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Long time ago, I had been watching a youth game. I had witness some very skilful and intelligent decision-making kids. Their coach described them with magic words: they have potential! I don’t know if the kids I had been watching realized their potential to play football on a descent level. What I do know is, that coaches have the key to unlock any potential, but most of the time do the opposite. Here is how?
1. People vs Players
Kids are only a youth footballer for just couple hours a day! For the rest hours of each day they human beings. Unfortunately, most coaches focus on preparing kids to perform (football performance driven) and only few prepare human beings to be as successful as they can be both in football and future life. Now, asked yourself honestly-which one you are? How much do you know about your young players? How much time you devoted to talk with them about anything, a part of football? Once you know your players as humans, then you more likely get best out of them. This is where potential is hidden.
2. Lack of balance between Creativity and Structure
Kids natural instincts are creativity and curiosity. They happily taking risks to see what is possible until the coach say stop! But why? Well only to follow already established, structured programme which has left very little or no space for being creative. The good example here is a child who may be good at dribbling but for some reason coaches told him/her to pass! Instead develop child potential to dribble, coaches effectively do the opposite in the name of structured programme only!
3. Copying kills!
Kids are good copycats. It is natural way of learning for them. As we grow up, we still are able to copying others but not as good as when we were kids. Most coaches do that without any deep understanding of what, how and why they copying something. The good example here is internet these days. Coaches often seen sessions from top people in the industry and happily copying nearly everything. Even worst they will seek to replicate these practices with the kids next training session. Well what you see is one thing, but to understand thinking idea behind it is quite another. Doing something because looks great on paper without understanding, is simply put on hold children potential you are working with. Kids don’t need Guardiola, Klopp etc… training sessions. Instead they crying for someone that meet their needs, understand them and therefore more likely unlock their potential. Blindly following others and seek to duplicate them is only get to one outcome: failure! Inventing a game or session specific to the needs of players you coach it will be good step to further develop their potential.
4. I coach my team!
Is good to know that children do not fully understand playing as a team. This does change around age of 12 where they have pleasure to play together, understanding sense of coo-operation thanks to better cognitive and emotional development. Coaching a team in foundation phase rather than individuals lead to slowing down their potential. Engaging with each player, inspire them, developing their strengths is what we should be doing to realise children full potential for future when they get older. Coaches ego however and seeing success based on how many games they won lead to the opposite effect-children losing their potential bit by bit!
5. Is not Formula 1 Race-I am looking for patience!
How long is it take for a child to learn to read? How long is it take for a child to be able to start walking? Most coaches may understand what patience means, yet still struggle to implementing when coaching young players. During training they prepared a lot of progressions. Then they skip from one to another without clear thinking: are the payers ready for it? Because if they don’t, we again stop their potential. How? By forcing them to learn something that they not ready for it. The only obvious outcome will be confusion, lack of understanding and in consequences few kids with potential less to coach. Youth football is not formula one race. It does not matter who gets to the finish line first! What count here is creativity, freedom of decision -making, improvisation, risk taking, curiosity all of which are great to fulfil kids’ potential.
6. That’s the way we do things here!
Most coaches follow the established programmes and structures without any critical, constructive and independent thinking such as: Is this training session reflect how kids actually learn?
Let me tell you, that common sessions are alien to how children learn and therefore far less effective. Well if we don’t know how each player learn, we also don’t know how to unlock their potential. Following just established ideas, doing things they always been done may be just okay for some. For the majority kids with creative, innovative minds will be steps to limited their potential or closed down all together. Therefore, as coaches we must seek constantly new information, applied new ideas, innovate, create and adapt to very rapidly changing world around us, including sport and kids loving that sport altogether. Don’t be afraid being different. Great coaches are, thus they able to unlock any potential!