Sam Griffiths, The FA's coach developer, discusses player freedom.
There is a lot of info out there on player freedom and what this means for you as a coach and what it looks and feels like for a player. I have witnessed lots of coaches and players playing with freedom and it's great to see. I would like to share my personal feelings and opinions on it.
Empowering players can be hugely rewarding, seeing their faces light up when you give them a job to do or simply ask “what are your thoughts on that”? Is extremely rewarding. It can really help to develop personal connections between the coach and player.
So, I hear you ask, how do I really empower my players? Giving ownership to your players, is a great start. Letting them decide what game they are going to play today and what rules and scoring system they would like to use is a fantastic way to help them shape ‘their’ session. Children all love to be a captain, they see this as a really important role in a team, so why not let them all be a captain throughout the session. You could give each player something different to focus on, allowing them all to have a voice. This also might encourage some of the quieter ones to join in and have their voice heard too!
When growing up Lioness Chloe Kelly felt enjoyed "Playing in the moment and being creative. Being able to play with freedom." Watch a mini clip below:
I think it's quite easy for a coach to feel they carry the responsibility of ‘I am the coach’ ‘I have to lead’ and this is exactly where I started my coaching journey. You feel you have to show that you are in control and that you know what you are talking about. You have 10+ parents all standing on the side, watching, so to stand back and sometimes give the players this amount of freedom can be hard. However, we must remember that this is their game, a game they chose to play and a game they deserve to have a say in. You can still give the players lots of decisions to make, ask lots of opinions and get them to produce their own ideas whilst still helping them through your own knowledge. A good coach will create the right environment for the players to thrive in, express themselves and leave the players so excited to come back!
Small-sided games, 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, are great ways to help players be creative and try new things, in both attack and defence. Giving them the choice of format, they would like to play, and asking how it feels different across the different formats, will really help you as a coach understand your players.
It's so important that we remember it is ‘their’ game, the game ‘they’ fell in love with, and the game that we as coaches have a responsibility to make sure they ‘stay’ in love with.
If you have any questions please post them below. We would love to hear ways in which you help your players take ownership.