Irish Grassroots Football The Coach Diary

Don’t ruin your season over a very basic decision….

It’s called the business time of the year as many teams are fighting relegation, or on the brinks of a first league championship or for some it’s a cup semi or even a cup final. Many coaches/managers can’t put their entire season and coach reputation on the line by not being true to their beliefs, players and responsibilities. Let’s not forget, I’m taking about kids football here.

What are you on about, you might ask? Earlier today I received a call from a lady who’s friends son plays for an SSG side. Yesterday they played their semi final cup game but for 3 of the players who had got the team this to this point, it was heartbreak when they arrived at the ground. Dropped and for one reason only, to win the game.

They soon found out why when 3 players showed up from the clubs’s year below team. This might seem trivial enough to some but to anyone who has played the game will know that being dropped for an important game (not having a part to play) like a cup semi, can be a life long disappointment for any child. For sure the kids who were dropped won’t forget this game and they certainly won’t forget the coach who dropped them. After all, kids just want to play.

‘Most kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning one. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t value winning, just that they prefer playing’

For every player each game is as important as the next one but cup games bring with them a tradition, they bring a slightly different feeling compared to other fixtures. Every child dreams of playing in a cup final, every parents dreams of watching their child perform in one.

For many coaches these games can bring with them unrecognised pressure. The pressure not to lose, not to be deemed as a failure and this is were so many become self obsessed. They think it’s about them, they thinks it’s about this one game; but it’s never about them, it’s always about the kids.

It’s these types of moments that will separate the best from the rest and I’m not talking about tactics. What I’m taking about is being fair to each and every player in your squad. Being fair to the players who have shown up to training week after week. Being fair to the players who have done their best for the team. Being fair to the players who have stuck by each other in the good times and the bad times, but most of all, – being a coach with integrity, with honesty, with loyalty and respect for his players.

‘A good coach supports, rewards, teaches, and makes it fun’

Children understand that their might be better players than them on the team. However they won’t accept you being unfair to them and they certainly won’t forget. After all, the role of a coach is to reward hard work, discipline and commitment. When a player does everything that is required, works on his/her weaknesses and never cut corners. That is supposed to count isn’t it?

Shouldn’t a child’s playing time and a starting position come down to hard work, commitment to the team and showing up for training?  For all the wrong reasons Children will remember the coach who tells them one thing about what he expects but then when you meet those expectations, he goes ahead and does the opposite of what he’s told you. You show up for training, do your best, perform well  and then when it comes down to game time, you find yourself sitting on the bench or even worse, you find kids from the age below brought in to take your place in order to win the game.  For sure this is the one thing that the kids will remember from a coach. It might be the one thing that removes them from the game for ever. Come June, everyone will have forgotten about the cup final but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Not being true to your word and being dishonest and/or disloyal is what you will be remembered for.

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

To any coach who doesn’t want to fall into this category and be branded for life. Don’t get caught up in the winning of a single game. Be true to yourself, be true to your players (team), give them the opportunity to experience the chance of playing in such important games. Although you may never get to another final, the players will remember how fair you were and not how you won it. For sure, they will never forget these moments and they will certainly never forget how you made them feel.

To the players, if you truly love your game, then try not to let any coach’s unfair decisions get to you. Absolutely, this is easier said than done.  It can be very upsetting and frustrating to have to “play” or “not play” for this kind of coach. The trick however is to try not let any adult steal your joy and love for the game (I know I don’t always get it right but I will always apologise if i get it wrong). Just like in adult life you won’t always have to work with that person, so just like your coach, you won’t always have to play him/her and not all coaches are unfair, many are a great inspiration to hundreds of kids.  Keep doing your best and focus on performance, you can control that. One thing you can do is keep work hard in training regardless if you like the coach or not. Don’t let any coach stop you from working hard!


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

Coach Talk Coaching

To Be A Coach

What do you need, to be a great coach?

Here are my opinions on what is required to be the best you can be, at coaching in sport.

‘Most kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning one. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t value winning, just that they prefer playing’

 Why do kids Play?

  • To have fun;
  • To be with their friends;
  • To learn about the sport & improve their game related skills;
  • To compete;
  • To work on their fitness;
  • To do something I’m good at.

And not having fun is one of the major reasons 70 percent of kids quit playing sports by the time they’re 13.

