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On-the-Field Coaching Policy

Coach:  I’m writing to get your opinion about coaching styles which has come up regarding our U10 program.

Karl: Glad to be of service and very glad to give you some details on the FUNdamental coaching style which has been 30+ years in the making. 

Coach:   During this season, our program has adopted a ‘no on field or end line coaching’ policy. 

Karl:  This fits right along with the FUNdamental methodology which urges coaches to be verbally silent when players are competing. It has been proven that we (humans) have a very difficult time doing Two Things at the same time. For example: Concentrating on the Ebb and Flow of the Game … Listening for instructions … Hearing the instruction … Understanding the instruction … Applying the instruction … Ooops! That’s already more than Two Things Taking Place

An Analogy… Would children become proficient at playing a computer game if… Adults allowed the children to stroke the keys but insisted on giving a running commentary (coaching) the action taking place?

Coach: As a soccer and lacrosse coach for the past five years I’m under the belief that up through the U10 (lacrosse U11) level it is necessary and helpful to have on field coaches to aid the players and help them:

Karl: Sorry, I don’t know anything about lacrosse but I do know about 8-9-10 year old children.

The dictionary says, “Children are young persons of either sex and at any age less than maturity; persons in the process of developing both physically and mentally.”

We need to teach our players to create their own playing environment. That is we need to teach in a manner so that they can learn to ‘love to play soccer’.

Players learn from errors made – if the coaching is done correctly both verbally and physically. It is crucial that coaches turn player errors into a positive learning situation. The player’s self-confidence should not be affected by mistakes that are made when playing soccer. Note this comment about professional soccer, “it is a game played by 22 error prone, overpaid juveniles…who are surrounded by 80,000 mistake-free, perfect, expert spectators.”

Coach: I believe we need to help them develop on field, in the game decision making.

Karl:  This is very true and is the reason why I developed the Cooperative (+) and Competitive (vs.) Steps for our ‘9-Step Practice’.

We ask the coach to teach the players that their will be Stoppages in the Action for Points of Refinement. Or, their will be instructions given during play to aid the players progress.

But, in order to see if the players have learned what was taught the coach is asked to use the Competitive (vs.) Step to see if the players learned. Teaching takes place during the Cooperative (+) Step … Testing takes place during the Competitive (vs.) Step in practice.

The same must happen in the big picture. Teaching takes place during Practice … While Testing takes place during the league game.

Coach: Get a better understanding of positioning, marking up, filling lanes, turning the ball to the outside and up the wing, finding open spaces, etc. which results in learning the game faster, developing higher self esteem through mastery and having more fun.

Karl: There is no mention of them playing soccer? At this age children come to practice to play. Do you truly believe that 8-9 year olds think it is fun to learn about positioning, marking, filling lanes, etc. I doubt that they can even spell some of these words. These children come to you to PLAY!!!

When coaching, soccer, we need to be as helpful, understanding and patient, as we are when teaching our children life skills such as reading and writing. We may be these players’ first and most influential coach/teacher. The stimulation and support you provide can instill a desire to play soccer for years to come. Please avoid just getting them ready for the next opponent. Instead prepare them for a life long enjoyment of playing the worlds’ most popular team game!

I doubt very much that players any players at the age of U10 from around the globe focus on marking, finding space, etc. They simply play soccer and many of them have become world class players. If it works around the world surely it will work here in the USA … Let them learn to love to play soccer then you may want to give them instructions to improve their play!!!

Coach: – The problem with remaining on the sidelines and offering (yelling above the din of cheering parents) advice across the field or waiting for stoppage in play is that you lose the teachable moments of in game decision making.

Karl: It has already been mentioned that they need to make mistakes in order to learn. You, in turn, must take copious notes during the game and recreate the situations in practice. The following may also give you some ‘food for thought ….

It takes the brain about six hours to store in memory a new physical skill, such as riding a bike (FUNdamental dribbling fake/feints) and this memory can be wiped out if the mind’s storage process is interrupted by trying to learn another new skill researchers have found.

“We’ve shown that time itself is a very powerful component of learning,” said Dr. Henry Holcomb, a psychiatrist who heads a Johns Hopkins University group that studies how people remember. “It is not enough to simply practice something. You have to allow time to pass for the brain to encode the new skill.”

“By measuring the blood flow patterns in the brain, the scientists determined that it takes five to six hours for the memory of a new skill to move from temporary storage site in the front of the brain to permanent storage at the back.

During those six hours there is a window of vulnerability when memory of the new skill can be easily eroded if the person attempts to learn a second new skill.

If you were performing a piano piece for the first time and then immediately started practicing something else, then, that will cause problems in retention of the initial piece that you practiced”, said Holcomb.

It would be better, he said, if the first practice session was followed by five to six hours of routine activity that required no new learning.

Coach:  The result is that kids get frustrated, can’t apply the advice long after the fact and through their bewilderment of not understanding what they could/should do they get frustrated and lose interest.

Karl: I can not agree with you more … that is why I urge you to save the ‘on field coaching’ or any kind of coaching for the Practice sessions and allow the children to ‘play’ on game day

Coach:  I’d greatly appreciate any insight you may provide about ‘on field coaching vs. remaining on the sidelines’ at the U10 level.

Karl: I hope the insight I have given will be helpful in your making the proper decision and allowing your children …To Play Like Children. They have only one childhood and are not in need of the advanced principles which can be taught to them once the ‘Learn to Love to Play Soccer!!!

You must begin by teaching your players to create their own environment focusing on the 1 vs. 1 game. Give them the tools (in practice) to experiment and practice their way to success. Teach them (in practice) to become independent and responsible for their own personal development. Then, give them the ‘homework assignment’ which is guaranteed to develop the passion that ‘star’ players have for our game.

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