Above: White Board depicting our line-up
My u14s practice twice a week. They have shown development this season, however, our results have suffered.
Response to Poor Results
I have introduced a few new elements to our work together. We still have upbeat practice sessions, with humour and free-play, however, rather than give them our squad details the day before our match, I now give them this information at the end of our final practice session. The idea behind this, is to give them plenty of time to start picturing themselves in the game, making positive decisions and getting into the mind-set needed.
We finish practice approximately 15 minutes early, go to the changing room, find out the team and take a look at our white board.
Here, I put scenarios to them. I would ask them what challenges they have been facing time and time again during games and I then put those separate scenarios to them. For example, we have been playing against physically taller players, who play direct football; aerial passes and running at our defence. I would ask them what they would do to manage opposition who play in this way.
Development Versus Results
I am looking to see whether they can analyse their performance under pressure. But, I want them to recognise options early, with confidence that no scenario is ‘new’, therefore, they already have the experience to problem-solve.
I am pretty confident in this strategy. However, developing players can be at the expense of results, and that has been the case this season. To manage this, I have made efforts to be honest with the players and to an extent, their parents also, clarifying my reasons for certain squad selection or coaching styles. There has been natural wastage, where players have left the team (or, I have informed them that they are leaving). However, this is a cultural issue, where we perhaps get used to watching a 16 or 17 year old who cannot master the ball or demonstrate effective technique.
Whether I am working with a player at grassroots level or academy, male or female, youth or senior, I would avoid overlooking development in favour of results.
Her Coaching Background Includes New York Red Bulls, Arsenal FC Development Centre, Manchester United FC Soccer Schools and Chelsea FC Foundation, and also work within the Elite Girls Centre of Excellence systems (UK).
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