Hello and welcome to Coachcast by England Football Learning, the coaching podcast that brings you insight from people across the game. Today we're chatting to the FA's Andy Somers and Sam Griffiths to discover some key coaching skills and to find out how coaches can use them effectively. Well firstly Sam, welcome back to Coachcast, it wasn't that long ago that you were here, Great to see you back in the studio. How are you?
Yeah I’m good, thank you.
Hi Andy as well. Welcome to you, your first time on Coachcast. Thanks to both of you for joining us for the last show of the season.
So, can you both recap us on what do you do? And also, Andy, tell us what it is that you do and also which age groups you coach.
[Andy Somers] 00:00:52.840
Yeah, so - Andy Somers, our National Coach Development Lead here at the FA working in the grassroots team with a primary focus around mentoring and as a coach working the youth development phase age group. I come with sort of 12 to 14 year olds mainly.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:01:05.280
Sam Griffiths, Coach Development Officer for the East Midlands, mainly working across the women and girls game and on top of that, Head Coach of a senior women's team.
Brilliant. Well, thank you very much for that both of you. But as Sam, you'll know, just before we do dive into the main part of the show, as this is a coaching podcast, coaches could be on the way to training right now as they're tuning in. And we always kind of like to give them some great advice at the top of the show.
Sam, we call this the arrival activity. So we give you 30 seconds to give us as many top coaching tips as you can. And as you're a coaching pair today, you'll be taking it in turns to provide us with answers. Are you up for the challenge?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:01:40.840
Yep. Okay. So we've got some music. So when that starts, you can begin.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:01:47.980
Bring lots of energy.
[Andy Somers] 00:01:49.820
Make it fun.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:01:51.220
Try and give as much praise as possible, catch them doing something good.
[Andy Somers] 00:01:54.720
Make it as exciting as you can for the players and yourself.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:01:58.320
Try and take up a good coaching position so you can see what's going on.
[Andy Somers] 00:02:02.460
Play as many games as possible if you can with goals in it.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:02:06.660
Make sure you have a focus, so what you want to help players get better at.
[Adam Summers] 00:02:10.520
Be ready to be flexible and adaptable during the session.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:02:14.640
Yeah, Don't be afraid to change things if things aren't going right.
Lovely. Look at that. Well-rehearsed as well. That was brilliant.
Very smooth. Everybody looked very relaxed, which was good.
Right. Well, we'll dive into the main part of the show and today, just for the listeners, listen, we've got four kind of key topics that we're going to be discussing today.
And the first one is observation. And Andy, kind of to start, can you tell us what observation really means?
[Andy Somers] 00:02:42.500
That's a great question. It's around the opportunity to watch something, someone or something during your coaching, Something we do all the time as human beings. We're always observing lots of stuff. But from a coaching context around, yeah, when we're working with players, young players, old players, are we watching them? Are we watching the practice? And how do we do it is really important.
Anything to add to that, Sam, at all?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:03:03.560
No, just I think probably just from my point of view in terms of working with senior players just around some of the observational stuff, a lot of the stuff that we look at is probably some of the off the ball stuff. So we talk about players being on the ball, what's going around it, away from it. So yeah, probably a lot of the work in my area is a lot of the off the ball stuff. So really trying to develop those observational skills and not being drawn into the ball all the time, which again is a skill in itself because I think sometimes you can get certainly emotionally involved in games and things like that. So, so yeah.
That kind of ties into the next question really, in terms of like, what should coaches be looking for when, when observing?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:03:39.620
I think a lot of it's got a link back to your learning objective, your learning outcome, whatever you've set the session up to kind of get out of whether it be individual players, whether it be something to do with the team, whatever it is, is just trying to kind of focus that observation on that. As we know, like when training's going off, sessions, games, there's loads of stuff that you can look at. So I think it's around being quite disciplined and having that focus of - I've set out to do that tonight, is that happening? And getting yourself in a good position to be able to see that and probably have a bit of like a check and challenge list in your head of what you're going to kind of go assess yourself against in terms of other players getting out of it what you want.
And how about yourself, Andy, anything?
