tasks. When winning is kept in a healthy perspective, the most important coaching product is not a won-lost record; it is the quality of the sport experience provided for the athletes.

How can you teach a mastery-oriented philosophy of winning?

First, have regular discussions about it. You must continually remind athletes about the importance of effort. Second, back up your words with actions. In other words, don’t just talk about effort, do something about it! Third, help athletes set individualised goals specific to them, and encourage them to work toward them. If they’re working on a technical skill, try to find a way to measure their performance so they can see their improvement. Use praise and recognition to reward effort and improvement. Encourage effort and persistence, telling athletes that skills develop gradually, not all at once. In a mastery climate, the “most improved player” award is just as important as the “most valuable player.” Finally, convey to your athletes that mistakes are one of the best ways to learn, and that they needn’t fear making them.

John Wooden referred to mistakes as “stepping stones to achievement” because they provide the feedback needed to improve performance.

Contribution By Prof. Ronald Smith


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 

Irish Grassroots Football

Good Reads this week:

Youth Sport and COVID-19: Contextual, Methodological, and Practical Considerations

  1. The unique circumstances surrounding COVID-19 offer an opportunity to reflect on existing youth sport provision. What defines a “real” sport? What are those key ingredients needed for sport to occur? Sport systems can often be resistant to change because this “is how we’ve always done it.” Now is the time to challenge that approach.…/fspor.2020.584252/full…

2. “The science is clear – this can all be done safely. Other jurisdictions have done it. The Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, France – these are all countries where youth sport is being preserved through accredited sports clubs right now. They recognise it’s safe. They’ve looked at the science.”…/frustration-grows-among…

3. 100% agree with Benny. I’ve been coaching children since July at our childcare facility and we haven’t had 1 child out sick with a flu or cold, never mind covid! Lots of Children are regressing and our government don’t seem to care. Absolutely we need to take care and practice safe protocols for the safety of everyone, however we can’t lock children and adults away from their sport & exercise any longer. It’s mentally draining being stuck in a house all day without any social interaction with your peers. Children, people need social interactions.…/-kids-are-crumbling-and…/…


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

Irish Grassroots Football

“The more sports you can play from a younger age, the better

“The more sports you can play from a younger age, the better” @offtheball @nathanmurf Stuart Lancaster on the ‘specialisation vs generalisation’ argument in underage sport 🏉#OTBFuture

  1. The more sports you can play from a younger age, the better;
  2. They become more rounded;
  3. The best players players are the ones who had the broadest experiences in different sports;
  4. Playing to space, identifying space in different sports, the more you play the better you get that feel for it;
  5. The best decision makers are the ones who played the most sports;
  6. U16s international was stopped as only 10% made it to u20s. It creates false hope & impressions on players.
  7. You can only identify talent at around 20 years;
  8. Rocky Road Study: Athletes who had setbacks, not selected, injuries = better achievements rates, resilience, determination.
  9. Full Video ➡️


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

Irish Grassroots Football

@RvN1776 Ruud Van Nistelrooy

@RvN1776 Ruud Van Nistelrooy a few years ago talking to @OxfordUnion

⚽️ Education is the most important thing;

⚽️ The environment is pushing kids into that dream that hardly anyone makes;

⚽️ They are tired of playing by 14/15;

⚽️ Let kids be kids;

⚽️ The best will grow & develop into the players they will be!


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