The Coach Diary

My daughter likes football!

I always taught my daughter didn’t like football. Yesterday she surprised me and asked ‘did I want to play 1v1 out the back?’. I answered, sure! As we walked out the back, she turned and said ‘get the goals, I’m not playing without goals.’ A few minutes later I had the goals out and we were ready to play.

To my astonishment she started to tell me rules of the game ( I have never spoke to her about football before). She said, “The keeper can pick the ball up and when you kick the ball out, it’s my ball.” After 15 minutes she lead 4-1. Yelling ‘Score’ (Very American I know) every-time she scored and pumping the air. Again I was surprised how she was able to connect with both feet and with power. We were playing in a ten by ten grid, with small goals either end of the back garden.

“Dad, I’m winning 4-1. Just because you coach, doesn’t mean you can play”

A few things stud out for me. I never once tried to stop the game and coach her. I did ask her if she wanted me to show her how to control the ball. She said, ‘I’m ok, that will take to long’ (She didn’t want to be coached, she wanted to play) so I didn’t persist. In fairness she was doing just fine and I didn’t want our little game to turn into a coaching session. I firmly believe that kids don’t need coaching at this age, what they need is to be allowed play, to discover and learn by themselves. I see hundreds of children in academies every weekend, standing in line waiting to kick or pass a ball, while parents stare on and coaches, over coach & complicate the process (The best players ever, were creations of street game not organised structured football). This is not natural learning and not only that, most of it is boring and doesn’t challenge the children. For me, that is not the game;  it doesn’t’ even resemble the game one bit.

We need to get away from all this adult control and over coaching and allow the children to challenge themselves and learn the game in its natural form. If we want to get back to resembling anything like street football, we need to remove the adult control and create an environment that resembles what street football is; Challenging, Creative, Goals, Fast and Fun. This can only be achieved by letting them play, there is plenty of time to coach but not enough time given to self learn.

My daughter said to be during our game. “Dad, I’m winning 4-1. Just because you coach, doesn’t mean you can play”. In that short 40 minute game she touched the ball more times than any weekend academy would have allowed her too, she scored more goals (she won 9-4) then most kids would in a month of organised sports and she started with a smile and ended with a laugh – at my expense. Most importantly, she created the game, she controlled it and she had fun.

This little game made a lot of sense to me. Children can teach us so much, if we just listen to what they have to say!

I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

The Coach Diary

A little praise is good but don’t over do it!

Continually saying, “Well-done” to your child even when they haven’t done anything in a game can have the reverse affect. If we over-praise our players, it sends a message that they can’t trust us to be honest. If kids do a bad job on something, they know it, they’re not stupid. If we say it is great just to make them feel better, it just makes them feel worse.

So when praising, make it relevant and don’t over do it. When we over-praise, we take away the motivation to make them try harder. I don’t need to try harder my coach thinks I’m doing great. The fact is you can never stop improving, players should be looking to get better. When praising we need to be realistic to the real world. In your working life you generally only get praise for exceptional work not for day to day expectations. So just like sweets, a small amount is ok but too much can be harmful.

“If you constantly praise your child, she might come to need and expect your approval, rather than learning to gauge success for herself, according to the University of Minnesota Extension office. Children who are addicted to praise become insecure and anxious if they don’t receive accolades for every positive success.”

Kids need challenges to make them feel good about themselves. They need to feel the experience of working hard to accomplish something and the pride that goes along with it. That is what increases their self-esteem. So, as a coach and/or parent, what types of praise works best with kids?

How to Praise

Firstly honesty is the best policy. Kids will appreciate it if you give them honest feedback. If it is not their best work, encourage them to go back and improve it or ask them to evaluate it. Now, let’s be clear here –we are judging honestly based on developmental ability and effort. With the younger ages with need to be a little more flexible. If a three-year-old works hard on something (a picture) and does a good job for him, praise is certainly appropriate, even if doesn’t quite look like the item they are drawing.

What else?

Be specific. “Well done!” doesn’t go nearly as far as “You played really well today, your passing, movement, work rate was the best I’ve seen this season. Keep up the great work, you are doing for the team.” Kids love it when you notice something they did well and play it back for them.