‘A good coach supports, rewards, teaches, and makes a sport fun’

 The Basics

  • Having a qualification doesn’t make you a great coach but continuous improvement could. To become a great coach you must be prepared to learn & develop.
  • Developing your coaching knowledge comes from being involved, practicing your methods and having the desire to go and attend courses- opening up your mind by reading and studying different methods.
  • Be organised, be on time, be prepared, be presentable, be approachable, be Enthusiastic and be Fair.
  • Teach your players to respect each other & don’t use foul language.
  • Communicate, demonstrate & take up a good position so everyone can hear and see you.
  • Get inspiration for other coaches, ask questions and share your ideas.
  • The more you coach the more you will learn – Coach all ages.
  • Start a blog; bank your ideas.
  • Devise a core set of values, beliefs and a philosophy and tell your players about them.
  • Subscribe to coaching websites. I recommend
  • Read the best coaching books and explore new methods. (Get drunk on good books)
  • Watch other coaches in action, ask questions and attend workshops regularly.
  • Keep things simple and try to do something different at every session. Keep it fun.
  • Ball Mastery should be part of every session.
  • You want to create an environment within which every player has the best opportunity to flourish.
  • Always focus on the positives. Negativity will be bookmarked in a player’s head.
  • Always compliment your players at least a couple of times in a session.
  • Be in control of the sideline and most importantly let the parents know, that the only one who should be directing is the coaching staff and even at that, we want minimal instruction.
  • Watch and observe you team play. Take notes on team play and use this information in your next training session. The best coaches are highly skilled in observation.

Ask yourself, what does it feel like to be coached by me?

Download To be a Coach


You can download from my previous post ‘A Player’s Message to Parents’ here → A Players Message To Parents

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 Quotes & Much More..

I’m starting this post, to share my quotes and opinions with you. All of them are inspired by other coaches, comment and posts from the blog. Please feel free to use, share or even add to them.

These quotes are written with the intention to keep me inspired each and every time I coach. I hope you too get some inspiration from them.

I hope you enjoy them.

How children learn and how we should teach

May 2015

“You cannot put your motivation on someone else. Motivation is internal”

Activity + Stress & Pressure = Avoidance. Create an environment where they can be successful and feel good about what they are doing and that is the internal engine for motivation. The things we love doing give us pleasure. Give us personal satisfaction.

When we think of things we don’t like doing, they are generally things that cause us stress and tension.

Learning should be fun. Learning should be positive. Learning should motivate.

Activity + Satisfaction = Motivation

April 2015

“Players should be seen as children first, students second and players last“ TCD

“Failing to win is not failure. Teams improve, players improve, coaches learn something and that is success. There is success in defeat. You can play a great game and someone else can just play better. Failing to win can just be bad luck”. – TCD

“If a child isn’t making the right decisions, then he/she doesn’t know how or hasn’t been given the chance. One of the great joys of coaching is watching children DO!!” – TCD

March 2015

“I didn’t change. I’m just learning from my experiences and constantly improving myself” – TCD

“One way to get better is surround yourself with better people” TCD

“Every child can learn, just not on the same day or the same way” TCD

February 2015

“Kids can only perform at their optimum level in an environment that feels safe. One that is emotionally safe, where they can’t be afraid of failing, where they can’t be afraid of making mistakes. If they are, they will get tense and tight and tentative and that will interfere with the fluidity of their muscles, which will translate into performance on the pitch. When children have the freedom to express themselves, creativity flourishes”.

“The biggest enemy to learning is the ever talking coach” – TCD

“Every child can learn, just not on the same day or the same way” TCD

“Coaches who love coaching, teach players to love learning” TCD

January 2015

“Over the years I have learnt to speak less and less on the sidelines. When players make mistakes during the game, try and bite your tongue and let that anger pass. Shouting or screaming at your players is actually counterproductive and will only cause them to play worse. You can certainly point out what they did wrong, but that moment is not the best time to do it. Write it down and speak to them in a 1v1. In every game there are coaching moments and you need to pick the right ones. Directly after a mistake is not one of them. Try and spend more energy focusing the players on what they need to do to correct the mistake, rather than staying with the mistake”. – TCD

“Your attitude is like a price tag, it shows how valuable you are” – ?

