When I was your age…..

One of the good things about my role at the club is that I am not confined to just one team so I get to be a part of all the teams and so get to notice similarities or patterns with team issues. One of the constant issues at the club is that we want the Coaches to rotate the players through different positions so I am going to use this to illustrate my point.

I exchanged a series of emails with a parent recently who wrote

“H is a lovely kid but I have been watching him for three years now and no matter what position he is given he always drifts back into defence so why don’t we just play him there all the time.”

H is 8 years old and 7 months.

I had a conversation with a Coach very recently and he said

“Yes I agree with rotating the players here but not next year when we play on this pitch. Surely by then they need to specialise in one position.”

He was referring to the season the players turn 10 years old when his son will be playing for his 5th year.

Now this blog is not about whether players should be rotated through positions but how we need to understand that the length of time children have been playing football greatly influences the thinking of the Parents and Parent Coaches.

Regularly when I talk to parents they make some sort of reference to how long the children have been playing to validate their point and I have to point out how old the children are.

Now don’t get me wrong I can understand how this can happen. If you have spent years getting your child to hundreds of training sessions plus getting up many weekend mornings of the year to watch them play then it does seem like they have been playing for a very long time. I have done the same thing so I can understand how it feels.

However this doesn’t change the age of the children involved.

A 10/11/12 year old child is still just that no matter how many years they have played football and we have to recognise this when we help them along with their development.

No one would say that a player has been playing football for 5/6 years now so they should be at their full height but plenty will make comments that suggest a player should have fully developed decision making capabilities or social skills after 5/6 years. Or to go back to the point we were using a full understanding of all the physical, technical and tactical requirements for all the positions on the pitch so can make the correct decision for them to specialise in just one.

Players start to play organised football at such young ages that it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking their development is over when really there is more years to go than they have already done.

I had one parent ring me up in the last few months and discuss his son’s ‘playing career’ in depth with me then tell me that he rang because his son wasn’t going to be at training tonight. Apparently he was cheeky to his mum when she wanted him to finish his vegetables last night and the best way to get through to him is to stop his football. It was a truly farcical finish to the conversation considering what he wanted to discuss before that.

With the parent who sent the email about H drifting back into defence I was able to get him to reconsider when I said that we probably both have socks and undies older than these players.

So the point of this blog is to consider what might be influencing the parents of the players to think the way they do and how simply reminding them we are dealing with young children might make life much easier for everyone.

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

Or possible leave a comment on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time


Creative Small Sided Games

How many times have you had a similar conversation while playing a small sided game at training with players approx. 12 years old or younger?

The Scene:

Two players running towards the goal, one attacker and one defender, with no one else anywhere near them except the goalkeeper. The attacker is well within shooting range and has a clear sight of goal but the ball is on their non-preferred foot so they cut back to their preferred side where the defender is and get tackled straight away resulting in no shot.

The Conversation:

Coach: What do you think you could have done there to make sure you got a shot on goal?

Player: Passed.

Coach: How does that help you make sure you get a shot on goal?

Player: ………………………..Don’t know.

Why do young players so often think that passing is the right answer to every question or situation? Are we as adults involved in the game part of the problem? Do we over emphasise this part of the game when we are developing youth players?

Don’t get me wrong passing is a fundamental part of football and I am not someone who suggests we head off entirely in the other direction and only teach 1 v 1s every session.

Simply I noticed that I used the word ‘pass’ an awful lot in my sessions so that the answers I got from the players were in a roundabout way only the answers I gave them. No matter what the topic somehow the word pass would be mentioned often.

The more I think about what I am saying the more I realise some of the things I say could be sending a message I don’t really want to send.

An example is that often when doing 1 v 1s I will talk about taking a player on to get to the space on the other side of them which I think is fair enough. However then I hear myself saying ‘Now that you have got into that space you can pass, shoot, run with the ball, whatever ‘.

Basically it sounds or at least it sounds to me now like I am ranking them in importance with passing the ball as the first thing that should be on your mind after a successful 1 v 1. I am trying to change it to simply saying ‘Now that you have got into that space you can do whatever you want’. I am simply trying to cut down the amounts of times I say ‘Pass’ to the players.

