Saturday, January 12, 2013

U4 - Active Start - A new Group

This morning I started with a new group of players (and parents) for a 10 week Active Start program.

Of the 18 players, 8 are returnees.  When we got the group together, I explained how the program worked to the parents and we were fortunate that each player had a parent partner right from the start.

Parents were all too happy to join the kids on the field.  It was awesome!  As long as they were given direction on what to do, they seemed more than comfortable being there with 18 young footballers running around.

Involving them is such a wonderful thing.   The most important bi-product is that they get to be with their children, have some fun and be encouraging every step of the way.  Their involvement also increases the probability of their child being involved in EVERY exercise and achieving some success, week after week.  Parents are also becoming more comfortable on the field, among children, and a few might come to the realization that they might want to stay involved as the children get older.

With their parents on the field, children feel safer; socially and as learners.  They are far less likely to run off scared as they might in a group of children.

Every week, I  enjoy the Active Start stage more and more.  It's different from other coaching experiences.  It's a true test of a coach's ability to engage the group as this age is easily distracted or scared.  Your coaching certifications gets lost in the shuffle and you depend on your ability to get right down to the player's level to earn their trust (with their parent's help, of course!).    Sir Alex Ferguson is more than welcome to come to our club to run a session, but if he's not willing to put himself "out there" for the children, they'll eat him alive.

I work with different ages all the time, but there is a very different feeling with this type of setup.  It's not just cones, balls and drills.  It's a lot of physical activity, laughing, high-fives, experimenting and love.  I love the way the kids are loving being close to their parents.  I love the way the parents want to be on the field and get involved.

The craziness that is sometimes equated to sports is completely absent.  And, by the end of the 10 weeks, they will all be more comfortable with the ball.

Now that we've started, my goal is to identify parents who would make decent Active Start coaches for the summer and draw them closer to what I doing, get them into the Active Start course and working with the children this summer.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Is your yearly plan almost ready for 2013?

By this time every year, I always had a yearly plan done.  This year feels weird because I have no team this summer.

I always took November and December off (minimum) but by the end of December I have indoor training space booked until March 31, tournaments planned, a rough budget set and calendar set up.  I don't take myself seriously, but I take what I do seriously.

When I offer advice to coaches I suggest:
  • Communicate with players before the end of the previous year.  You can tell them where you are in your planning, remind them of upcoming dates or just say Merry Christmas.  It shows them you are thinking of them and getting excited about getting started.
  • Book indoor space in local indoor facilities or gyms.
  • Contact and make informal arrangements with other teams for friendlies or joint training sessions.
  • Plan tournaments for summer and local hotels if traveling.
  • Set a budget for families and communicate this to them as early as possible.
  • In accordance with LTPD, your best training practices and what you've learned during the off-season, set your goals for the upcoming season.  Share your plan with assistants and friends and ensure it's realistic and appropriate for their level and age.
  • Plan possible dates for non-soccer team activities (pool party, BBQ, etc)
  • List volunteer positions to be filled by parents.
When you plan ahead, you have more co-operation from parents and players. It demonstrates that you are happy you are coaching the team and concerned enough that you want the season to run as smoothly as possible for the players.  It also demonstrates that the team is not a fly-by-night operation and you expect commitment in return from the people involved.  Sometimes planning ahead 8-10 months scares people because it makes them realize what a commitment coaching is, if done correctly.  But scaring people is not the purpose of planning.  If anything, it should ease the mind in the sense that it frees you to just coach after the work is done.

Make sure your plan:
  • Leaves opportunities for tweaking.  Revisit the plan on occasion and ask yourself tough questions about it's effectiveness.
  • Is presentable and organized so there is no misinterpretation.
  • Is presented in a meeting type of atmosphere and you are open for questions of clarification.
  • Is defensible by you in case anybody questions "why" or "how" with certain areas.
The hassle you put into planning up-front saves you a lot of time the rest of the season.  I know school teachers who know exactly what they are teaching on which day before a semester begins.  If you plan week-to-week and are flaky with your scheduling, players and parents see a casual program.  You will also cause yourself stress over attendance and facilities if you do not plan ahead.

Just as you plan, assess, adjust and reflect your sessions, so should you do the same with your yearly plan.