[Andy Somers] 00:04:18.240
Yeah, I think listening to Sam there, a lot of stuff there is like in practice, in coaching. I think, especially working with younger players, the observation can start prior to that of when they turn up, is there anything different? Is there a different person dropping them off to normal? Am I observing their body language as they're arriving? As they're coming across? What am I seeing in the players that may have some impact in the practice? I think as well as the football piece around observing practice players, the football, are they getting better, etc. There's an opportunity to observe the wider bit around the individual about the player. And that may help you with some of the coaching stuff. If you know that, oh, tonight they've been dropped off by a different family or the dad and it's usually the mom, et cetera. Like that could all have an impact on how that young player or player is coming to the practice and what they're going to bring. So I think just making sure you're starting to pick up on some of that stuff as quickly as possible.
And you mentioned different kind of younger players and stuff like that. Do things differ when you're trying to observe different age groups? Anything other than that?
[Andy Somers] 00:05:15.320
There's definitely difference. I think depending on the level, I think, and the team you're working with. I think for working with young players in a grassroots setting or sort of academy setting, I think it's really important that you're starting to pick up on all that stuff because you may be able to impact and influence some of the things. I think maybe more when you're working in the performance level, that mightn't happen as much because there may be other stuff going on that you need to be dealing with that means you can't be on the AstroTurf by the car park when people are turning up. So I think it has got different sort of probably levels depending on where you're at. But if you're working in the senior game, you're more likely to be with the players more often. So you're going to get a picture just in a different way than I think I'm trying to grab as much information as I can, because I'm only going to see them for that short amount of time during the week.
Have you got anything to add to that?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:05:57.260
I'd just probably say, just going back to the coaching side of it, that I'd probably go that senior players are probably easier to observe. I think the youngsters can be quite chaotic for coaches to watch. There's always a lot going on, transition, the turnovers, the balls going out. So it's probably more of a challenge for grassroots coaches too. And that's probably why it's important to really probably have that focus on what you are wanting to watch because I think especially with the littlers you can get kind of a bit overwhelmed with how much is going on. I know a lot of coaches talk about how chaotic it looks and how disorganized it looks and I think that's okay. I think it's just then having an appreciation of understanding like what you're actually looking for and focusing in on that. Whereas at senior level what I work with it's probably more kind of structured. You can leave them for quite a while and the ball will stay in play and some of the pictures are quite clear. So yeah I'd probably argue that actually some of the observation stuff is easier with seniors than with the littlers, which probably don't help grassroots coaches, but that's the real world. And I think it's a good message to go, that's okay. It's okay for it to look messy and not panic.
Everyone's got different contexts, so it's not going to look the same for absolutely everybody. But obviously from your two's context, kind of at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of age, do you have set focuses to go in? Like what does observation look like for you in your context and with the younger kids?
[Andy Somers] 00:07:11.980
So yeah, it's usually planned out a little bit with a group of coaches. So there's usually two of us working with a group on the evening, which is really useful if you get an opportunity to work in a pair and you can get someone else to help you. I think that's really, really valuable. And then depending on where we're at in the season, it'll be based on the focus of the session. So are the players getting what they need from the practice? So we set up a shooting practice, for example, are they getting lots of opportunity to shoot is sort of maybe something that we just watch for the first 10 minutes. How many opportunities to shoot they get in or it could be during the year that we actually have some folks on some individual players. So during an evening, I might work with two or three players really specifically on something linked to something we're trying to support them with. And that'll be a real focus sort of observation. And again, linked to what Sam said, training yourself to stay focused on it. Cause we just all have that tendency as soon as the ball flies past you to sort of follow it. And that's it. And we're off watching that, but the game's so complex. There's lots of stuff going on all the time. So yeah, they're probably the two areas we look at would either be around practice and are the kids getting what they need from the practice or that individual focus on the player and where they're at with some of the bits that they're trying to work on.
And Sam, what's it like in yours?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:08:16.060
It's probably one of the things that probably runs right from the younger ones through to the performance, just like Andy was saying, probably we look a little bit more around like the tactical side of stuff, especially obviously game days, but certainly back at training, it's just as important for us to, like Andy says, make sure that the players are getting what they need from the practice. We've got to make sure we set it up right to go, are they getting the right returns of what we want from it? And probably a little bit more individual as well, senior female players that we work with, it's making sure that they're in the right headspace and managing emotions and having them observational skills. As Andy said about kids being dropped off by different parents, we have other things to manage like relationships that might have gone wrong or something's happened at work and we have to be in a good place to be able to recognize that and that all linking to knowing your players which I won't go into because we're probably going to touch on that.
