Developing a ‘child centred’ philosophy

Children in the foundation phase do not need a coaching philosophy. Instead, they are crying out for coaches to put more effort into understanding little Joe or Jenny rather than simply knowing how to kick a ball!


It may sound silly, maybe controversial. But is it really?


Too often I’ve come across coaching sessions that haven’t worked, despite the fact that coaches as they claim have a ‘child centred philosophy’. I’ve heard this term used a lot recently. My feeling is that we use these words for the sake of using them, without thinking what we specifically mean. “Child centred” means understanding children well. So actually, it is not a philosophy, but rather a gift which has a positive impact on a child’s learning process.


In other words, a coach who understands children is well aware how they learn. Now, have you ever thought how children learn to read? Why, because it is a great way to understand children and their learning process which I explain practically below.


You will also find a few tips on how the learning to read process can be transferred to teach kid’s football.



Little Becky learns to read by recognising letters. In the context of football, how often do you expect the child to learn the whole task as opposed to just part of it?


Tip 1 – Use a step-by-step approach so children can firstly understand the task, then apply and execute it on the training ground.


Once Little Becky knows the alphabet, only then is she able to complete simple words.


Tip 2 – When introducing a new learning task, make sure you do not ask more than they are actually able to learn.


Now Little Becky possesses the ability to complete the words and therefore is ready to read and write short, simple sentences. How often you have been frustrated by a child’s inability to do something? If you’re a coach with numerous years’ experience, many things are very obvious for you. Therefore, your frustration starts growing when the child can’t do what you interpret as easy or obvious.


Tip 3 – What is really easy or obvious for you, may not be so simple for the child you coach. Let me use a maths example here: 4 is the obvious answer to 2+2, but it may not be the case for a 4-year-old child. Understanding this important distinction will make your sessions more effective and enjoyable for all.


When Becky feels confident and competent, she starts to read! How often have you tried to teach your team to play like Barcelona or other teams in the professional game? Has it worked?


Tip 4 – Perhaps you’ve been guilty of teaching them what you want, rather than what they can learn.


I hope you found this useful. Let me conclude with this famous quote: “children are not things to be moulded but people to be unfolded” – Jess Lair