21 January, 2011

"Top 10 tips to help coaches become more adaptive" - with thanks to University College Cork's Head of Sports Studies & Physical Education: Julia Walsh:

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UCC's Head of Sports Studies & Physical Education; Julia Walsh (pictured above right) at the new Aviva Stadium with Minister for Education Mary Hannafin (centre) and members of the Irish Sports Council
Julia Walsh has asked several experiences coaches what their best techniques were for engaging and teaching young people. Here are her (main) observations:
1. Know the players names:   Even before they turn up for the first training session. Use the names as often as possible in the early sessions. Always have a roll call so you get another chance to read and remember their names. As you find out something about the person, write a note on the roll, so you can remember it for the next time.
Get them running early doors
2. Read the wind:  Windy days have an effect on children and causes them to behave in interesting ways. You need to have a game up your sleeve to help reduce the kid's high octane levels. Julia Walsh recommends trains; children line up in teams of four, they line up, the first person runs an allocated distance (for example: the length of a basketball court), then on return the whole team must run the distance. Then the next person in line goes and the team goes again and so forth. Run the relay as a practice event and then run the relay as a team event. It's competitive, it's fun and by the time the kids have run up and down 10 times, they're ready to listen. 
3. Routine:  Establish a routine where on a whistle or a signal, all players have to run to where the coach is standing. Take the players' times, make it a competition. If the whole group are not in on time, do it again. It is worth the time and effort to get this routine in place. If equipment is involved, include a rule, foot on ball or between feet, or hold the ball. The more time saved on organisation, the more time for a game. Guess what the first question you'll be asked by a player at the training session will be.

Greg Yelverton: pictured above

 Greg Yelverton, the FAI soccer facilitator for Third Level at UCC (and former Cork City FC player) makes his suggestions:
4. Plan, plan and then plan again:
This is fairly self-explanatory, but, very important.  If you don't plan, your energy will be spent thinking about what you are going to do next rather than engaging in teaching. Of course, sometimes we have to throw the plan away, but planning will help put the mind in the right place and to quote Eddie O'Sullivan: "It's all about the top four inches."
5. Be light-hearted:    Players need to enjoy the session and if you do not enjoy the session, the players will know in the blink of an eye. Note the drills they enjoy and try to return to them. Tweak the drill to make it applicable to what they are learning in the next training session.
Keep training games small-sided to give players more involvement
6. Play small-sided games:     As a coach, set yourself some goals. For example, tonight my goal is to ensure that every player has touched the ball 200 times. Now, think about what that means for how you design a training session. Small sided games definitely provide much more opportunities for players to touch the ball and learn the strategies associated with playing the game. Games are more fun, ask players.
7. Look at drills:  When the drill or game is not working, you have a number of options; stay with the activity and change a rule, or change the area, or change the timing (if applicable), and if all else fails: change the drill. 

Pat Price pictured above (standing)
Pat Price, coach of Neptune's Superleague team, provides his words of wisdom:
8. Proximity:     If you know a particular player is prone to lapses in concentration, quietly stand near them when they are participating in a game or a drill. This really works!
9.  Stop and reward player performance:     As coaches, we often stop the game to correct player performance. Tell the players that they have performed the last play well (but only if they have performed well).
Always praise good player performance
10.  Challenge and reward players:     Regardless of age and competition level. Sometimes we are unable to provide the feedback during the game or training session. When next talking to the group, reference that player's performance. For example; I want you to box out your players so they are unable to get a second shot, if you watch Niall today, he did it three times in a row and it converted into three fast breaks and six points.

The above ideas are not rocket science, but sometimes a new idea either reminds us of something we have forgotten, or puts some life back into our coaching.
Finally: always remember: the best coaches are the best thieves.

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