You've kind of mentioned that there's obviously lots of things going on in a session. What advice can you give coaches to help them stay focused on what they should be observing? And I'll put that onto Andy to start with.
[Andy Somers] 00:09:16.840
To try and have some clarity in what they're going to do and plan to observe. A lot of time when we plan, we'll plan a practice for the players and we sort of, that's it, and we'll go and we'll sort of put that on and we'll let everything go. For me, it's having a structured plan for you as a coach of during that hour or two hours or three hours, what are you intending to do as a coach? So when are you going to observe? How are you going to observe? What practices are you going to put on that allow you to observe? So I think at the very start, I talked about having games and goals, which means the kids are probably self-sufficient in playing that game. It's probably quite easy to understand. They've done it before. It's going to manage itself in a way, which allows me time to step away and have that focus and discipline to watch something. It becomes really difficult if I'm continually moving cones and goals and having to change teams and bibs, et cetera. So I think that ability to plan and plan what you're going to do as a coach is really, really important. But it's really difficult and it takes loads of time because especially work with the little ones, there's all sorts going on. There's toilet breaks, there's drinks breaks, there's natural sort of injuries of kids falling over and so there's all that bit you've got to deal with. But if you can plan, I think, practices and time for you to spend time observing, you'll find it really, really valuable - and protect that time as a coach and be really disciplined to go, yeah, for the next 10 minutes, I'm not going to say anything. My job is to watch these three players or I'm watching the return of the practice today of how many shots we're having during this next 10 minutes.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:10:42.600
Yeah, I agree with that. I think the key thing is being disciplined and brave enough to go, actually, I'm going to step back. And I think that's where if you've got an assistant or you've got someone that can help you out, like Andy's just said, all the little things that need attending to, like, can you get somebody else to do that and just have that 10 minutes for you where you're going to stand and watch? And I know that can be a challenge because we're coaches and we think we've got a coach and we want to coach for the whole hour every minute but I think part of coaching is obviously observation and standing back and watching and then I suppose picking the moments like in that 10 minutes what are you actually observing and which moments are you going to pick up on that then you're going to help the players with or the practice with or whatever.
And kind of what skills does a coach need and I'm presuming and I might be presuming wrong but the skills are similar at both ends in terms of age group wise so what skills the coaches need to be good at observing, would you say?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:11:32.640
Yeah, I agree with observing is observing. Like I say, I think being patient is a big thing. Having, I think we spoke about it, just having a focus on what you're actually observing. And then I suppose the skill to it is, like I've just said, is then how do you step in? When do you step in? So how many times does somebody make a mistake or do something that you don't want them to do before you actually go in and correct it. Is it once, is it twice, is it three times? I'm not sure there's a right answer and I think this comes back to knowing your players, that you'll know your players that if that's something that you know that actually a few more they'll get that or actually know they're a player that really does need some kind of help with this. So I think the two go hand in hand. I think observing is great to stand back and watch but then at some point you're observing to have an impact or to make a change. So that's probably the next skill set of kind of knowing where and when and that probably just comes as a coach. I don't think you'll go on any coaching courses that they'll go, this is the right time to step in, this is what you need to say, this is how you stand back. I think you find your place as a coach, same as like taking up a good coaching position. Some people coach in the practice, I can't. I have to be on the outside of the practice somewhere. I just find myself getting, I end up probably kicking a ball or thinking I'm part of the practice. So yeah, I'm very much one that has to be on the side so I can kind of see the whole pitch.
Don't know if that helps new coaches or not, but my personal opinion is probably if you can kind of see both ends of the pitch, you've kind of got a good visual of the whole game.
But yeah, I think that's just something as you go through your coaching career that you'll know what works for you. And I'm sure Andy's got a totally different way of coaching.
[Andy Somers] 00:12:57.120
Yeah, I like being in the practice, weirdly, which probably when I was growing up, went quite against a lot of stuff you were told and taught at the time. Whereas being in this position, being in this position where my natural position, and again, it's working with a different age group. I like being in it. It gets a bit of a feel for the younger players, desperately trying not to stop practices where I can. So that means I'm usually pretty close to people to give them a little nudge of what I've just seen. And for coaches, one thing for me is really important as well as like, how do you not lose that information that you've got? So you're observing stuff. You've got to be really, in my opinion, quite highly skilled to then be able to deal with that really quickly, make some really good decisions, give that information to some players, but also what stuff are you going to get that you've seen that actually is not really useful now, but may be useful in two, three, four, five, six weeks’ time.
