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Planning Your Observations

Planning your observations

In this blog we look at observation and noticing skills and discuss how effective planning can support your observations on a training or match day.  This blog follows the recent webinar "A grassroots guide to observation and noticing" with Dan Simpson (Game Insights Analyst), Chris Brammall (Regional PE & Coaching in Education Manger), Nimesh Patel (Coach Development Officer) and Chris Wellburn (Coach Development Officer).

Why should we plan our observations?

With lots going on in a practice or match day it can become easy as a coach to lose sight of what you are wanting your players to learn or practice.  That’s why it is important to plan your objectives and understand how they might play out with your players.  But first, we need to understand what observation is:

What is observation?

Planning your observations

When working with a group of players, you will be faced with a wide range of abilities, skillsets, and interests.  This can result in a session appearing both messy and chaotic, however, with football being an invasion game, this is a good thing! As coaches it is our job to make sense of this chaos, and through appropriate planning you can provide a platform to observe both your practice and your players more naturally.  

With such a wide range of potential topics to focus on, it is important to be clear what you want your players to learn.  This might be based on your club’s , a previous game or session, or previous observations of what your players or group might need.

Share the session aims with your players

By sharing your session aims explicitly with your players you can start giving them ownership of their own learning.  This might be through writing on a whiteboard or asking your players their thoughts on the topic before the session starts.  Additionally, this clarity and focus will bring your attention and observations back to the session aims and help avoid information overload as the session progresses. 

Understand what success might look like

in your mind of what success might look like can help you recognise what to look for.  But remember success may look different depending on the group you are working with, and the individuals within the group.  For example, moving with the ball for a central midfield player most commonly occurs in highly congested areas, compared to a wide player who may have more space to drive forward with the ball.

Remember "Less is more"

Often it can be best to take a “less is more” approach.  There will be lots going on in the session and if you are trying to observe everything you may end up observing nothing.  Through consistent observation of your players, you can begin to understand what your players need both individually and as a group, and this can then become the focus of your observation.  You may have some clear outcomes for the group but setting your players individual challenges related to their needs can be a great way of directing their focus and get them observing and noticing things themselves.

How might your observations change when working with a group for the first time?

Working with a new group can be a daunting task.  Often you won’t know their current abilities, personalities, or interests, and you certainly won’t know what areas of the game they are trying to improve.  From an observation and noticing perspective your objectives now might change to putting on exploratory sessions which can help you get to know the players as best and as quickly as possible.  Finding out what makes the players tick, what works and what doesn’t work can help you identify the players’ starting challenge points.  Which players like things to be simple?  Which players need challenging?  Which players might need support?  This can take some time to do but understanding these things can enable you to begin planning future practice around the wants and needs of your players.

Watch the full webinar here:  A Grassroots Guide to Observation and Noticing 

And be sure to let us know how you currently use planning as a tool for guiding your observations.