Wednesday, February 6, 2013

District U12 Boys session - Physically Literate?

On Saturday morning I was a guest coach with the Niagara District Boys program.

I coached our district team for four years before handing it over to Vince Stranges, who is now in his fourth year with the program.

The session had 28 boys in attendance and we had half of a full pitch at the Youngs Sportsplex in Welland.

I have never worked with these boys so I kept the session basic and experimented with physical literacy sequences.

I started with a warm-up that worked all parts of their body and pushed the levels of their athleticism.  I have to say that it still shocks me how many young athletes (not specifically in this group) still have trouble catching and throwing with success.  Most of this group was OK.

A lot of them had problems with a part of the warm-up where they needed to jump and, while in the air, catch and throw the ball back to their partner.  If you're a basketball player, it's called an "ally-oop".

If you think catching and throwing is not important to a soccer player, I disagree!  With an exclamation point.  To me, it's an of their overall athleticism.

I'm not saying these boys are not good athletes, because they are all successful in their sports.  But I am saying that there are still athletes, regardless of sport, who do not have the full package of movements and muscle control.

More exposure to the movements and free play will bring this out.

At U12, their bodies are changing rapidly and working on movements and co-ordination is very important.  We want them to emerge from their growth spurt with all of their abilities, plus a little extra.

Their raw soccer skills were very decent but you could see there were components to their athleticism that needed work.  

I then followed the warm-up with drills that involved a LOT of turning and passing.  A LOT.  Their footwork was OK, but a few need to keep working on it to be more graceful and balanced in the turn.  If you're not balanced then you can't make the next move to shake off your opponent.  That will come with practice and time.

The games during the session were entertaining and competitive. We just gave gentle reminders on when to apply turns and other little ideas but , for the most part, we let them play.

This bunch was fun to coach.  It was 8am Saturday morning and they were ready to go and full of energy.  As a guest, coach there is some extra energy by both sides because everybody wants the other to be happy they came.

I wish I had let them play longer but the time used during the warm-up got away from me.  They did work hard for the entire session and I am confident they got something out of it.

Leaving this group and thinking about past district groups, this is probably the fastest group I've seen in years and a lot of them have very good technique.  I  look forward to see how they stack up against the boys from the other 2 districts within our region.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What I learned this past weekend.

This was a very busy weekend for me as a "sports guy".

We had, as a family:
  • 2 bantam house league hockey games, as a parent
  • 1 house league indoor soccer game that my son officiated
  • 1 midget house league hockey game, as a parent  
  • 1 novice house league hockey game, as an uncle
  • 1 travel basketball game, as an uncle
  • 2 soccer sessions (U4/U11) as a coach
Busy, heck yes.

I always watch with a bit of an analytical eye.  If you coach, it's hard not to.

My observations:
  • I enjoy watching my sons and nephews play sports.
  • Kids lack some gamesmanship and smart decision making.  Even a little bit of trickery/deception to create some space against an opponent.
  • Things are WAY TOO organized and structured for young athletes.
As adults, we have a HUGE challenge.  Our challenge is to not ruin sports for our children, as parents, coaches and administrators.

On Saturday afternoon I ran a session for my brother's U10/U11 program.  I felt it went well, but what did I need to keep in mind?  If we were to drop those kids off at the facility with balls and come back an hour later, they would have figured out how to organize themselves and play.  Heck, they do it three times/day in school yards all over the world.

Had we given my son's hockey team an hour of ice and some pucks, they would have had a great game on their own.  And probably figured out how to solve a few problems/situation during their game.

The amount of self-guided discovery that takes place during free play is immeasurable.  Kids playing "pick-up" have a fantastic way of solving their own problems while creating problems for their opponents.

QUESTION.  How do we structure our programs to help them improve their athleticism, technique and give them ideas, but not ruin the enjoyment and learning that they would have had in our absence?

The session before us on Saturday afternoon ended with a 4 minute small sided game.  FOUR MINUTES. 

There is a place for coaching or organizing, but we have to make sure that our programs serve the needs of our customers, the players.