So how are you going to log some of the info you've seen? How are you going to reflect on the session you've just done? Is there a notebook you use? Is there a pad? Is it iPad? Is it voice notes? How do you keep building up that bank of information that you're seeing all the time on your play as you practice this? Because that's really, really valuable. Because there might be some stuff you see today that you haven't had a chance to use or do anything with, but maybe really important next week when you're preparing for a game in Sam's case, or the kids are playing a game on a weekend.
How you record that is dependent on what works best for you, like what you prefer. Yeah. Is it? Yeah.
[Andy Somers] 00:14:10.520
Yeah. I have lots of voice notes on my phone, usually after coaching on the way home where I'll talk for five or 10 minutes, just about what happened, where I was at, and then usually try and sort of listen to that at some stage before the next practice. That's interesting. That's flagged that back up that this player was struggling with this, or this happened, or quite useful to sort of just check back in of where your players were before. Because lots happens, doesn't it, between a Thursday and then the following Thursday, you only have them once a week in your own life. A lot happens with kids and family and life and jobs. So that little check is sometimes really important.
How do you necessarily do it, like in the moment, you're saying that in practices, you're kind of in the middle and seeing it. How do you do like those in the moment observations where Sam obviously kind of at the side of the pitch, it's probably a bit easier to record in the moment stuff if you've got equipment with you. Is it voice notes there, or is it just kind of storing it for the voice notes later on?
[Andy Somers] 00:15:00.320
Yeah, it's usually a store quickly, try and sort of group it somehow. And then maybe I usually have a whiteboard somewhere on the side of a pitch. So a lot of time that's for the players to use, but often I'll scribble just a bullet point on there of practice didn't get this or it wasn't big enough or a couple of players, just a couple of players names that I think may have been really good at it or may have struggled with it. So just wherever you can, I would say if you get a second just to capture stuff down, it'll just help you? Being in it makes it difficult to do that because it's hard to be in the middle with a pen and a piece of paper and that's really difficult. So it's how do you get yourself out to practice and do it? Again, working in coaching pairs, usually someone will take over at some point, which will give me a couple of minutes to nip off and just gather your thoughts and put stuff together.
In terms of yourself, Sam, is it easier in terms of then, do you kind of jot things down or is it just mentally or even voice notes at the side of the pitch that you kind of jot your observations down on?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:15:58.840
Yeah, I think a lot of its mental and I'm quite fortunate. We've got quite a big coaching team, so usually if I'm on the side, there's usually a couple of others that are near me and it'll be ongoing conversation. So I might have seen something that they'll probably challenge it or vice versa. So there's probably quite a lot of on the moment stuff that kind of goes off just via conversation sort of on the side. But yeah, it's definitely, I definitely don't have time to be like doing voice notes and stuff like that. Mine is very much in the moment, having a chat with the person next to me. And then look, people have like, we have WhatsApp groups and usually if there's something happened in the session or something that we want to flag nine times out of ten it will go in there and that'll spark another conversation.
Because you've got access to help and staff anyone that's listening to this that maybe is in the 11v11 game or just lucky that they maybe got parents even involved and whatnot. Do you split some of the observation stuff or tasks like are certain people looking for some things while you're looking for something else?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:16:53.480
Yeah definitely I think talking higher up the end but certainly in the level that I'm working at if I'm putting sort of an in possession practice on nine times out of ten we'll speak to another member of staff to go can you just look at some of the out of possession stuff and give them like a task of setting a team up in a certain way that will challenge us or whatever so I try and work in like in pairs as like as much as possible but again just going back to the observation stuff mine is very much focused on the attacking team. So everything I would worry about what the defending team are doing, the coach will get a task to set something up or challenges in a different way, but my focus, and that's where you have to be quite disciplined because we might be doing something and it's like, I don't know, however, we've set up to play against it, and I might be going, oh, but I wouldn't want you to do that on a Sunday. So I need, like, no, my focus at this moment in time is an attacking practice with like these two players. So that's where the discipline stuff comes in. You have to park some of the other stuff and focus on that learning outcome.
So just thinking of like other things, what kind of factors can impact observation? Like perhaps like parents or other people, like can anything get in the way of doing that?
