A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Learning facilitator: Add a cooperative portion into your practices
By Karl Dewazien
Ever wonder why your players do not seem to understand what you are trying to tell them?
Give this some thought: During your practice, you notice that one of your players is continually making the same mistake. Your intention is to give this player some guidance so that the weakness is improved so you call out the player’s name.
Now, the youngster – in most cases – will immediately, instinctively and naturally stop, look and listen. You can see them stop and you can see them look, but do you know if they are listening?
If asked, players will tell you that after stopping and looking their minds begin to wander to thoughts like, “What did I do wrong?” They will tell you that they are in no mood to listen to someone who is unintentionally going to publicly embarrass them.
As a volunteer coach, you can avoid this predicament and assure yourself that the players will be open to listen by introducing a cooperative portion into your practices. That is, letting your players know (teach them) that stoppages for coaching will take place during the upcoming phase of the practice and that it is no reflection on their playing ability. The main objective is to have players feel comfortable to cooperate with each other and the coach in order to correct a weakness.
When properly applied the playing environment results in successful skill development as players learn that play will be stopped or interrupted and they will be given ‘Points of Refinement.’ Let’s take a closer look:
In the beginning stage:
Perform the skill (theme) you are working on at a controlled speed vs. walking opponent(s).
Players are allowed to experiment with the theme under no pressure.
Players are given ample time to concentrate on the perfect execution of the theme.
Movements and actions are slowed down to allow learning to take place.
Players perform the theme at a controlled speed vs. jogging opponent(s).
The youngsters are challenged to experiment with the theme under controlled pressure.
They are given less time to concentrate on the perfect execution of the theme.
The movements and actions of the players are faster to challenge learning taking place.
Players perform the theme at a controlled speed vs. game speed opponent(s).
Players are challenged to experiment with the theme under reasonable pressure.
Players are given even less time to concentrate on perfect execution of the theme.
The movement and actions of the players are dictated by the pressure of the opponent.
Coaches must be prepared to stop play and make ‘points of ‘refinement’ on the theme; only stopping and helping those players who need it; and when in doubt go back to the previous stage to help players achieve success before returning to a more advanced stage. It’s important that every cooperative (learning) phase must be followed by a competitive (testing) phase. That is, without changing the playing environment the following actions must be taken:
Players: Must be taught that no stoppages or interruptions in play will occur; that these are ‘free’ games controlled by them; and that these are fun games controlled by them.
Coach: Must allow the action to continue without stopping or interrupting play; understand that over coaching can often be worse than no coaching; realize that interfering during games interferes with player’s concentration; be careful, that in the haste of competing, technique does not deteriorate; recognize fatigue and when it becomes a factor in learning; include active/inactive rest periods when the activity is at a high pace; and make written notes on who will need help (with the ‘theme’) in future practices.
Koach Karl Dewazien is the Emeritus State Director of Coaching for the California Youth Soccer Association. He is the author of the internationally published “FUNdamental SOCCER Book Series” and co-producer of the highly acclaimed “9 Step Practice Routine DVD.” He is currently a renowned Internet Educator of all things Youth Soccer. Learn more about Koach Karl and the 9 Step Practice at www.fundamentalsoccer.com
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