When a child does something well, praise is a powerful tool. One of the most powerful motivating actions you can use is the pat on the back. Coach John Wooden said, “Yes, occasionally the pat must be a little lower and a little harder, but too often parents neglect the praise. They are quick to criticise and slow to commend”

When praise is effective, kids know that it is deserved. They know that they have worked hard and done well. And when praise is deserved, it makes them feel really good. And that is motivation to work even harder the next time. So next time, praise effort and hard work, and be specific in your praise.

To Summarise

Forget the notion that you are responsible for nurturing your child’s self-esteem through constant praise and reassurance. Kids are strong, capable and determined in their own right, and rarely need adults to convince them of their worth.

Instead, give your child freedom to make mistakes and try new things, allow them to discover on their own. You can work together on certain things, since real effort is one of the most effective ways to increase self-esteem. The best thing is to offer sincere, specific praise rather than making vague generalisations so sometimes, a wink, pat on the back, thumbs up or even just a quick squeeze conveys a lot more than words. Sometimes simply saying the words, ‘I Love Watching You Play’ can be all the child needs.

The most important thing to remember is the game belongs to them, so let them take control of their experience and don’t keep offering an opinion. The sooner you release your child to his/her game, the quicker they take responsibility of it. Even continually shouting his/her name can be very distracting and actually take their focus away from the game, so when you say less this can help them more. Sometimes silence (just being present) is the greatest help of all.


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

The Coach Diary

Blueprint According To…me

This is an interview I did with Blue print football last month, click on the link under the first two questions which will bring you to Blue print’s website where you can read the rest of it.

Like many other coaches, Antonio Mantero has very strong beliefs regarding youth football and where his country’s culture is lacking.  What distinguishes him from many others, however, is the fact that he is doing something about it.  Through his site The Coach Diary he puts out (or links to) articles that outline his ideas and he’s now also organising talks about youth development.

But more of that later.  For now, here is his blueprint…

Blueprint for Football: Let’s start with the basics: what got you into coaching and how long was that?

Antonio Mantero: My nephew was playing with Bohemians and I was introduced to the Academy Director, he had mentioned that the u12s were looking for an assistant and asked would I be interested. Without really thinking about it I decided to help out. In the very first week, the manager decided to leave the team which left me on my own. So to say my very first season coaching football was difficult, is an understatement. I was coaching and managing with zero experience and that experience lead me to where I am today.

BfF: What project are you working on at the moment?

AM: Via my blog, I will continue to express my feelings on how the game in Ireland is not age specific and how the FAI and the league administrators could be doing so much more for the development of kids in this country. Many coaches in Ireland are adopting the change but nearly all the schoolboy leagues around Ireland continue to be years behind where they should be. On Monday March 25th, I organised a talk about the Future of Youth Development in Irish Football, which was the first of such talks, which are completely free for anyone to attend. The emphasis will be on youth development and changing the structure of the leagues around Ireland.

click on the link to view the rest of the interview Blue Print Football

The Blueprint According To… is a monthly feature looking at youth football coaches and the philosophies that drive them.  Read more on the Blueprint for Football newsletter.

The Coach Diary

Coaching Behaviour Questionnaire

For Youth Cert, UEFA B & UEFA A Coaches. 

This study is investigating the percieved coaching behaviours by coaches with the advancement of coaching education. Many studies have investigated how coaching behaviour can influence a player however little is known about what can influence a coaches behaviour. One such influence on a coaches behaviour is education, this study will investigate if advancement in coaching education will influence a coaches behaviour. You are under no obligation to take part in this study, however your participation would be greatly appreciated.


Criteria to participate 

To be eligible to take part in this study, you must have a Youth cert, UEFA B or UEFA A accreditation or be taking one of these courses at the present time. You must also be currently coaching a team or have coached a team in the past year. If you wish to take part in this study , please click on the link below which will take you to the questionnaire. Please read the instructions before attempting questions.

