How to keep players engaged and active during winter outdoor training
Most children are quickly engaged in sport and physical activity. Nonetheless, winter conditions to deliver coaching sessions raise significant challenges to foundation phase players engagement. Here are a few useful tips to help keep players active during Snowman and Santa Claus time.
- Experience – some children may have none, or very little experience participating in winter outdoor training. Taking that into account, we have to make sure the experience they get is positive, rewarding and creates good childhood memories.
- Understand children body – kids go cold quickly, therefore is vital to keep them busy as soon as they arrived. Planning for early doors tag games, SSG 1v1, 2v2 etc… it is crucial to keep them engaged early in your session and in consequence, shift their focus from poor weather to fun activities.
- Big No to Waiting – always seek to plan a session where every child is involved and active all the time. Where possible set up few pitches of maximum 2v2, 3v3 to maximize their movement time. Although more numbers is not by any means wrong (i.e. 4v4, 5v5), during cold winter times, this still may cause some form of waiting in which case may lead to children being cold and disengaged in practice.
- Consider your interventions – it is fair to say that stopping the entire group may not be the best idea. When it is really cold and wet, the last thing children want is to listen to lectures or instructions from their coaches. This is a recipe for making players disengaged and the following scenario is the children having complete disinterest in session. Instead, give players individual tasks and work with them on an individual basis without the necessity of stopping the entire group. Individual tasks keep players concentrating and means they will have a clear learning focus which they will be engaged with.
- Play games – play is the highest form of creativity and the best way to keep children engaged. Design the form of game so that it has a clear learning focus, keep players excitement levels high and has a scoring system that increases their interest all the time.
- Equal teams are matter – you should know your children best. Avoid situations where one team has significantly more quality than the other. This will lead to easy activity for some and very difficult for others in which case players in both teams will quickly become bored and in consequence, disengaged.
- Talk less, say more – children, in general, have very short attention spans and don’t respond well to long talks in normal weather conditions let alone in bad ones. Try to keep your communication to the bare minimum. If you must say something, think if would not be better to talk to individual rather than the entire team.
- Observation as vital coaching method – we love coaching, and therefore sometimes we fall into trap of overcoaching, in particular during good weather. Although I am big advocate to observe players during sessions as you can see things that won’t catch your eye when you coaching in a middle of the pitch. Winter gives you great opportunity to let children play and observe their behaviour and how they respond to problems pose by the game situations.
To conclude, we as coaches have to make sure we create memories, that children will love the game and love playing even when weather is not on our side. Then we develop lifelong engagement not only during winter months but hopefully for life. The positive and long term benefits may be that, we will have more referees, volunteers, coaches that influence next generations the same way we did and that can only be a good thing.