December 2014

“A coach should be “demanding without being demeaning.” TCD

“The curse of knowldege “Just because we taught something, does not mean it was learnt” – TCD

Sleep plays a big role in consolidating the learning, so we really don’t get to see what the player has learnt until the game i.e. training game or organised fixture. Don’t expect to see perfection and success in every session. However you might well see some of what they learnt during the game. All children develop at different stages and some will get things sooner than others, that’s why it’s so important to be patient and not force the process of learning. As coaches (adults) we want to see learning straight away, but it just doesn’t happen like that. Remember, children are not mini adults. TCD

November 2014

“Kids just cannot perform at their best every time they play. Why? Well because that’s not how life/sports works. Your best one week may not be the same as your best the following week. The life lesson here is no matter what the outcome, you did your best and there is always next week” – TCD

“Until your players know that you care, they don’t care what you know” @TomBatesCoachng

“A coach will effect more people in a year than those who never coach, will in a lifetime” – TCD

“Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their presents at different times” – TCD

“Children need the freedom to play and learn on their own. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” – TCD

October 2014

Another weekend upon us. Unfortunately some people will get emotionally involved in their kids game and potentially ruin the experience for everyone. Watching you child play is a fantastic experience, so live with those moments not in them. Think before you act – especially when you are in front of young people. They don’t want you to fight their battles. They want you to be there, be supportive and watch them play. The process of learning, does not come down to that single game. Be proactive – not reactive. If you are unable to control your emotions, for the sake of the young KIDS that play, then best to stay away and return when you are in control of those emotions. – TCD

You have a big part to play in affecting your players. In all three aspects.


Don’t underestimate your responsibility when it comes to coaching kids.

You can’t just throw a ball out and expect to achieve the above objectives.

The four points below, can help you:

1. You have to work hard on developing them and getting to know them.
2. Getting better as a coach with every training session and game. (Knowledge)
3. How you are as a coach will depend on your leadership. (Self Awareness)
4. You must want to learn and develop.

“How times have changed. I now evaluate the game based on what has happened in the game and not necessarily the result. It’s easy to learn nothing from a big win and leave thinking that was great but there are always areas you can improve on” – TCD

“Every person on the team is different, has something to offer and comes with a story. Get to know your players better. The best way to build team cohesion is in 1v1 chats”  – TCD

“LUCK: Happens when you work hard. The harder you work, the luckier you get; it’s more likely to happen to those who give 100 percent everytime” – TCD

September 2014

“I use to think that shouting (Trying to make them fear me) was how i motivated players but all this does is distract the player from his/her performance. It raises their anxiety levels and it certainly doesn’t create mental toughness; it actually does the opposite of that. There is a time and place for raising your voice, however you get far more from your players by treating them with respect than humiliating them. If you coach with fear you’re doing it wrong’’ – TCD

“Learning is a gift. Even when pain is your teacher”

Coaches are not always right. No matter how good of a coach you are or how many trophies you have won, at some stage you will get it wrong (I have already this season). Coaches don’t always have the answers. They don’t always make the right decisions. They don’t always say the smartest things. They do NOT always make the right decisions. Many can’t articulate their feelings without being abusive. They don’t understand every child they work with. They don’t always look outside of the sport for the answers to a child’s problems. They don’t see the child as a child. They can be insensitive and lack understanding of players needs. They can be unfair, even to their own child. They can rude and aggressive. Kids coaches are prone to making mistakes. Not all decisions work out, not all the decisions are the right ones. We are human like everyone else, it’s part of the process to getting better. Dr. Goldberg stats “The fact of the matter is that coaches are human and as a consequence of this human condition their performance as a teacher is always limited by and filtered through their personality, life experiences, knowledge of the game, personal problems, maturity and psychological sophistication. While some coaches are absolutely brilliant teachers and should be cloned, other coaches are abysmal and abusive and should only be allowed to work with inanimate objects” TCD

August 2014

‘Energy flows where your attention goes. If you always focus on mistakes then don’t be surprised if the players are focused on avoiding them’ TCD

“Learning starts with failure; the first time to fail begins the education” TCD

“If you think of children learning as a path, you can picture them walking along step by step, rather than been pushed, dragged or carried along” TCD

