The Future is in Our Hands – Wayne Cleverly

Their future is in our hands

Do you remember the moment when you fell in love with the game? With distance memories, we can reflect on the source of games which built our foundation to love the game of soccer. On the school yard, the street outside our house or the patch of Grass down the road a love for the ball began. Our senses for the game grew and with more practice and play our passion and purpose had arrived.

With muddy shorts, uneven teams, playing with bigger players and that special volley scored in the school yard a connection to the game was born. With our surroundings of the school building, trees and houses we knew no boundaries. No diving header was too outrageous, no tackle too passionate and no goal celebration too exuberant. With our players and our society changing and now more focus towards Facebook, twitter or PlayStation it is our responsibility to create those environments where the next generation with grow their love for this great game. If we can create environments where creativity, play, and making new friends without too much adult influences, we have a greater chance to develop the ‘future player’. Whatever journey they players take, it’s safe to say at some stage they will continue in the loop and look to inspire the next generation of Canadian players.

The child is an active agent of its own development

Our role as the Grassroots coach is to help players reach their individual potential through teaching ABC’S, techniques and building social skills that will give them a greater chance in their future years to flourish as a player. Our objective at this young age is not to win soccer matches, but to create fun environments for all, where play is at the forefront of their learning. The principles adults train at cannot be applied to where our Grassroots players are at, but must be adapted to their age and stage of development. We must look to Focus on the physical literacy aspect of their development as a key starting block and always remember who we are dealing with when In your planning process. I’m sure your grassroots team will be made up of young players beginning to fall in love with soccer, the more experience and variety they get at this young age will be vital for their future participation in the game.

Relevance is a vitally important factor when learning anything, ‘why am I doing this’ is a question that a young player will often ask themselves or us and we as the coach need to be prepared to answer it. All of our Grassroots players will learn how to play the game better if we teach them, skills, techniques or abc’s that can be applied in a game. Players constantly come to soccer with technical skills, social skills or physical skills that they have taken from elsewhere or other sports and doing so will make clear links between things they can do and where to use it in play.

Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me and I understand

Young players like to do things that will give them praise and giving them a focus for their learning will help this. Within these boundaries they will feel safer and be more creativity with their play, techniques or movements. Our Grassroots player’s will then know how to earn or gain praise from the coach and build their love to play , train and develop as a player. If we don’t have a clear learning focus it can be difficult to offer help through your sessions as this can becoming confusing to the player. Don’t fall into the trap of commentating or coaching everything and therefore nothing. Soccer is a game that is unique and provides the opportunity for limitless creativity and brings a wide variety of challenges along the path. This may include physical, technical, tactics or even motivation but in order to apply learning to the players we must create environments where their skills can be applied in realistic game situations.

The only thing I know, is that I don’t know

The Grassroots coach will constantly be managing mistakes of the players but with positive environment’s, praise and allowing risk we have a better chance for enjoyment and development through the young stages. Get to know your players and ask about them! One of the best coaching questions you may ask is “How was your day at school’ your young players don’t care how much you know about the game of soccer, until they know how much you care about them. Try to catch your players doing something well during their game or practice, we can always get into the habit of looking into mistakes but praise the good things they do. The creativity will flow or enjoyment factor will drop in how you plan your sessions. 1) What are they learning 2) would it happen in a game 3) what are the learning outcomes. Be prepared to experiment and if lost for the next progression or fun factor ask the players, because at the end of the day ‘who’s practice is it anyway?’ Don’t forget to include decision making in your Grassroots plan! It is estimated that a player will make 15 decisions to every minute of a match. Some might be very simple (pass the ball 5 meters) and some might be more complex (how am I going to beat the Gk to score?) the art to adding decision making can also be through ‘play’. During play your players constantly are asked questions of themselves and decisions will be based on their physical, technical, social, physiological attributes they are picking up through their sessions with you or other activities.

Whatever the outcome for your Grassroots players; try to create an environment where they love the game of soccer and one where they never want to leave this great game.

Yours in Soccer Wayne Cleverly

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