The Coach Diary

Lessons from 2015 & some of the best learning resources for 2016

Most of the content on this blog and FB page is aimed at the recreational paren/coach, who might be working with his or her team 2/3 times per week with a game at the weekend. However even if you are an academy coach working full-time there is plenty for you also. I like to thing there is something for everyone no matter what level your coaching at.

With 2015 coming to a close I’m looking back on this year and writing down the things i’ve learnt. As a student of the game, a parent and business owner 2015 has been a challenging year. I won’t go into the things I’ve learnt in business or the things I’ve learnt being a parent to a 8 year old girl going on 15. I’ll stick to the some of things that have made me a better coach this year and include some of the best resources for learning…..i.e. blogs, groups, twitter accounts, facebook pages etc

I’ll start with the quote ‘Children are not mini-adults” this quote was carved into my brain and I continually reverted back to it if I became frustrated. Working with 14 yo boys who at this particular age have mostly reached puberty is a challenge. They might look like men but they are still very much boys. Their personalities change and fluctuate drastically throughout the year. As a coach I must be aware of this and take it into account when speaking to players on an individual basis – these lads are still kids!

Working with teenagers is challenging but also very rewarding especially when you see them transfer what I have coached into the game. It can be difficult to get through to some of them during the game, so this year I asked the players just to give me the thumbs up when I give direction. That way they can still concentrate on the game and I know they’ve heard me without having to turn and look at me. So thumbs up is a qucik and easy way to communicate.

What else? 

I love all of the content from Footblogball and I advice you to sign up to Mark O’Sullivans blog. I have picked out this question and reply from Johan Fallby is Sport Psychologist at premier Danish soccer club F.C. Copenhagen.

Footblogball: The biopsychosocial differences between children as they grow have a major influence on their readiness to learn and develop. Development is very delicate and sensitive in the sense of how vulnerable and fragile performance, confidence and self-image can be for the growing and developing young learner. Let’s not forget that this all takes place in what is fast becoming an increasingly prestigious area of sport. Children do not develop in a linear fashion-we need to SUPPORT this. How would you suggest that a parent supports and communicates with the child with regard to this?

Johan Fallby: You should make it as easy and as practical as possible. There are five points that I consider to be crucial for parents in relation to children’s sport and development.

  1. It has been shown that the importance of parents as to how children in general come into contact with sports is relatively large. Therefore parents should ensure that their child comes in contact with a sporting environment that is also actively a playful one so that the child gets to experience how much fun it is to use their body through various physical activities.
  2. Once they are in contact with the sport, I think it is important that they are involved in creating a pleasant and positive environment along with the other parents. Make contact and create a network around the kids. If kids see that their parents feel comfortable in the environment this will increase their sense of security and in all likelihood help spread a feeling of joy. When the child is gripped by the sport and think it is fun you can start placing reasonable demands on the child.
  3. So the third point is that the child should be encouraged to always try to do their best (in relation to their age, maturity etc). For example, to “fight” well and fairly, try new things and experiment while playing the sport. Listening to the coach and collaborating with teammates are also an important part of the sport and their development. Sometimes it may be appropriate to tell the child to go to training even though they feel a bit tired. Depending on the age it can also be about getting them to pack their own bag for training, get them to learn to take responsibility.

I would like to point out that the “demands” I refer to are not about being better than others, making the most goals or winning, nor is it that the child should practice constant, or exercise more than others.

  1. I would like to stress that there should not be a focus on results. In fact the opposite. For the purpose of developmental it is best if parents do not engage in comparing their child with others. Each child has their own individual development curve and the most important thing is that as early as possible we help create a climate that can develop the child’s self-determination and motivation.
  2. The fifth point is about observing the club that the child is in. If it’s an unhealthy environment should you as parents try to influence the environment in a better direction or just leave the environment? It may, in serious cases involve physical or mental abuse but more than often it is down to bad leadership where the environment may be built on early specialisation or exclusion policies. Parents should avoid being caught up in the frenzy. There is very little to suggest that it would be of benefit to your child. Be strong and work to eliminate this culture and ignorance from your club. Be curious and find out more about how a sports environment should look like for your child.