July 2014

I’m yet to meet a kid that deliberately my mistakes or plays to lose. So, when they do make mistakes, it is not done on purpose! So, why do we treat them as if that’s exactly what they did?!!! The next time a player makes you irritable or disappoints you, DON’T SHOUT AT THEM OR RIDICULE THEM! Try to HELP them. Make them understand what they did wrong and come up with ways to show them how to learn by it and correct it. Keep your emotions in check and instead of screaming the general nonsense we so commonly hear on the sidelines, try to take note (observe) of what you need to do to improve that individual. Intelligent coaching begins when you shift your frame of taught from ridicule to constructive praise. – TCD 

As a coach, if you focus on winning you are going to have a very frustrating experience working with kids. – TCD

‘Failure is the fastest way to learn’ – TCD

We now live in a sports crazed society, even kids sports can take over an artificial importance. We see coaches and adults going nuts when young athletes make mistakes or under-perform. Winning can motivate players to cheat, coaches can even encourage it. Then we see parents going mental on the sidelines, pushing their kids to do more when they have given all they have got. Expecting their kids to be like the pro’s when they are just kids. In no way are these kind of behaviours acceptable and nor should we ever tolerate them. Kids sport is not about winning, it’s about playing. That’s why kids play.They like to win. They enjoy competing but Children don’t value winning as much as adults do. They value playing more! TCD

June 2014

‘When we learn something new as coaches: The challenge is to implement what we have learnt and then work on it. The challenge is DEDICATION, the challenge is taking that learning into our coaching’ – TCD

The laws of learning: EXPLANATION, DEMONSTRATION, IMITATION AND REPETITION. You create the correct habit that can be produced without thought under pressure. Skill is being able to execute not only properly but quickly. – TCD

‘Children play sport because it’s fun. Take the fun away and you take the kid away’ – TCD

‘There is a great deal of love involved with coaching. That’s what a team should be to a coach’ – tcd

May 2014

The single most important question you can ask your child is, why do you play sport? Before you ask that question, ask you yourself the same question. If their reason is not the same as yours, – then you have one choice, forget about yours and accept theirs. TCD

“One thing I’ve learnt about players who play with a smile, you rarely remember their mistakes but never forget when they smile” TCD

“Being a role model is the most powerful form of teaching. Kids need good role models more than they need critics. This is the most important responsibility you have as a parent and a coach”. TCD

“Not enough coaches are trained to coach. A win at all cost philosophy is a major factor in creating a negative environment for kids who play sport. The person who uses this style of philosophy is often commanding or authoritarian and does not provide an enjoyable environment for players. The problem with so many coaches, is that they rarely have any formal training when it comes to creating a positive and healthy learning environment. A developmental leadership style is one way of creating good performances and a fun environment” TCD

April 2014

“If a kid is trying but can’t seem to understand what your saying, raising your voice to that child, never helps”

“Children don’t see what you see. They see what they see.” TCD


“If you’re not improving your coaching methods every week. Then don’t expect your players to improve every week.” TCD


“If a kid is trying but can’t seem to understand what your saying, raising your voice to that child, never helps” tcd

March 2014

“A lot of what I talk about, might seem like it’s not relevant to recreational sport. I firmly believe; if you coach then you should want to be the best coach you can be. That might mean learning to be a professional in an amateur sport.” TCD

“Be aware of your behaviour on the line. Ask yourself, what impact is this having on me & the players, right here, right now? Try this sometime: The six-second rule is so called because 6 seconds is the time it takes to capture the flight or fight response (ie: avoid the emotional hijacking). When someone has said or done something that triggers your hot button (gets you angry), take a deep breath and count 1..2..3..4..5..6 seconds before you respond. Try it.” TCD

“Football would be an even better game if players, coaches and parents learnt to respect the learnings of the game and the referees, before they begin their long journey with the sport.” TCD

February 2014

“Children are not mini adults. Children develop at different ages. Don’t force the process.” TCD

“One of the most important things for players is their intelligence; the ability to make the right decisions, under pressure in the game. Having an excellent relationship with the ball is part of this intelligence.” TCD

“Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer. To all those dedicated people who believe in hard work and no pay! But that’s ok, cause you’re priceless!” TCD

January 2014

“Truly great players’ don’t focus on winning, they focus on improving each and every day. A player should always train how he/she plays, but very few actually do. To be the best you can be, you should always focus on getting better.” TCD

