COACH LEE GARLICK IS AN EXPERIENCED YOUTH COACH, QUALIFIED WITH UEFA A LICENCE, FA ADVANCED YOUTH AWARD & BSC (HONS) SPORTS & EXERCISE SCIENCE. HE IS CURRENTLY HEAD OF COACHING & COACH MENTOR WITH EXPERIENCE OF COACHING & MENTORING FROM GRASS ROOTS TO THE PROFESSIONAL GAME. Follow him at coachgarlick.co.uk .
Recently I took a group of players to compete in a competitive, multi-format tournament at St Georges Park as part of the Advanced Youth Award. The event consisted of several teams competing in 11v11 and 7v7 games, for points, with a league table displayed showing live updates throughout the afternoon and close to 200 professional coaches from an array of clubs observing intently. I decided to use this opportunity to focus my attentions on the element of “playing to win” or “to not lose” with my players regarding pre-match objectives/challenges and post-match debriefs as this is something which is often ignored (or at least overlooked) in academy football. Prior to the competition I set players the task of discussing such questions such as “what will I do to influence the game should we go ahead/fall behind?”, “How might we as a team act differently should we go ahead/fall behind?” and “what does this look like? How will I know? What are the tell tale signs?”
Anyway the afternoon was a success in terms of experience for our players, giving opportunity to experiment and implement strategies in relation to the competitive side of the game. But what struck me the most about this day was MY performance, specifically the information I gave to my players mid- and post-games. After the final game I conducted our debrief, asking questions of players, relating to our pre-match objectives, summarising and adding my opinion – something I am sure most of us coaches do. My colleagues on the day who also work with the team also did the same, and we wrapped up and set off following a valuable learning experience for us all.
But then I was challenged, innocently, by my Mentor. It was such a simple question from him, yet it stimulated such thought… “What key points were you wanting your players to take away from that conversation?” I thought for a moment, going back over my debrief, the points I covered and it dawned on me… I had no idea!! I tried to cover everything, I flicked between in possession and out of possession, touched on the competitiveness element, even repeated some points twice with different words!
If I couldn’t pick out the key points of my own speech, how on earth could my players??
Since then, I’ve been conscious of, and to some degree embarrassed by this. Therefore I have started to try and dedicate time to plan what I will say, and how I will say it, whether this be before my coaching sessions or in the minutes leading up to a half time/full time team talk. I will aim to limit my objectives, or “big rocks” to just 3 points that are absolutely vital and relevant, which will hopefully prevent the players suffering from a severe case of information overload! I will also give consideration as to who the information is aimed at, for example what is the point of involving your whole team in a point which is only specific to the development of one player (unless the challenges are linked or require action from another player to succeed)?
If you are working with a colleague, it might be worth challenging one another to be as concise yet detailed as possible, setting one another time limits for interventions or team talks and being strict with this to the point of cutting one another off if needs be! I challenged a couple of my coaches this week at their game to “be the first team back on the pitch”, which actually worked wonders! Both coaches delivered incredibly detailed and specific team talks, maximising time by splitting the group into units and conducting simultaneous small group/individual conversations. Not only did the players re-enter the field with memorable, clear information, but they were also first back onto the pitch!
To summarise, we all love football and specifically coaching. We have a passion to help others develop and take great fulfilment from seeing our players achieve, however sometimes this can get the better of us and we try to “fix everything”. Our players can only remember so much, after all they are still developing and the majority of information they receive will be brand new to them. Their brains are constantly full, and everything we push in potentially forces something else out. How do we make sure we are effective in what we say? How do we keep their attention and remain specific? One of the biggest lessons I’m discovering on my journey as a coach… I need to know a whole lot more to be able to say a whole lot less.
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