I have challenged myself to do sessions and not use the word ‘Pass’ at all although I still want to see the players pass the ball. Here are a few of the small sided games I have played were the word pass isn’t in the rules or explanations but the players to be successful have to pass the ball frequently.

All of these games are ideal for teams with 3 to 5 players and played with normal rules except

1 – First team were every player on your team scores wins the game.

2 – A player can’t score a 2nd goal until every other player on your team has scored.

3 – At least 3 players on your team must touch the ball in the build-up for a goal to count (or a goal is worth 5 if 3 or more of your players touch the ball in the build-up otherwise only worth one).

4 – Same player cannot score two goals in a row.

I have only just started doing this game and it has worked really well so far

5 – Fantasy Football – Lets say we are playing a 4-a-side then each team has to decide what a goal is worth for each opposition player from 4 down to 1 point i.e a goal for Jack=4, Josh=3, Jim=2 and Jeff=1. The first team to get to 21 points or more wins (or which I have not done yet you could do it that the first team to score exactly 21 points wins).

With these games it is easy to substitute ‘set up’ or ‘assist’ another player instead of saying ‘pass’ or I talk about creating goal scoring opportunities.

Like I said before passing is a fundamental part of football but feel possibly I am influencing the young players unintentionally that passing is always the right answer by constant reference to it. I want our players to consider all options equally when they make their decisions playing football and not be swayed towards one solution.

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

Or possible leave a comment on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

You can’t always get what you want

You know when you have a great idea for an exercise and it seems like you have thought out every possibility then reality hits. One of my sessions each week is with the U6/7s. Now they are a top group but like all groups they prefer certain types of exercises over others.

A few years ago the U6/7s at the club loved relay races. I did a different set up but essentially did a relay race every session and they never grew tired of them. The group I have now love playing ‘Chasey type’ games. I mean games were each player has a ball and someone is chasing them and they have to keep control of their football while getting away from the Chaser.

I have done plenty of different games but lately it has been getting harder and harder to come up with new ones.

This week I took my own advice about being creative (How you can be more creative http://wp.me/p5aQfW-21 ) and set about coming up with something new. I played with lots of ideas and then suddenly it hit me. I have two older brothers who come down every week and both are really sensible. I would use them to chase the players but the twist would be I would make them wear woolly hats pulled down over their eyes and they would have to chase the players under my instructions. I would call it Remote Control Chasey.

I thought what could go wrong

1 – They could just dash around madly and knock over the young players so I thought I will make it so the Remote Control Chasers can only walk.

2 – Possibly being totally unsighted the older brothers would only move very slowly so the young players just wouldn’t need to run with the ball but I checked the woolly hats by putting them on myself and actually you could see shapes through them so they weren’t completely unsighted.

To cut a long story short I thought it was going to work big time so I was excited to give it a go. I was setting up the session and my phone goes unfortunately one of the young players with the older brother was sick so they weren’t coming. No problem I still have the other older brother. I finished setting up the session and the young players started coming but not the player with the older brother. I was gutted but I thought I’ll just use it next week.

About 5 mins into the session a player turns up late and to my joy out of the car pops his older brother who never usually comes to the sessions. I was delighted even though he is not quite as sensible as the other two I thought it was back on.

Anyway we will call the older brother Brian (it is obvious I have changed the name here as I don’t think I have coached a young player called Brian for about 15 years). I explained it to Brian and asked him was he OK helping me and he seemed to think it will be a laugh too.

I got all the players in and explained we were going to play REMOTE CONTROL CHASEY. They all started laughing when I put the hat over Brian’s eyes. I was buzzing I thought this is going to be great. I could imagine the youngsters dribbling up to him shouting then turning away and leaving Brian floundering.

I had a quick check and asked Brian quietly when all the kids were running off to find space could he see how many fingers I was holding up. He said he couldn’t see anything at all. At this point I realised that maybe the fact that my head is bigger might stretch the fabric more than a 9 year old’s head allowing me to see through it but not him. As I am a super experienced Coach I completely ignored this.


‘Brian go forward… forward… forward…now RIGHT’

Brian went left.

I walked up to Brian like the super experienced Coach I am and said when I say right I mean ‘your right’. As I was walking back I thought I heard the faint sound of a warning bell when I realised we were both facing the same way but as I am a super experienced Coach I ignored that too.

