PREPARING PLAYERS for FREE PLAYTIME
We must teach the players that THEY are responsible for laying-out and adjusting all playing environments in every practice. Today, we have a coach-controlled environment where the coach controls all aspects of practice and provides constant direction. We lay-out the cones, hand out the bibs, choose the teams & even tell them when to start playing. This controlled environment subconsciously teaches our players that they cannot play soccer without adult assistance. We can teach them to be self-sufficient using the same traditional steps that we use in teaching them techniques or tactics.
Step 1. EXPLANATION –Be Brief! What I Hear I Might Remember
Communicate in simple everyday language. Create ‘buzz words’ words that trigger the mind to highlight points of emphasis. Some examples: “Lay-out the FUNdamental warm-up square”; “Lay-out 1 vs. 1 fields”; “Lay-out 3 vs. 2 fields”; “Lay-out 5 vs. 5” fields; etc.
Take into consideration the attention span of your players and adjust the length of your explanation accordingly. After you have dealt with a point, ask a question to make sure the point was understood. Repeat the verbal instructions only if necessary.
Step 2. DEMONSTRATION – What I See I Might Remember
Give a demonstration slowly, simply, and visually correct how you want each playing environment to be laid out. Show them the difference, for example, between a 1 vs. 1 field and a 4 vs. 1 field. Show them items that can be used to layout the environment, such as cones, flags, shoes, bags, etc.
Step 3. ACTION – Good Repetition Will Lead to Success!
Have the players show you that they can correctly layout the environment you requested. Help only those who need help and increase the speed of laying out the environment as they become proficient at accomplishing the task. What I Do I Will Eventually Understand!
“I watched these very players carried out the cones to help the coaches set up the field before practice and cleared it up again afterward. I often hear coaches from other teams complain about entitled, lazy attitudes or lack of leadership from their team, yet they miss the greatest opportunity to develop it. The All Blacks have learned this lesson long ago.”
*Extract from ’59 Lessons – Working with the world’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ by Fergus Connolly
Step 4. ASSIGN HOME PLAY – The key to dramatic player improvement is playing some soccer (pick-up game, free playtime) whenever and wherever possible! Your encouragement in this step is vital!
Step 5. ASK them how often and where they played their pick-up games as they arrive at every single practice session. Write down their responses to let them know how important this is to them and you.
When applying these 5-steps: Be patient and do not expect immediate results. Be persistent because it will take time and effective repetition. Maintain that sense of humor, letting your players work in a relaxed atmosphere, and reward progress with a positive reaction, a positive comment, or a smile!
An argument can be made that a coach may use a great deal of energy teaching them ‘how to’ layout the environment—considering that this initial investment worked for the older neighborhood kids worldwide.
Surely it can work for us..!