Coaches Corner

Who says you can’t coach a five-year old?

David_Benjamin_smallWho says you can’t coach a five-year old? At first Santa Rosa FC we have proven that this is possible. Coaching junior footballers is not child’s play but requires great skill. It involves the application of a variety of techniques and strategies to create an effective delivery of what is being taught.

In my first year of coaching at this level it was clear that an altered approach had to be applied to this group. There were challenges to be faced but I immediately realized that there were solutions to these challenges:

• Large group – 15-20 boys
• Limited Attention span
• Varying skill levels
• A genuine want to be there.

In this article I will deal with the aforementioned challenges.

The large group size: This is definitely a flip for the club and shows growth at the entry level. It also displays the impact that the club has made at the community level being a viable option for parents wanting to get there children involved in “the beautiful game.” However this has presented challenges to the coaching staff since we had to allocate additional resources to alleviate stress. Could you imagine one coach having to consistently deal with twenty screaming children? Different strategies were employed where the large groups were broken down into smaller ones for greater control, then the same technique was being taught consistently. This approach proved to be particularly successful.

Limited Attention Span: At this level this comes with the territory, so that one should not anticipate lots of repetitions of the exact same drill since boredom and lack of interest will soon set in. We have found that the part/whole method to be quite effective, by this I mean showing parts of the skill and then building them together to perfect the technique. Of course there is only so much that can be taught at this level so obviously the GAME must be used to complete the training session since all the building blocks are geared to playing the game.

Varying Skill Levels: Each boy that joins the group comes with different sport experiences some are developmentally mature others developmentally immature although of the same or similar age. The challenge is to strike the median where all in the group are sufficiently challenged to maintain interest and have all boys working as hard as each other. The PULL principle can be applied here as well. By this I mean, the level of work can be set at a level challenging enough for the better skilled in the group but not beyond the weakest players so that through repetition the more skilled players will PULL the less skilled up to there level thus making the skill concrete.

Finally I will deal with:

A genuine want to be there: This is an age-old question that must be asked of the athletes. Sometimes the child genuinely does not want to play the game but is forced into the game because of several reasons. Family history in the game; father played for the National Team; scholarship opportunities. Sometimes we fail to ask the child what they want. Most times the child is not yet ready for structures and the discipline required to attend these training sessions. Yes these sessions do more than develop the physical aspect but also develops self-confidence. We have had some examples of boys that came in very immature and decided to take a year off to return the next year ready. Also we have seen younger players taken under the wing of the coach where older players are restricted as to what they can do against the younger players. Whatever the technique applied, ultimately the athlete must want to be there and enjoy there training session or else he will lose interest.

The coach at this level is doing more Teaching than Coaching. The development of improper technique can make or break the young player. It is critical for him to learn the right way since this may impact on his success in the sport.
David R. Benjamin, B. Ed.
Santa Rosa Coach