“Your number 1 aim as a coach is to make sure the players you coach fall in love with the game.’ Having fun, is one way of doing just that.” TCD

“It’s limited freedom that prevents them from exploring.” TCD

December 20th 2013

“Children learn through play.” TCD

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine”  Bruce Lee

November 21st 2013

“When it comes to coaching, I can never stop learning and evolving. My coaching style does not allow me to stop” TCD

“If you really want to better your team, you must better yourself” TCD

“The process, is much more important than winning” TCD

October 2013

“If your team lost, don’t blame the players, the weather, the ref. Look at why they lost (If you weren’t observing you will probably never know) and ask yourself ‘are you doing enough to improve these players?’ What can I do to make them better? If you are truly focused on developing over winning, you will learn more in defeat than in victory. The makings of a truly great coach.” TCD

September 2013

“Coaches who makes excuses over their teams performance, need to look beyond the players. Shouting ‘Keep the ball’ and coaching ‘Keep the ball’ are two entirely different things.” TCD

August 2013

“It’s not about convincing people there’s a problem — many of us see that. It’s about convincing them that there’s a better way.” TCD

*Quotes inspired by Coach John Wooden, Carol D’Weck, Dan Abrahams, John O’Sullivan, Jerry Lynch, Vern Gambetta, Horst Wein to name a few….


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

Irish Grassroots Football

The Coach

Coaches have so many different styles and personas, but one thing is for sure they all start out with the right intentions. So what sets the very best apart from the rest?

About Life

The very best coaches are life coaches, they teach the player much more than the tactical and technical aspects of a game, they prepare the athlete for life by sharing wisdom and insight based on experience. They will look to build a players confidence and trust in a though provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal, technical and tactical potential. Coaches help players improve their performances.

They will always have the best interests of the players at heart, they will never do it for their own benefit and generally the best coaches have only one interest, to develop each player individually and collectively, build a great team. One thing is for sure, if a player reaches the very top it was through his own efforts and desire, with the guidance and help from a coach or two along the way. Coaching alone will not lead him/her to success. Commitment, the will to work hard and always striving to do their best and improve at least 1% every time they train, is where the real success comes from, the 6 inches between a players ears is how you work on it..

They key to being successful as a coach is always be willing to learn.

“As a coach you are responsible for the process, the player is responsible for the results, which are a matter of the players intentions, choices and actions supported by the coaches efforts and applications of the coaching process”.

What makes a good Coach?

Firstly, a good coach must be willing to learn and to learn you need to be willing to develop. Developing your coaching knowledge comes from being involved, practicing your methods and having the desire to go and attend courses (contact you local governing body), – opening up your mind by reading and studying different methods. You must be willing to evolve, listen and learn from others and the players you coach. A good coach understands that different people have different learning patterns and doesn’t stick to one forceful method to draw out a person’s talent just because that worked before. Players don’t need to feel nervous and put down at the same time, you should have just as much heart as his players. The way you communicate is also so important, players learn by doing not by watching you do. So make sure your message is short and always demonstrate the task, use your players but don’t always pick the same one. Try not to step in too often, let the game be the teacher. You can learn a lot from just observing.

“It’s not experience that makes a coach great (although it does help); it’s the quality of their coaching,”

I think it’s important to know the reasons why kids take up a sport. Many studies have asked the questions and the answers never seem to change:

  • To have fun and play;
  • To be with their friends;
  • To learn about the sport & improve their game related skills;
  • To compete;
  • To work on their fitness;
  • To do something I’m good at.

A good coach supports, rewards, teaches, and makes a sport fun.

Surprise; “winning” didn’t even make the top ten reasons. Study after study comes up with the same #1 result. Kids play sports for the fun of it. And not having fun is one of the major reasons 70 percent of kids quit playing sports by the time they’re 13. Most often it’s parents and coaches who want to win. Kids hardly care. For them, winning is just icing on the cake. They’re focused on simpler things. Most kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning one. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t value winning, just that they prefer playing. If you want your players enjoying sports, all you have to do is make sure they are having fun.

When it comes to looking at the reasons why children stop playing, it’s all of those in reverse.

