Following the previous piece I wrote on the factors for clubs and coaches to consider with their program and session design, here’s part two containing a few more of the varying obligations that the organisation has to its customers i.e. its players and parents.
Honest and consistent communication
No player will be progressing at the same rate as the others. It simply doesn’t happen. With physical maturity taking place in those early teen years and a host of other distractions from school, friends, family certain players will not be as far down the development path as coaches and parents perhaps had originally expected. Firstly, it’s important we acknowledge the normality of this and accept it. Kids are kids and will be consistent in their inconsistency, no matter what the issue (or combination of issues!). However if the club and coach is to make selection decisions based on the perceived lack of actual progression measured against what was projected, then we need to have honest conversations with parents and where applicable to players too. If any raised points and concerns are shared with empathy and understanding, the factors that are affecting the player’s progression and thus their selection can be positively addressed with everyone’s backing.
Don’t leave anyone behind
With the previous point in mind it is so important that the club and coaches adopt a team approach throughout, making it safe for players to be a little slower or later with their development progression than others. No player should be exiled for being slower than others. What we can do is look to provide a solution in the form of finding an appropriate opportunity to help the player catch up. It may well be that the player plays and trains additionally with the team below to increase hours and match up against players of a similar physical build. This is certainly something I wish I had thought to do when faced in similar situations in my coaching past. What we cannot do when we have slow or late developers in our team is carry on playing our so called ‘strongest’ players and not providing a platform for those other players. At the pro level we often see players go on loan to other less competitive clubs where they can enjoy more playing time and the idea here is very much the same. Hopefully after such a spell away from the team environment, they will be ready and much more competitive after enjoying the benefits of increased match time at the appropriate level.
Make it challenging
Regardless of what team we have, from the very youngest levels to those on the cusp of adult football, every session, game and general playing environment should provide a challenge to the players. Challenges can vary in nature and different players will need a particular focus in one area than an other but if we just go through the session and do not consider those individual and collective challenges our players face we will not see the rate of progression in our teams that we could. Here is where it’s important to know the player as a person as much as what they are like on the field. How do they respond to praise, criticism, how intrinsically motivated are they compared to extrinsically and of course what particular areas of their game do they need to be challenged on. Overall, the more we know what makes them unique, the better we can challenge them. This continuous improvement process to all players, in all sessions and games over the season will ensure that every player is getting the best possible experience over the course.
Do the best for the person
This is the most important and without it, the others do not really have any purpose behind them. Everything we do as a club and as coaches is about the best for the person. I have certainly learnt and experienced this over my time that players are people first and players second. A poor game here or there or even a run of them does not define anybody as a person. I think showing understanding and acceptance with what our players are going through and feeling is of paramount importance and we cannot begin to have the same impact on them on the field if we do not consider what goes on with them off it. Sometimes, it may be a hard decision that we need to make or some tough words that we need to share but when these decisions or conversations happen with the best intentions for that person, on reflection it doesn’t feel ‘hard’ or ‘tough’, it only feels right and there should never be a right time time to do what is right.
So, what side of the fence do you fall on? Coach, player or parent? Which have the points have you experienced first hand the most and which have been perhaps not as prominent?
I’d love to hear from you!