So what did I learn/reinforce this weekend?
  • Work hard to make sure training sessions continue to involve game play.
  • Remember why players came and what will have them want to come back the next week.
  • Make sure the kids know the game or practice belongs to them.  
  • Fun doesn't always have to be a game with 2 teams and 2 goals.  There are a lot of games that are competitive and teach at the same time.  
  • Always give them problems to solve while they are playing.  
  • Structure sessions so they say "Hey, I'm glad he came because he gives us a chance to play.  Let's hear what he has to say, try it and see if it helps us during our games."
Next time you see kids playing on their own, watch them with your coaching eyes.  Watch how they experiment, how much fun they are having and how they organize themselves to make the game happen, including settling their disputes.  Then ask yourself the question "How can I, as a coach, infuse the information they need into their fun they want to have."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The name of the game is people

How can you coach if you don't get along with people?  While I am on the topic, how can you do anything if you don't get along with people?

I shared a car ride with a teacher friend and the topic came up of why somebody would teach when they don't like kids.

I tell people my mentors taught me how to coach, but my father taught me how to be a coach.  He's a get-along guy and whatever people skills I have, I got from him.

So many jobs and activities involve getting along with so many people, how could/do you survive if you lack those skills?  And if you don't like people, why do spend your time performing functions that have you interacting.

As a coach, there is an endless line of people in your world:
  • your players!
  • parents
  • assistants
  • officials
  • opponents
  • sponsors
  • suppliers
  • club executive
  • media
My good friend Rino and I coached together for a long time and we had a list of coaches we didn't enjoy coaching against.   Why?  It wasn't about competition.  It was because they were cold, towards us and our players.

In youth sports, one of the most important things that we can teach our players is how to get along with people.   At the rep level, your players see you have your opening conversation with officials and chatting up the other players while you check their books.  Before and after the game your players see you make small talk with parents.  After the game you are interacting with the coach and players of the next team coming on the field, of coming off the game before you.  When the game is over your players see how you greet and congratulate your opponents.  Somewhere in the mix of all the get-along time, you find time to coach.

There are days when you are not in the mood to be cordial and hospitable.  When the kids are around you get in the mood.

As you move up the ladder and age groups, your game face and intensity levels might adjust to the environment, but your ability to interact is still important.  Canada's Men's National Team coach doesn't have to give Mr Freezies to the coach of Mexico after their game, but he does have to interact with airport, hotel, stadium and game staff as well as media, agents, club coaches, etc.

Getting along with people is not only the proper example and tone to set for your players, it's also smart coaching (good for business as we say).   More doors open up for your team if your group is known as co-operative and hospitable.  Setting up friendlies, invitations to events, player retention, etc, are all improved when you have a good rapport with the world.

If your people skills are fake and used to manipulate, then it's only a matter of time before you are discovered and forced to move on.  Rats are easy to smell.

It's not about an alterior motive, sportsmanship or some cliché about love.  It's simply about getting along and making your coaching experience more successful and pleasant.

If you do need an alterior motive, here it is: it WILL make you a better coach.  It will make you better at ANYTHING you do; teacher, parent, entrepreneur, auto mechanic, etc.

It never ends ... people are EVERYWHERE!   Smile.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Soccer: U11/12 Learn to Train, second session

With the week-one kinks well behind us, week two was a good session to build from.

On Tuesday night our U11/U12 player program continued at the Welland Soccer Club at the Youngs Sportsplex.  Or, as we like to say The Youngs Sportsplex, HOME OF THE WELLAND SOCCER CLUB.  :)

Tuesday's session was again delivered using the LTPD guideline for the Learn to Train stage.  Warmup/SSG/Technical/SSG/Cool Down.

We started our warmup by establishing 4 squares again, one small ball drill in each and the players move through each square, 1 minute each.  After the first 4 minutes, we stopped for 60 seconds to give them quick reminders for each square then started again.   The warm-up was much more productive tonight now that they know the sequence.  The 4 drills in the square were:
  • One-touch passing with a partner
  • Toss - thigh - volley with a partner
  • Toss - volley with a partner
  • Toss ball in the air and bring down with thigh to feet into a short dribble
We then went to small sided games, 5v5, reminding the players what we did last week.  Look-touch-look-play.  Some showed signs of carrying last week's progress into this week.