“Traditional coaching had been entirely teacher-directed and largely technique-orientated, whilst today emphasis is directed on tactical problem solving through games play”Lynne Spackmann

I always tell my players to never give up and always do the best you can do, train with 100% commitment, with focus and the conscious mind.

Build from the roots

Alex Ferguson was a leader, when he arrived at Manchester United he had a vision, he had values and beliefs. He new how important it was to build from the ground. He put all his efforts on getting the best kids and working to develop the ones he already had. Starting with the foundations was key to his success.

Sir Alex Ferguson: From the moment I got to Manchester United, I thought of only one thing: building a football club. I wanted to build right from the bottom. That was in order to create fluency and a continuity of supply to the first team. With this approach, the players all grow up together, producing a bond that, in turn, creates a spirit.

When I arrived, only one player on the first team was under 24. Can you imagine that, for a club like Manchester United? I knew that a focus on youth would fit the club’s history, and my earlier coaching experience told me that winning with young players could be done and that I was good at working with them. So I had the confidence and conviction that if United was going to mean anything again, rebuilding the youth structure was crucial. You could say it was brave, but fortune favours the brave.

Write down your Values

Let’s face it. You can’t teach your players all the hundreds of life lessons there are to teach. But if you FOCUS on a small set of core values every day in your training, you can have a tremendous positive effect on your players. Your values will remind you who you are. Share them with your players. It’s important that an organisation also has its own values. Write them down and make sure you stick to them.

“The goal of the staff at La Masia is to provide young kids with an education that goes far beyond football tactics and technique; it makes them good people, with strong values.” FCB

When JOHN WOODEN, the great coach at UCLA finished 2nd year, his father gave him a card entitled, 7 Suggestions to follow, they were:

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Help others.
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Good Book.
  • Make friendship a fine art.
  • Build a shelter for a rainy day.
  • Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings each day.

Wooden kept a copy of the card in his pocket the rest of his life and used these philosophies in coaching. I suggest you do the same and keep your values with you all the time. Another important task is to set down your rules early in relation to training and playing. A rule I use is, if you don’t train then you don’t start the game but you will always play. Players will respect you more if you stick to the rules and beliefs you have.

“A coach shouldn’t be too easy with the ‘it’s just a game, go have fun’ stuff. He should train the team hard — but be able to encourage, motivate and direct without shouting.”

Don’t leave commitments in your brain. Write them on paper. This does two things. First, it creates clarity by defining in specific terms what your value means. Second, it keeps you committed since it is easy to dismiss a thought, but harder to dismiss a value printed in front of you.

Develop a style of Play

When winning is all that matters, the smaller creative kids don’t get much of a look in. Usually the bigger, early developers get more football with suits a more direct style of play. Develop a style that suits every player big, small whatever. A good coach will have 15/16 players (11 aside) no more and each player will be working hard to get a place in the team. Don’t be like so many where these unfortunate 5 substitutes will get very little game time during the year, players learn best by playing not watching.

Don’t be focused on results, coaches become more concerned with results than the style of football played or the natural expression of creativity and skill by the young players. “Kick and rush” and the “long ball” win out in the end. The constructive possession-based football that we have all come to admire in Spain cannot flourish in such a climate.

Most importantly be fair to your players focus on development of the player and stick to the plan, they will reap the benefits in later years.

“A good coach isn’t obsessed with winning but will motivate you and your team to want to win.”

Prepare your sessions and make them FUN!

Firstly, be on time (start on time) allows you time to prepare and sends out a message that you like punctuality. It’s important you prepare your sessions and work on at least one game related exercise per session and do it well. If you’re coaching younger the kids, the more variety the better. Make sure you include the ball with everything you do. Kids love being on the ball and they love showing off, so give them an opportunity to show you what they can do and always finish with a game.

I’m forever complaining about the lack of dribbling skills Irish players have and despite everything we teach them. The biggest factor is that players are not given the freedom to express themselves through dribbling. In our anxiety to rush the adult passing game, we restrict the players’ individual freedom and in later years we end up with players who cannot beat a man or use their skills to devastating effect in attack. In every part of the pitch there are opportunities for players to go 1v1 or 2v1, in these situations players should be confident enough to take risks and dribbling must be encouraged. Always re-visit what you worked on and ask the players questions.

“When it comes to development programs, what we are really talking about is creating an environment within which gifted players have the best opportunity to flourish.”