Remarkably often I think parents who have themselves been really good (now I’m talking about the finest elite athletes in sport) understand that they should take it easy and support their child in a relaxed sensible and correct manner. It is probably because they themselves often experienced their parents in a similar way.

—You can read the rest of this interview by going direct to Mark’s blog.

ISOLATED EXERCISES: Discussed so much on the Facebook page this year, the pro and cones. one thing is for sure purposeful practice, quality over quantity came out on top.

Only the dynamic warm-up is performed with out the ball. For the most part 100% of my session is done with the ball and 75% of that session is possession based rondos. I have been doing this since these kids were u11s and if I was to start again I would do the same for u9s and up. The problem with isolated drills is that they are very static and can be unrealistic to game as they generally don’t involve a defending player. Also a lot of coaches don’t actually know how to coach these exercises and generally do them without actually moving around and mostly unopposed. One thing we lack in Ireland and the UK is smart technically proficient players and Isolated exercises will benefit young kids if they are worked on at an early stage.

“Technique is not being able juggle the ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your teammate” – Cryuff

How do we coach this you might ask? This is where isolated exercises have a value, however they must be coached and performed in the right manner with speed and relative to the game. They also must be started at an early age not just for technical reasons as I mention above. Isolated exercises are excellent for for particularly u8s,u9s/u1os etc and below as they will assist with balance, coordination, agility and speed. Plus they’re fun and everyone generally gets a ball. As the kids get older they must be more relative to the game by incorporating opposition, they must be challenging. After all we want to develop intelligent and capable players who can think and act quickly in a very fast game. The aim of any skill should be for the player to be able to execute not only properly but quickly and then there has to be an effective transfer from the training environment (The Practice) to the reality (The Game). We have to remember that when children play by themselves they don’t set-up line drills and take it in turn. They might have the odd peno comp but generally they go straight into the game and play for hours and hours altering the rules as they day drifts by. Your training should be more like this.

For 2016 move away from isolated drills and into more game based exercises. However, don’t abandon the Coerver (Coerver coaching) like ball mastery altogether…..they’re a great way to teach and break down a skill. Movement skills challenge the brain. In fact the more unnatural the better. A lot of the Coerver exercises are challenging and fun. Instead maybe add an extra session to work on ball mastery skills and technique.

Message for 2016, focus more on the real game, more possession type games with overloads i.e. 3v1’s, 5v3, 6+6v6, 8v8+2(Jokers) etc etc and increasing and decreasing the size of the area depending on the ability of the players (Go to Coach Zone above for some ideas)… so, more purposeful and self motivated play combined with training that relates to the game. I believe that with these elements in place, a player’s technical qualities should develop naturally, along with other dimensions of the game including fitness. 

Check out this Possession post I highly recommend the book @Susen_31 also this presentation on rondospresentation- by @KieranSmith1 There is enough in these two links to help develop any coach and team. 

Blueprint for Football

Also in 2015 I loved reading interviews from Paul Grech Blueprint for Football  so much to learn from so many excellent coaches. Don’t miss more from him in 2016.

Coaching Science 

Everything you need to know about everything to do with child/player development (and so much more) and it comes with evidence based learning. Become a member today (Coaching Science) and change the way you think about coaching. All the experts hang-out here.

The Functional Footballer

Probably the best soccer specific training I’ve come across online. The content and videos are second to known. The Functional Footballer

Keep It On The Deck

A great place to find free game related exercises and Derek has also just launched his website > regular updates on a daily basis.

Changing The Game

John O’Sullivans Changing The Game project  has some top top articles for coaches and parents. 

Inside Soccer 

Still the best game related exercises from the very best clubs in the world. Some are free but you will have to register even for the free ones. Inside 

Player Development Project

Another great resource for coaches bringing the very best coaches together promoting player development. Check them out on twitter PlayerDP

See also  The Coaching Family  and The Coaching Badges 

and finally it’s hard to find FC Barcelona exercises well here are 12 great ones with the late Tito Vilanova.

Please share some of the best resources you use or people you follow on Facebook or Twitter and I apologise in advance if I have missed anybody (Too many to mention), which I’m sure I have but please feel free to tell me below.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE – See you in 2016 and thanks for supporting the blog


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. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

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