[Andy Somers] 00:17:55.520
Lots can get in the way of observation I would say. I was going to say a second ago we talked about like coaching position. I think depending on what you're working on, like I've said, I like being in and around the players, but that can have quite a detrimental impact on the practice depending on what the practice is or what I'm trying to do. So it's not that I would always be there. For me, it's about taking up the best position that allows you to see the most information you can on either the players or the practice that you're doing. So I think from my side, the practice and how you put it on and where you stand can get in the way of the observation straight away from my angle. I think that's really important. I wouldn't be in the middle for the whole time. And you learn to be in places of certain times. So doing a finishing practice, where'd you stand? Why'd you stand there? So sometimes I'll stand facing the goal because I want to see the mechanics of how my players, where they're putting the foot, how they're striking the ball. Two weeks later, I might be stood beside the goal because I actually want to know where the ball's hitting in the net. I want to know how close they're getting to the side netting, to the post, et cetera. But I think the practice can get in the way a little bit in terms of like how you observe and what you observe.
Anything from your side of things at all, Sam?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:19:03.960
No, just probably picking up on what Louise said in terms of some of the challenges. I think parents can be. I think there's probably an expectation from some parents that the coach is there to, probably talking more around match days now, to instruct and coach and shout and everything else. And I think sometimes when parents might see a coach that's a little bit quieter on the side or probably question, well, why aren't they helping the players? And I think my message would be just like, they're probably observing, like give them an opportunity because they've got their half-time team talks to give the kids, the players, some sort of information. So as much as I say that parents can be a challenge, I think you have to try and embrace them as well and explain that you might not be the loudest, you might not see me display these behaviors this weekend because we want to get this out of it. And then just on the other side, the observation stuff at our level, certainly on game days, we sort of pick and choose like different kind of viewing platforms or which we try and get at least one member of staff at the highest point, wherever that might be in the ground, just because I think visually it gives you a different tool to work from. What I can see from sort of pitch side is very different from what somebody can see who's in a more elevated position. So that's really useful as well if you do have opportunities where you play in places where you can get people in a little bit higher positions.
Yeah it's important that really, both different contexts that you're in but it's kind of the message is it's kind of what's right for the individual in that environment and what they've got access to. So just really important to note that there's no right or wrong answer to where we stand or to how long you observe for, for instance, it's just kind of what's right for them and their players. So how does what a coach observe then go on and affect their decision-making?
[Andy Somers] 00:20:39.380
Massively. The main thing is what you see and you've got that process going on in your mind of like, what do I do with it? Do I do it now? Do I give it five minutes? Why has it happened? So I think by observing it throws up a lot of stuff into your mind that you as a coach, I think, can only get better at it by doing it. It's one of those things that you need to keep being in that position of watching, seeing, getting lots of information, and then starting to unpick, right, how do I deal with it? Sometimes you'll get it spot on. Sometimes you'll get it not far off. Sometimes you'll get it really wrong, where you just actually go, oh, I've missed that. Or the kid actually, or the player does actually get it. There's just been a something that's not landed quite right there. So I think it definitely is there, but it's really difficult to do and just takes time. The more people you can have around to help you with some of this stuff is in my opinion, is like really important. I've seen this, but like, what do you think? I dealt with this this way. But also, don't think you have to do it all there and then. I think there's a tendency, we said before, around coaching of like, I've seen something, parents are expecting me to go and jump in and do it.
Take some time, think. If you're not sure, grab yourself another 30 seconds. In 30 seconds in the lifespan of these players is not going to do any harm to them. Don't worry about thinking you have to use all the information all the time. Some stuff's for now, some stuff's for later, but it's definitely what you're seeing definitely affects that sort of decision-making process moving forward for you as a coach.
And again, we've discussed it and it's different for everybody, but kind of that way, like how long does a coach wait before the interjecting help out a player? And there's no real right or wrong answer here, but just taking into your context your experiences, and I suppose it differs depending what you're working on and what players that you're working with, how do you feel like is that sort of comfortable moment to go, okay, so I've stood there for X amount of time, I now need to go and interject? Is there some sort of guidelines for maybe a novice coach to begin with to help them to do that at first before they then figure out actually I do need to leave that player for a bit longer?