Whats the rush

Playing in leagues at very young ages means that we don’t actually encourage coaching at all, we create managers, who specialise in winning tactics and not in developing players. we focus on the winning and teaching the kids to play. What’s the rush, let the kids develop in age specific and related exercises. Some progressive organisations have already made great strides by introducing less-competitive structures and small-sided games. This will go a long way towards creating a healthy environment where young talent excels. Coaches who play favourites every week are definitely high on the lists of “what not to do” in coaching. A good coach is “one who does not recruit a load of new players each season just because of their skills but takes the ones he has and works with them to improve.”

“A good coach understands that respect is to be earned and understands that they do not control the team, they are part of the team,”

Always be in control

Horst Wein stated, “Parents and coaches shouting from the sidelines is very unhelpful to young players for so many reasons. Firstly, they often cannot actually hear what is being said, and often it is confusing when there is more than one voice to listen to. Secondly, none of us responds well to orders, and thirdly, it puts the players off their game. This culture of over-coaching and too much “input” from the sidelines actually thwarts the decision-making ability of young players, which is a very important part of their development if they are to make it to the higher levels of the game. Be in control of the sideline and most importantly, let the parents know, that the only one who should be directing is the coaching staff and even at that, we want minimal instruction. This is their time to show you want they have learnt in training.” Don’t let that parent who thinks he knows it all, control your line and/or control the decisions of a referee. If he is so keen bark his orders maybe ask him would he like to take over a team at the club. All too often commanding parents are ruining the game for everyone involved.

“Good coaches have the ability to tell you what needs improving, without making you feel bad.”

Observe the game

A good way to take you voice out of the action is to observe and take some notes. As Paul Swenson rightly put it, “The one thing that best summed up what separated the best coaches from the rest, was their highly developed skill of observation. These coaches had learned to critically observe their teams and players play, and then put their observations through an objective analysis that would help them identify strengths and weaknesses, that would enable them to more efficiently guide their players to become better. During games these coaches do not obsess about whether or not their team will win. They are calm and relaxed, carefully observing what their players and team are doing. To be effective at this it is necessary that they write their observations down. And it is amazing, that through this practice of observing and taking notes, that a soccer coaching intellect begins to develop, and a clear picture of where their team is really at begins to form.

Through observation, a practiced skill, coaches are able to set targeted training goals, and through more observation, measure “tangible” progress.”

It was said in a recent interview with Alex Ferguson,  “Early in his career, he delegated managing practices to assistant coaches so he could simply watch and observe what was going on with each individual player. He said, “I don’t think many people fully understand the value of observing.”

Quite often we, as coaches, hinder the player’s development rather than aid it. The term “over-coaching” has often been used about this effect.

“If the enjoyment of the game is taken away by adults who rant and rave on the touchline and the grassroots game becomes, in effect, a computer game controlled by dad’s, the opportunity for young players to plant the seeds of a lifelong love affair with the game will be diminished”Les Howie

To Conclude:

It’s important as a coach not to do the following:

  • Do not making winning your priority.
  • Never want to win more than the kids themselves.
  • Don’t risk a players safety.
  • Don’t select the best and forget about the rest every week.
  • Don’t be negative towards your players.
  • Never ridicule a players mistakes and don’t allow team mates to ridicule a player either.
  • don’t stop them from taking risks.
  • Don’t lose the head.
  • Never go back on your word or values.

Negativity from the sideline bookmarks in a player’s brain and could effectively knock his/her confidence for the rest of the game. Be in control of your words and before you open your mouth, think about how your words will affect the player in question and team. Sadly, criticism does not correct mistakes but creates even greater pressure and consequently more mistakes.

Another important aspect of good coaching is uniform. I don’t understand why clubs tolerate a coach not wearing the club colours. By being presentable sends out a good message to the players and expect the same from them. Practice what you preach.

Most of what I spoke about above, is all habits – you either have good ones of bad ones, in any case the players will adapt to either. Habits make you, who you are. The key is controlling them and being consistent with everything you do. If you really want a habit to stick, then repeat it everyday for 21 days, this is how long it takes your brain to adapt to change.

Don’t forget to make your session fun. We have moved away from line drills, give every player a ball and don’t have them waiting around for one. The more touches they get the better they will become!

Make it a positive one! 


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