Did the players really ‘work’ at training tonight

I can’t remember the last time I went for a run. I mean a run were you warm up, run a distance, cool down then go home. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was over 20 years ago. I could make the time and I know all the health benefits of doing it but I don’t do it.

Strangely though I am little sore this morning because I couldn’t resist joining in on a game at training earlier this week. I did too much running and now my hips (plus various other body parts) are feeling their age plus perhaps 20 years.

This blog is about the reasons why someone who has not gone on a run in over 20 years would participate regularly in an activity that required lots of running. The answer for me is simple I enjoy playing football and don’t enjoy running as an activity on its own.

Last year I suggested to the Coaches at the club I am at that we should try to make training sessions as enjoyable as possible. My reasons being

– If the players are enjoying themselves they will behave better, learn more and want to be there.

– A player spends most of their contact time with the club at training therefore if they enjoy training they will probably enjoy being at our club.

Ronaldo laughing

– The vast majority of the players have paid to join our club because they enjoy playing football so surely it is our responsibility to try to make sure they continue to link football with enjoyment and not with being ‘work’.

– If the players are happy and enjoying themselves this normally makes the role of a Coach much easier.

– The players will be more likely to return each year if they have a positive, enjoyable experience.

Essentially I asked the Coaches to consider when they planned their sessions whether the players would enjoy doing the practices or games involved.

I am wondering whether any of you Coaches reading this blog have heard some of the feedback I got

“That’s terrific for the under 7 & 8s but I have got the Div 1 U15s”

“When am I expected to coach if I am trying to make it fun all the time”

“I coach a team of highly motivated 17/18 year old players and they are not going to stand for me putting on fun sessions”

I will admit I was particularly prepared for the discussions that followed because I thought the majority of experienced Coaches when planning their sessions would already consider this. I thought I was only talking to the novice Coaches apparently I wasn’t.

Interestingly it was the Coaches of the older players who thought players didn’t need to or maybe shouldn’t enjoy training.

The discussion went on long into the night.

Why is it that people regard enjoyment and learning to be separate?

We see evidence that the two are linked around us all the time. I would love to be able to draw and have had access all my life to the equipment necessary to practice drawing but I just get bored doing it. However every time I see a great pencil drawing I always think ‘I would love to be able to do that’.

We believe that players need to do thousands of hours of practice to learn the game sufficiently well to be elite but really who expects a child to put in those hours if they find a significant chunk of them unenjoyable.

I showed this 48 second clip and asked the Coaches did this sound familiar.


For the last 5/6 years of his career he gave this answer so many times and hundreds of other older professionals have too and nobody bats an eyelid.

If enjoyment is a prime motivator for players who have achieved so much then why shouldn’t we regard it as a motivator for the young players we coach to continue to participate?

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions because we all want to coach our players in the best possible manner.

Thank you to everyone who contacts me and leaves messages on the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time


Did you have a good game?

Two big frustrations I had when I played was not getting the ball when in a good position and getting conflicting shouts from the sidelines. You know what I mean when you hear something like ‘you have to be there to support’ and then the next time you make sure you are there to support the player and the situation pans out differently and you hear something like ‘you have to fill the box’. Basically I doubt I was ever completely sure what it took to have a good game or not.

I think not getting the ball when in a good position will always be there because there is only one ball and lots of players. However I know we can work on the other one.

If we, as Coaches, give our players guidelines or jobs to do before the game then we can reduce the amount of frustration in our players and ourselves because we are clear in how we want everyone to play.  This should mean the players enjoy themselves more therefore play better simply because they know what they are expected to do. This is far better than sending players out without any instruction and then shouting at them what to do.

We, then, as Coaches have to make sure we don’t change our tune when things don’t go to plan. I am not saying you cannot change how the players are playing in a game but we can’t ask players to do something and they do exactly what we say and then we tell them or make them feel they didn’t play well.

Obviously we cannot expect all age groups to be given the same type or amount of jobs to do in a game. From around U8/U9 upwards though if we start simply and say give each player (or group of players) one thing to remember to do when our team has possession and one thing when we have not got possession and build from there.

By building I mean you could give each player more jobs or you could introduce jobs specifically for groups of players or units of the team.

When we give players jobs we have to make sure they can control what you asked them to do.  What I mean by that is look at the difference between if you ask a player to try to deliver crosses to the back post from wide areas or if you ask them to set up goals at the back post from a cross.

The player constantly delivers crosses into the back post throughout the game and with one job comes off knowing for certain they had a good game and with the other it depends on if any goals were scored yet the player had exactly the same performance.

I have found that this really helps the Coaches as well as the players because the jobs the Coaches give reflect the playing style they want to see so the players if they do their jobs play the type of football the Coach wants. Also it makes it very easy to do half time team talks because the Coach bases the team talk on how the jobs are being performed and whether we need to change them.

Each coach has to come up with their own guidelines or jobs for the players in their team because each Coach has a different idea of how they want the game to be played. The idea behind this blog is simply that if we give the players jobs to do we remove the frustration from the players of not knowing what the Coach wants them to do plus it helps us Coach the game better.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions because we all want to coach our players in the best possible manner.

Thank you to everyone who contacts me and leaves messages on the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

Players who are a ‘nightmare’ at training

For the umpteenth time this week I was reminded how coaching is so much more than I ever thought it was when I first started. I would say one of the big changes in me since I began coaching is that I no longer assume every player who shows up for a session is ready, prepared and totally focused on improving as there is nothing going on in their life that is more important.

I can remember the first program that really opened my eyes to this. I was running an after school football program at an after school centre. I had been doing this for about 6 months and it was going fine. I used to start each session with a game so the players could run around after being cooped up all day.