‘Brian forwards….forwards….WHO IS GOING TO GET CAUGHT BY THE REMOTE CONTROLLED CATCHER… forwards… left. No… left Brian the other way. No…. turn around. No not all the way around…..OK go forwards… forwards… right, right…..OK just hold it a second there.’

I walked up to Brain and quietly asked him did he know his left from his right to which he replied no he didn’t with a massive gap toothed smile. I quickly explained that he writes with his right hand and the other one is his left (I coach him as well so I know he is right handed so that is not the next disaster in case you were thinking ahead). Brian didn’t look quite so smiley now but I quickly explained it again and walked back.

Brian forwards….forwards….. WHO IS GOING TO GET CAUGHT….. Brian right (Brian goes to the right. I am thinking wonderful)……right (Brian switches to left thinking he had made a mistake again)……No Brian go back the way you were going…….No back the way you were going when I said right the first time……..tell you what Brian why don’t you tell me were to go and then when you get home you can tell your mum you told your Coach where you go….How does that sound.

Brian is clearly happy not to be doing it anymore as he was losing enthusiasm for this Remote Control Chasey while I was determined to keep it going as despite not having anything to chase them the young players were laughing and running about with the ball having a blast going up to Brian then spinning away.

So I put on the woolly hat. The players are laughing and I can see a few already thinking what a great opportunity this is.

OK Bri ……………………………………………………………………………OK Bri so you just tell me where you want me to go to catch the players. Why don’t you get me to chase your little brother…..forwards (I set off)………………………………………………………………………………….…………………………………….(by now I have walked at least 10 steps off the grid) OK tell you what Bri I’ll just chase after them and can you make sure they don’t leave the grid. How does that sound.

It went brilliantly in the end just took a little while to get there.

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

Or possible leave a comment on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time

Extreme Football

Lately when I am talking about football it seems to be that often I am not talking about the topic I think I am at all.

For the second time in as many weeks I have had a conversation start something like this

Me: The club is not too concerned about whether the children win every week. We are more concerned with making sure that each team is following the club philosophy and every player is enjoying their football and getting an equal opportunity to play.

Coach/Parent: So you want them to lose every game.

Me: No what I am saying is the children don’t play football simply to win no matter what. We need to consider whether we are trying to win games by following the club philosophy rather than simply going for the win each week because we have to win no matter what we do to achieve it.

Coach/Parent: So you think the children would be happy if they never won another game.

I think I thought about writing this blog this week because I seemed to have seen on Twitter or had many conversations that have followed a similar path to this quite a bit in the last month.

This blog is not about ‘results’ by the way it is about debating the actual topic and not debating about whether you believe in taking your opinion to its extreme.

If the club is not concerned about ‘weekly results’ does this mean the club is happy if every team loses every game is where the above discussion headed both times. The topic which I thought at the time was how to win games following the club philosophy was not really what we spoke about.

I see Coaches debating the merits of isolated training and games based training on Twitter quite often. I am all in favour of games based training but this doesn’t mean I regard any training that isn’t games based as having absolutely no value. This discussion so often heads towards debating whether extreme incidents of isolated training such as an individual kicking a ball against a wall or juggling has any benefit and not about which of the methods of training is more effective and why.

Another one was a discussion I thought about possession football compared with more direct football. The Coach I was talking to believed strongly that I couldn’t say I favoured possession football because I was happy for players to play long passes. I explained that as long as it is a pass then the length of the pass doesn’t matter to me. To him possession football only meant short passes on the ground and if I agreed with long aerial passes then it wasn’t possession football. The discussion ended up being about length of pass.

The point of the blog is that when I reflected on the discussions nothing was really any different after them. I felt I had no more knowledge and I didn’t feel I had been able to express myself properly. Looking back I think this is because the topic itself wasn’t really discussed what was discussed was the extreme examples of the topic rather than the topic.

This is something for me to consider in future as I feel these discussions could have been of more value if I had realised at the time that we had stopped talking about the topic. Definitely something for me to consider next time I talk football.

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

Or possible leave a comment on Twitter @SeanDArcy66

Till next time