In April I wrote a blog called ‘So what did you learn today?’ /wp.me/p5aQfW-1q Mark Carter from the Ministry of Footy @MinistryOfFooty (well worth following) asked me the following questions
Can the players plan for their own learning rather than the Coach planning it?
What would a session look like if each learner brought their own set of learning objectives?
It really set me thinking and I told him I would try to include a session in my training cycle were the players individually came to the session with their own learning objective and that I didn’t set a ‘topic’ we were all going to work on. Last week I did a session like this.
How was I going to allow the players to choose a topic individually? I thought that for the first time to make the choice easier for the players I would reduce their options but in future I will certainly allow players completely free choice. I gave the players the choice of the last 4 topics we had worked on
1st Touch – Setting up your next action so can do it with 2nd Touch
Striking the ball – Passing inbetween opposition players
Running with the ball – To create space for team mates
1 v 1 – Get past an opponent
I told the players at the last session before that it was up to them what they learnt at the next session and gave them the four choices for them to think about for the next session. Two days before the actual session I emailed all the parents the list of topics and asked them to remind the players so all came prepared.
I told the players that they didn’t have to tell me what they were going to work on.
Planning the Session
My approach I decided that I was going to be hands off and allow the players to work through the session themselves without over loading the players or myself as I tried to grasp whether it was beneficial or not.
Here are some of the issues with planning the session I had
– I couldn’t place a condition on a game that affected what the individual players did when they received the ball i.e. maximum 2-Touches because I needed to allow players to practice all topics. I decided to place conditions on the way goals were scored i.e a goal had to be scored from the left/centre/right of the goal before a goal could be scored from the same area twice.
– I had to make the pitch big enough to allow players to find space to run with the ball or 1 v 1 but not too big that 1st Touches were rarely under pressure as players found space too easily. I settled on making the pitch wider but not longer.
– How many players per side to play. Have to be enough to allow passes to be played inbetween opposition players, had to be enough to allow players lots of opportunities to go 1 v 1 but not too many players that space became an issue. I decided on 2 games of 4 v 4 but in the end 2 players didn’t show up so I switched to a 7 v 7.
I was never going to play with any less than 4-a-side because I wanted goals with GKs for the conditions I placed and if there are only 2 outfield players this reduces the opportunity for the players to get meaningful practice if they choose 1st Touch or striking the ball.
I asked all the players when they arrived not to tell me what their topic was but whether they had chosen a topic to work on. I gave all the players at the start of the session a challenge to work on their topic they had chosen so much that it was obvious what topic they were working on without needing to tell me.
My first impression was (and I am not saying this deliberately to get positive feedback that this is how learning occurs) that I am way out of my comfort zone here. After about 10 mins I was thinking I have no idea what to do next and felt that I hadn’t planned enough for how I was to coach the session. Being ‘hands off’ wasn’t really enough and I felt under prepared and my mind was racing for what to do. It took approx. another 10 mins before I realised I was just flapping about because it was different so started to watch the players (like I had planned) to see what benefits I could see.
My next impression was that it was very much like I have read many times about dividing the players up into groups at training basically the players could be simply divided up like this.
Something I have never considered before was that during a session players move within these groups and in both directions. There were definitely players who moved from the centre group downwards to just playing because they could with the way I ran the session and players who probably came poorly prepared and started just playing but focused more so moved through the groups as the session progressed.
On reflection next time I will ask the players to tell me what their topic is so I can assist them in working on it rather than leaving it all up to them. I think though that the session was beneficial structured this way because the majority of the group really took ownership of improving themselves which is fundamentally what it was about and I got to flap about in private without affecting the group and then observe the session.
Next time I will try to balance the ownership of the player’s own learning with me assisting the players.
One last note I asked the players did they want more sessions like this and I was genuinely surprised at how enthusiastic they were to have another one at the end of the next cycle.
As always I need to hear other Coach’s opinions so we can all improve.
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Till next time