Our technical was working on turns.  We organizing the players into 10 groups of 3 and executing 3 turns with a lot of repetitions.  Bottom of the foot, inside chop and outside chop.

Before getting back into our small sided games we gave the players ideas where turns can be used during games.  We talked about how using our eyes gives us the information we need to decide if we need to turn:
  • Are we running out of room?
  • Are we being closed down by an opponent?
  • Am I heading for the touch or goal line?
It was nice to see a lot of the players trying more turns after the technical portion of the session.  As a coach, seeing a player using one of their turns tells me they are aware and thinking during the game and trying to express themselves through their ideas.

Our cool down was every player with their own ball juggling.  Simple.

Next week, I am going to introduce 2 more turns during the warm-up.  I will discuss our session with coaches Colum and Nilan before deciding on the technical portion.

I was happy with the session tonight.  I was able to get there earlier than usual and calmly set up before the stampede of people arrived at 5:45-6pm.  A lot of people have questions and information as it gets closer to start time.  Once the clock strikes 5:45 it's a mob scene in that building.  Awesome.

We put pinnies on the players right away to get into the games a little quicker and started at 6:00pm sharp.  A few players were late but the assistants did a great job getting them into colours and groups.

There were a few too many balls laying around but they never got in the way.  It just looked messy.  We also had more balls than usual stroll into the neighbour's field and  I will have to think about that over the next week.

The facility was full again and that creates a real buzz in the building.  Lots of soccer.

I look forward to this program progressing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Soccer: U4 Active Start session - letter given to parents

We had our second Active Start session on Saturday morning.  Parents came ready to work this morning.  And they brought their children with them.

I thought it would be tough to sell patience to the parents ... I was wrong.  For the most part.

The layout of the session, according to LTPD, works.  Every week I will add new things and continue to push the boundaries, but keep it age appropriate.

There was one thing that I realized Saturday.  For the second time over two programs I had a parent tell me we should be having full games , etc.  I must have answered them with confidence because the conversation was short and their child was still participating in what we were doing.  I shared some info with the parents and I hope they take the time to find out more about what we are doing.  I

Their early support may be based in the fact that they trust me and my experience.  It's new territory for some of them, especially those who were involved in sports before.  I want their ongoing support to be base on knowledge and information that they gathered on their own.

January 19, 2013

Attention: Parents of U4 players

My name is Frank DeChellis and I am facilitating the Welland Soccer Club’s U4 program this term.   I am a member of the club’s Technical Staff and a Learning Facilitator with the Ontario Soccer Association.  Over the years, I’ve worked with players of all ages and levels, but the U4 players put a smile on my face that lasts until dinner. 

This program will be conducted using the Canadian Soccer Association’s Long Term Development Program (LTPD) as a guideline.  This group is at the “Active Start” stage.

For more information on LTPD and Active Start, please go to .  You can also visit to see Canada Sport for Life’s resources on Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD).

While your web browser is open, take a few minutes to research “physical literacy”.  Concern about Physical Literacy grows every year as children play outside less.  Don’t assume all children are able to run, jump, kick, tumble, catch, throw and climb. 

Our program is about having as many children do as many of the activities as possible, with an adult as their partner.  The adult partner is the key to success.  As the children age we increase their time with other players, but U4 is about their development and quality time with their favourite person in the world, you.

Every session we will address physical literacy, soccer movements, soccer techniques and small games.  Intermixed with our exercises will be a lot of “high fives”, positive comments and drink breaks.

My invitation to you: watch how the sessions are delivered and consider becoming an Active Start coach.   Experience in sports is an asset, but not necessary.  And there is a short “Active Start” course by the Ontario Soccer Association to arm you with the information and resources needed.

If you feel that becoming an Active Start coach is a good fit for you, let’s chat.  I can see you thinking about it already. 

Please, feel free to ask me questions regarding this program or soccer for your child.  Administrative questions should be directed to the desk in the lobby.

Yours Truly,

Frank DeChellis