Hey Coach! I know how to dribble or pass, but don’t know how to play the game and it’s your fault?!

Hey Coach! I know how to dribble or pass, but don’t know how to play the game and it’s your fault?!
Play to learn and learn to play is most recent fresh approach to coaching young players. Coaches trying to recreate street football in their own environment and let the kids experimenting, taking risk and yes learning to play the game of football. Why then so many young players don’t know how to play the game, have lack of understanding of basic principles, neverminded solving problems in basic game situations? This is frightening! I have kids who were great dribblers, but have no idea how to use their skills in the game? They simply have no understanding how to play? Let’s not play a blame game here, however we as coaches should take responsibility for that and here is why?

It is about kids, not us! Just the slogan, that have very little to do with reality
How often you focus on what you think your young players should learn based on last weekend game? One of the coaches I spoke recently said: ‘we didn’t pass the ball well enough’! Now, his focus then will be obvious. He will prepare session around passing, and even more sadly put everyone in same boat. Is worth to asked how kids will learn to play the game and how much time will be devoted to do so? Sadly, the coach focus is what he thinks his players should learn and not what they are able to learn. This is a big and significant difference. Also, is fair to say the session will be planned for the delivery the topic, rather than plan for learning. In this circumstance, players will indeed may be better at passing, but still have very little understanding as to how and why to use in the game. So, to conclude my first point it should not be how we coach but how players learn the game. Kids unfortunately still these days must adapt to coach philosophy, training games, teaching styles. Negative consequences are inviable. We may well develop good dribbler, player who pass well without knowing how they use their skills in the game.

Let the players practice situations that happen in the game often enough
How many of your players you are coaching know how to defend 1-2’s? How often did you practice this? Frankly, you probably focus on skill and technique largely rather than let the player find solution in game situation that often happen on the pitch. Get the right balance between teaching technique and game sense is key ingredient to learn and understand the game itself. Lastly, if young player is exposed repeatedly to defend 1-2’s, he/she will more likely to know what to do when same situation happens during match. This is their game learning transfer from training into weekend match.

Keep the ball, stay on the ball without any purpose is waste the time
Most coaches are big advocates to teach kids play the game right way and rightly so. On the flip side of that, most are also obsessed with keeping the ball, sadly without any purpose. Practices, where kids playing 1v1 in isolated way, trying to keep the ball under pressure are now common. I am far away from criticise that, just pose the question here: Is that practice make them understand the game and learn how to play the game? Surely, the entire learning of game sense is missing completely. Firstly, because isolated 1v1 never really happen in the game or rarely. Secondly, in the game you keep the ball with purpose not for sake of it. Therefore, what your kids will learn is keep the ball for sake of it rather than understand how and why they need to do so. Sadly, they don’t learn how to lay the game. Again, we may have a player who keep the ball well under pressure, but have no understanding how to us in the game. Logical follow up is if you don’t know how to use in the game, you don’t understand the game and you find difficult to play the game.

We love complicated the game, whilst we all forget football is simple
Have you come across the training session with lots of goals, cones, mannequins? I am sure you did. Now this may be all fine, the problem is none of it is existent on the football pitch. I am to saying not to use equipment. Surely, using less and what is really need it will make players understand and learn the game. In addition, I was guilty in the past using floater players, 3 team’s games, multigoal etc… until I stupidly realize the obvious: two goals, two teams, one ball. Using floater player is unrealistic, because if you see the floater playing for both teams on the match day please let me know. Effectively, whatever the context of the session players is exposed to situation which never happen on the pitch, thus what is the point of using it? Let me concluded with that: Less is actually more!