Consent, Criteria and Instructions

Thank you for taking part in this study.
  • Please create an ID code that you will remember using your initials and the last three digits of your phone number (Home or Mobile).
  • Please write this number in the box below and keep a note of it. This will enable us to find your data should you wish to withdraw your data at later date.
  • Please take your time to read through the instructions for the questionnaire and to answer each question honestly.
  • Please note that there is no right or wrong answers and your answers will not negatively reflect on you as a coach.
  • Your answers will remain confidential and will only be used for the purposes of this study.
  • Please complete the questionnaire and return to the researcher. If you wish to withdraw from the study after you have filled out the questionnaire, you have up to 4 weeks after I have received your questionnaire to withdraw. You should contact myself and quote your ID code within four weeks. With your ID code, I will be able to locate your questionnaire and destroy it. My contact details are at below.


Please read through the following, if you are happy to proceed please tick the I agree to take part in this study box.
  1. I have been provided with an invitation to participate that I have read and understood.
  2. I am accredited with Youth cert, UEFA B or UEFA A or I am currently on one of these coaching education courses.
  3. I am coaching a team at present or have done in the last year. I am aware that taking part in this research is entirely voluntary, that I am not obligated to take part in this research as part of my coaching course and that I have the right to withdraw at any time while filling out the questionnaire and within 4 weeks of submitting the questionnaire to the researcher.
  4. I am aware that I can contact the researcher in order to withdraw my data from the study without reason, within four weeks of taking part in the study.
  5. I understand that a request to withdraw my data will result in the researcher identifying the associated data by ID code and destroying it.
  6. I am aware that any reporting of this data in a doctoral thesis, academic publication or conference publication will not identify me. I understand that the completed questionnaire and resultant data will be stored securely and anonymously with the unique identifier code listed below.
  7. I have been informed that this consent form will be stored separately from the data to avoid the discovery of my code by anyone other than the researcher I have been informed that my responses will not be passed on to my tutors at the University of Derby.

Participant Instructions:

After you have agreed to participate in this study, please take your time to read through the instructions of the questionnaire. First tick the Yes to agree to take part in the study. Please answer the questions honestly, no one will see your answers except the researcher and your answers will not impact on your coaching ability or behaviour. There is no right or wrong answer in this situation.
Secondly please enter in the demographic questions (e.g. age, gender, etc) in the box first and then proceed to questions. Start at question one and answer the questions in numerical order. Using the scale, please tick the number from 1 to 5 to indicate your level of agreement with the statements regarding yourself as a coach.
Once you have completed all questions, please press the submit button at the bottom to finalse and send questionnaire to the researcher.
Simon Brophy, Student at University of Derby. Tel: 0857378315
E-mail: or

START Coaching Behaviour Questionnaire

The Coach Diary

Premier Ambitious – Don’t miss it!!!!

“Premier Ambitions”a new six-part documentary following the Home Farm U-15 team as they strive to win the league. I have just finished watching an episode and based on that, this is everything I have wished for and could not have come at a better time for grassroots football in Ireland. I think a lot of people are going to be shocked to see how football at the top level in this country is coached…I’ll say no more 🙂

What was the reason behind this programme?

It was basically to get an insight into the world of youth football in Ireland at the highest level. I think the seriousness and intensity of football at this level is a bone of contention amongst a lot of people with some thinking it shoud be more about taking part and having fun, whilst for others it is a career path and something that is very professional. I think by following a club with great tradition like home farm we got to see how the system works and where some of the next generation of Irish stars are coming from.

The Series is produced by David Clarke and Ciarán Deeney of El Zorrero Films. It was filmed and directed by Ciarán Deeney. El Zorrero Films is an award winning production company specialising in documentary content for both television and cinema who have produced content for all the major Irish broadcasters. They are based in Dublin and have a keen interest in sport and sports related programming.

Setanta Ireland will broadcast Episode 1 on Monday, 11th February at 9.45pm, following live coverage of the first round of Setanta Sports Cup.

The Coach Diary

New Year and fresh ideas, you never stop learning.

