Saturday, December 29, 2012

Practice Planning and Reflection

One thing is for sure: if a practice doesn't go well, it's the coach's problem.  How do you fix it?

“Wisdom comes from reflection.”
― Deborah Day, BE HAPPY NOW! 

Regardless of how busy I am before training, I always find a way to have something written on paper for that session.  Most times it's a very formal plan, other times it's scribbling and doodles and lines.  But I always have something to refer to.

Can I run a session without a written plan?  Of course.  But that's not very smart.  In the chaos that sometimes develops from the presence of a group of youngsters, you can easily forget your sequence or to include coaching points along the way.  I always have my paper tucked into the waist of my shorts ready, if/when I need it.

My plans are simple.  At minimum:
  • Type of session (technical/small sided game/GAG/phase of play/11v11/etc)
  • theme
  • draw a quick sketch of the organization
  • equipment required (balls, cones, pinnies, etc)
  • list possible progressions
  • list key factors/coaching points
  • list possible detours if something is not available (players/equipment/space).  This is called "thinking on your feet", but it's easier if you have ideas already.
  • action points from the reflection of previous session
Coaches will have their personal preferences as to how they prepare for training, but something tangible, in writing, is a must.  And it has to be on the coach while they are on the field.  Leaving it in your bag is half a job.

Here are some links to sample practice plan templates:

After training you want to perform some form of personal reflection.  These are some questions to ask yourself:
  • How was your mood?
  • Did you look and sound like a coach?
  • What went wrong?
  • What went right?
  • Was the session enjoyable for you and the players?  Why?  Why not? 
  • Did the players improve?  Did the team improve?
  • What could/would you change?
  • How will your observations today affect your next session?
For me, I know how I feel after a good session and that's the feeling I want during the drive home.  When I don't feel right,  I look inward to find out why and work to fix it next session.   If I have a good session I work to build on it next time.

Reflection is not an option if you're looking to improve as a coach.   Honest reflection is your biggest tool in running a continuously improving program.  Create action points from your reflections to help plan your next session.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

U4 -Last "Active Start" session for this group

Nobody would ever guess that you prepare more as the age group gets younger.

Yesterday was the last U4 Active start session for this group.  It was my third with them, but they had 8 as a group.

What I learned:
  • I am not afraid of professionals, college players or youth travel teams.  U4 players keep me on my toes and nervous enough that I come to the field with nothing less than my very best.
  •  The LTPD recommendations for this age group are useful and very applicable.
  • Parents being involved on a 1v1 level is essential for success with U4.
  • Parents want to learn what you're showing the children.
  • Children do want their parents close by.
  • The level of participation is high when parents are involved.
  • Parents start to sweat quickly in their jeans and sweater  :)
  • One ball per player is the most basic and important requirement.
  • Spending time on physical literacy is a must.  Children that young do not total control over their bodies.  Some can barely run in a fluid motion.
  • Preparing for a U4 session requires time and effort as you have to make sure the session is busy enough that the players do not disappear on you.
  • These children are not ready for games.  Getting them to play 1v1 with parents and understand their direction of attack is a major undertaking.
This week, in addition to activities they were familiar with, we introduced tumbling (from a stand still and a short run) and dribbling with some direction.  The dribbling was a bit of a challenge but we got it on the table.  For those who return, they will see it more often and we will build on it every week.  There was still a lot of time to manipulate the ball and learn basic soccer movements. 
My goal for the next set of sessions after Christmas is to work with at least 8 of the parents and have them attend the Active Start course, so they can start delivering sessions when summer arrives.