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Guest Post by ‘Littlefork’
Here’s a piece by Tony Carr on the elephant traps when coaching young people. I witnessed just the approach he speaks about in an Under 8s match last year! Whatever you think it’s a good read and speaks volumes about what is wrong in this country. Nothing much will change whilst “big clubs” continue to coach young kiddies in a way which takes away individual problem solving etc.
Joystick Coaching? NO! (Leave joystick coaching to the control freaks)
A ‘joystick coach’ is a term coined by Alex Kos to describe coaches who dictate and control their players’ movements on the pitch, as though they were playing a real life video game called ‘My Kids Team 2010!’ Why do they do it?
1/. The unpredictable and fluid nature of football makes it a difficult game to coach compared to, say, American football or hockey. This is especially true for coaches who ask young players to stay in positions that make no sense to them. Because asking players to stay in position doesn’t seem to work – players wandering ‘out of position’ really frustrates coaches who like to see neat patterns on the football field – some coaches decide they must ‘help’ their players by instructing them to stay in position and lo! – another ‘joystick coach’ is born.
2/. Coaches see other coaches control their players and win matches, and they feel compelled to do the same.
3/. Parental pressure for instant results stops some coaches taking a long-term view and makes them strive for quick wins instead.
What are the consequences?
1/. It’s not the kids’ game anymore. It belongs to the coach.
2/. Children gradually lose interest in football because they are not allowed to simply play the game to the best of their ability. Individualism and spontaneity are frowned upon and the fun soon disappears.
3/. Young football players are not encouraged to make their own decisions. While this may stop them from making mistakes when they are learning the game, it also stops them becoming really good players in later life when the ability to make quick, correct decisions marks out the the excellent players from the average.
What can you do about it?
1/. Don’t tell your players what to do. Instead, equip them with the skills they need to do the job and then let them get on with it in their own way.
2/. Encourage risk taking. Is a pass across the penalty area, for example, always a mistake? Discuss the risks with your players, don’t lay down the law.
3/. In training sessions, don’t tell your players to ‘move there’ or ‘go here’. Instead, point out that whatever they are doing could be done better and help them come up with the answers themselves.
4/. On match days stay quiet, and make sure parents/assistants don’t shout instructions. Lead by example. Good behaviour, like bad behaviour, is infectious.
Let’s unplug the joystick and let the children play!
Tony Carr, West Ham Utd FC Academy Director (for a “children in sport publication”)