I look back on this time last year and I have to say I am definitely a much better coach. I would say I’m more focused on possession and defending as a team. I’m even more relaxed on the line and always look for ways to inspire. Like me, many this time of year take time to reflect on the past year and it is also a time to set new goals, take action, change your ways and look at the year ahead. This is also a good time to come up with new ideas, practices and policies. By simply tweaking methods and policies you can change a lot. For others the changes may be a little more drastic, and it might be time to give up coaching altogether, you may not have the patience you use to have or you simply can’t adopt to the new ways of coaching kids. Times are a changing my friends….

TOP 5 coaching resolutions for 2013. 

The coach Diary’s New Year Resolutions

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. One thing I’ve learned as a coach is that if you prepare you sessions you are doomed. The kids will out smart you with answers and questions you don’t have the answers for. No point in doing a game related exercise, if you yourself don’t know why you’re doing it. Develop a detailed season (half season) long plan with very clear goals for the team, address the key areas for development and ensure that the sessions are structured and aligned with the season plan. I know this is an area us ‘volunteer’ coaches sometimes fail on, due to the lack of time we have to prepare. Most coaches are getting under 3 hours per week with their teams, so don’t over complicate. Keep it simple!

“It’s not the hours you put in, it’s what you put in the hours”.

2. Mix it up a bit. Change your sessions around, bring in new games and keep it interesting. Keys areas Technical (95%), Fitness (can be introduced in the Technical drills  and Tactics (5% of your session based on the age group your working with). Never stop learning as a coach. Every coaching seminar you go to, try and pick up something new every-time. Their are plenty of great books and websites out there. Two I recommend are Inside Soccer and Coerver Coaching. Finally, move players around in different positions, get them to understand what each postion on the pitch requires of a player to do. Keep it game related.

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect”.

4. Develop every player: It’s funny how kids change; six months is a long time in a child’s development. Don’t leave any kid out, if you have decided to bring them into the squad then you must continue to work with them but they must also continue to attend training and want to learn.  Talk to your weaker players, let them know how they need to improve and what you expect from them. A good idea it to let their parents know, how they are doing in some cases.  Something I didn’t do last year was to get players working on their own. You can develop an individual training program for players to train in their own time, this might be a simple as working on running technique, passing and receiving etc. Arrange a time to sit with each player and design a programme for them, based on their own goals and ideas.

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence”.

5. Mental and personal training: You are much more then a coach, you inspire kids and they believe in you. Teach about good behaviour, set a positive example on and off the field. Be calm, respectful and keep your discipline.Teach them the same. Maintaing their discipline and respecting your team mates and the opposition is key to success of any team, it is alos part of player development. Using psychological training in developing the overall performance of the team and players. Look at ways to get the best from your team and players. A simple quote or pre game talk; a one to one talk can be diference you make in your teams or players performance. Lead by example, motivate and inspire.

Others things:

  • Advice on Nutrition.
  • Always be in club gear and wear the uniform with pride.
  • Are you inspiring players?

Every year for me as been a better year and I hope the same for you. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

“Practice as if you are the worst, perform as if you are the best.”

Let me know, your New Year Resolutions and have a Happy one!

The Coach Diary

Happy New Year Everyone

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

This last one has convinced me even more, that change is a good thing and that their is nothing wrong with it, once it’s in the right direction. To all the great people out there, educating kids and providing them with knowledge and inspiring them to be better players and better people, I salute you all! Most of us our volunteers, we do this for the love of the game and because we are good teachers and we enjoying seeing what we do on a training ground transferred to the pitch. Remember we teach more by what we are, then by what we say and sometimes questions are more important then answers.

“Don’t change because a New Year is coming up, but change for your own personal growth no matter what the resolution you make, they start with you.”

Some of my favourite quotes of the year: 

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.”

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

“Nothing is more annoying than a low man raised to a high position”.

“Change is inevitable in a progressive country, Change is constant.”

“If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.”

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

“It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change.”

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.”

“Instruction does not prevent waste of time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.”

“To teach is to learn twice.”

Happy New Year Everyone 

‘Let the kids Play’