One week a new 10/11 year old boy joined the group. I found out later he wasn’t new but hadn’t been allowed to join in the football program because of bad behaviour for 6 weeks. Within 3 mins he had kicked out at two different players and wrestled a player to the ground in a headlock for blocking his shot at goal. I took him to the side for a chat and he swore at me repeatedly so he ended up getting sent back inside to the centre. First week he lasted less than 5 minutes.

This formed a fairly regular pattern over the next few months. Some weeks he managed to stay out the whole time but that was only with me being very flexible with his behaviour and some weeks no matter how flexible I was I felt I couldn’t allow him to participate. Eventually he did stay out more often than not but you always knew he was there. I was really pleased with myself thinking I was responsible for ‘disciplining him’ and getting something out of a real ‘nightmare kid’.

About 18 months later after the boy stopped coming to the after school centre altogether I found something out that completely changed the way I felt. I met the boy at his school when I went to put on a few sessions and spoke to his Teacher about how he was almost unrecognisable from the boy I remembered. He was still a ‘bit of a lad’ but completely non-disruptive and to be honest if he hadn’t come up to me to say hello I don’t think I would have known it was him.

I was given the full story at lunch time. The reason he was at the after school program in the first place was because his Dad’s girlfriend didn’t want to be in the same house with him alone. Although she was home he had to go to the after school program and wait to get picked up by his Dad from work. The school noticed a change in him as soon as his Dad and the girlfriend split up and since his Dad has a new job so he doesn’t have to go to the after school centre at all he is a different person altogether.

I know I would have behaved differently if I had known or even considered his situation. If I thought about why he was behaving like that instead of just thinking he was a ‘nightmare’. When he got angry like he did I would have looked for other ways for him to be involved instead of just thinking he has to go as he is deliberately being a pain. The thing that struck me was that clearly if I met him 2 years later I would never think of him as a ‘nightmare’ and only for situations completely out of his control did I ever think otherwise.

This made me realise that I can’t assume that every young player comes to a training session, like I did, with nothing more on their mind than what’s for dinner and what position they will play for Liverpool when they grow up.

I won’t go into details of what has happened recently but a situation has arisen were the behaviour of a young player at my club is being questioned. The people who are coming to me are seeing the behaviour and suggesting how they would deal with it if it was their child which really when you think about it makes little sense. If we understand that all the parents have different jobs, interests, incomes, lifestyles or marital status then why do we assume that all the children have the same life as each other?

The point of this blog is that every player is experiencing life differently and some may come to training with plenty more on their mind than you or I could imagine. I am not saying we should be social workers but is it better to try to understand why the behaviour might be happening rather than simply deal with the behaviour assuming it is because the kid is a ‘nightmare’ and doing it deliberately like I did.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions because we all want to coach our players in the best possible manner.

Thank you to everyone who contacts me and leaves messages on the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

Why teach a Cruyff turn?

One of the first full training session I ever did was for a technical program. The Head Coach told me the topic was ‘How to do a Step Over’. I asked him how he wanted the ‘Step Over’ done to which he replied “You know how to do one just break it down like you do with the juggling tricks.” He never showed me what he wanted.

Sound familiar anyone?

In fact over the next few years I was asked by many different Head Coaches of various programs to coach an almost uniform set of turns & moves. Sometimes I was given no instructions and sometimes I was. Often when I was given instructions they would vary considerably from the last set of instructions I had been given. It unsettled me that if this was an important part of a player’s development then why was it all so loose.

Whenever I got into a discussion with other coaches about the right or wrong way to do a turn/move it would regularly end up with everyone agreeing that we didn’t care how it was done or what turn/move was actually used as long as it was done at the right time and it allowed a successful outcome.

A number of years ago now I started to hear Coaches talk about how showing players how to do turns/moves actually stifles their creativity. The thinking being that if you give them a list of turns/moves to master you are basically saying these are the ‘right answers’ and you should use one of these. This video says it better


This started me thinking about why is it that we teach players a set of turns and moves.

– Is it to give them a variety of turns/moves they can perform so that they can have a good solution to almost every football situation that can happen?

– Is it ‘lazy coaching’ done so the Coach or Program can point to the set of turns/moves and say they taught the player that?

– Is it necessary if I don’t care what turn/move a player does.

– Can I simply provide guidance for players to discover what turns/moves work best for them?

Like I said in the previous blog (http://t.co/3WD27Idubc ) I have been trying to use SSGs more in my coaching and recently I played Line Football (to score the players have to run the ball over the end line not shoot into a goal). I introduced a condition that the goal didn’t count if a defender could touch the player with the ball going over the end line. As a result I saw a whole variety of turns that I have not taught these players but they still did them.

My point is I feel that the players will still turn with the ball and still beat opponents in 1 v 1s whether they are coached a set of turns/moves or not so is it a good use of the training time I have with them. I doubt any of us would stop a player who has a really successful turn/move from using it because it wasn’t on the list of turns/moves we coach.

Is it detrimental for their development or am I being more efficient by focusing on coaching such things as the timing of the turn/move, how the player disguised their turn/move, did the player accelerate away to gain advantage from a successful turn/move and can the player use a turn/move to go in both directions or both sides of a defender rather than focusing on what they do and how they do it.

Although I have not spent any time teaching specific turns/moves at a training session in quite a number of years now I will help a player with a technical point of a turn/move if necessary or suggest alternatives.

As always I need to hear other Coach’s’ opinions because we all want to coach our players in the best possible manner.

Thank you to everyone who contacts me and leaves messages on the blog it is really appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you

Please leave a comment or email me seanthecoach@icloud.com

Follow me on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time