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How Children Make Their Decisions – What Are the Implications for Coaches?
Have you ever asked foundation phase kids as to why they made that decision? If so, my prediction is they most likely unable to tell you. Why? Well, because decision making is a very complex process to understand for adults, let alone children. Nonetheless, there are some indication how kids make their decisions and what possible implications for us coaches. Here they are:
Children who invested more time playing sport will naturally possess more game experience from those who less committed to the sport. Therefore, they are more likely be able to make better choices on the pitch than their less experienced peers. Tip for coaches: it is really worth it to know how many years the child has played sport. This information may help you (not necessary always will) understanding the reason as to why child made that choice and not the different one. In addition, a number of years playing the game means more stimulation to brain capacity memory and therefore making better decisions due to child ability to remember them, recreate and adapt to the needs of game situation.
Too often coaches expect kids to make good decisions without any basis. For example, if we want the child to understand and recognize “when to dribble and when to pass” we need to create an environment when basic information will be available to make the correct decision. This environment needs to meet child needs (tip for coaches no 2): their learning styles (how they learn?) have necessary data to allowed child brain memory adjust, correct and remember good choice (what they will be learning?) replicate game situation during training i.e. 2v1 (why they need to learn?) so they are able to anticipate the position of the defender, the position of the teammate and what to do with the ball at their feet. Create match condition during practice means children will be better prepared to transfer what they learn during the same scenario occur on match day i.e. 2v1
Equally to much information will only confused kids. Coaches are often guilty of providing to many unnecessary details that simply foundation phase kids cannot absorb. Therefore, choosing which information is important and why is a unique coaching skill that help the child to learn make better decisions (Tip no 3)
It is difficult to make good decision in 7v7 game rather than 3v3. Less players already means less options to chose from and logic consequences of that is more correct decisions will be made. Tip no 4: child who are learning to make correct decisions in 3v3 game first will be far better prepared to make better choices with bigger number games later.
It is worth to know children experience playing different games. This game challenges child brain to make decisions in vary and changing environments in which case they will be far better equipped whilst seek to play football.
This will challenge the child speed of thinking due to physically stronger kids and at that time perhaps more skilful too. These experiences give children an edge as to what is need it to compete at the higher level and over the time develop better decisions under pressure of time, stronger opponent and less space. Tip no 5: seek to play against older teams’ time to time and observe your players’ reaction to different challenges to their decision-making process.
These factors provide the basic platform for how children learn to make decisions and at the same time improve the ability to make them. Perhaps some coaches use these already, however, if not, try to apply them and see what is work for children you are coaching on daily basis.