Is there anything that you could kind of give as a bit of advice to say try jumping in after you've seen X amount of touches or X amount of tries, for instance?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:22:50.280
I think the biggest message for me would be like, have a go, like have a go at some different stuff, see what works, see if you can spot something as soon as you spot it, go in and correct whatever you want to do, help them, whatever you've kind of seen, potentially the next week, let it go a few times. And this is like, say, where it probably come back to, like understanding your players, because some players will turn around to you and go I knew the amount of times that I've said something to play and they've gone yeah I know okay fair enough And I think you'll get to know that. And I think for a novice coach, it's, observing is really hard. It's not easy. And I think the other end of the spectrum, if I'm working with my senior players and I've only got a 20 minute snapshot session of something we're doing, every time I see the picture I want, I'm going to stop it. I'm going to stop it and help them and tell them what I expect from that picture because we're working in more of a performance environment that we need players to take on board quickly in the limited time that we sort of have with them. That's not saying that that's right across the board. That's just in our environment of like 20 minutes, you have to have that ability to see those pictures so during my planning process I'll have two or three pictures I'm going this practice design these pictures should come out and when they do then it's the challenge to me is can I see it can I stop it because the amount of times I've done it and let it run and the picture's changed and it's really hard to kind of recreate it? So something that I've had to work really hard at in my coaching career, working at the upper end is, is kind of seeing it and stopping it straight away. But I'm not sure that's right for novice coaches. And the little is they need more opportunities to have a go, get things wrong, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, but there will be coaching opportunities to help the kids at some point. And that's what helps you become a better coach, I suppose.
[Andy Somers] 00:24:28.480
And yeah, just to sort of follow up on that too little bit, really. Every player is different in your group and will deal with things in different ways of how you approach them and work with them. So I think there's kids I'll be working with. They have one chance because I know they're really talented. I know they're really good. I know they get it. So I might be a bit different with them. I might give them one or two chances or I might give them... There's other kids who might go, they're going to need the practice tonight. They're just going to be left. I'm going to keep an eye on them, but I'm going to leave them to sort of figure stuff out. I'm going to keep an eye on them, but they're just... They're on their own tonight. They're out and in sort of on the pitch playing, that's them done. And the other one that I was thinking of Sam was talking is when we talk about observation, my mind's gotten to like catching people who can't quite do stuff, like get your eyes on stuff that's going really well in your practice and help you really reinforce some of the good stuff that your kids are doing, because there will be loads of it. There will be absolutely loads and loads of things they're doing brilliantly well, from turning up and being polite and saying hello, et cetera, right the way through to being able to play the game, finish, shoot, dribble. There'll be loads of stuff that you can pick up on as a coach. And it may be an easier port of call to go first, to go, right, tonight I'm just going to try and catch all my kids doing really good stuff, rather than some of the stuff that actually they're not quite, they haven't quite got that technique right, which then can be quite a complex thing to try and correct or work with.
So try and catch your kids doing some brilliant stuff. And it'll have a great impact on the players because everyone loves knowing they're doing some good stuff, right? So yeah.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:25:52.580
Even bringing like equipment in or helping you out, they're good people skills. So just to say thanks or highlighting that to the group, that was really nice of Little James or Claire to bring that in, really appreciate that. So yeah, I agree with Andy, like catch them doing something well away from like the football side of stuff as well.
I think that's a really good point and kind of links into our next kind of segment, which is about building a nice environment and a good environment and kind of managing that. And I think that's a really key part of it is kind of that communication and praising people when they're doing good things.
So, our first question in this section is, we'll go to you Sam, how important is it to create the right environment for your players?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:26:30.480
Yeah, I think it has to be the starting point. At the end of the day, we want players to come back. That's the main thing. Whether that's absolute beginners, wildcats, whatever it might be, right through to my level. If my environment's not right, players are not going to want to sign, not going to want to come back. So that environment piece is really important. And I think especially around like the youngsters, making sure it's fun, making sure it's safe. You get those two things right, you've got half a chance. So yeah, it's absolutely massive.
[Andy Somers] 00:26:57.100
Yeah, I think it should be the best hour, two hours of the week for the kids. And it should be the best hour or two hours of the week for the coaches as well. So I kind of I'm coaching this even like I'm really looking forward to going on and working and being with the players. So I think that's really important if you think of like for those who've got kids and children like someone once said like your kids will get your places where they want to be like on time If there's somewhere they're not quite sure about that, they'll need the toilet, they'll need this, they won't be as keen to get there. And I'm sort of always trying to see what their environments are like when my kids are going to places and they absolutely love going. What is it that's making it amazing?
It's usually the people that are there, whoever's leading that activity, sport, game, school, and then what they're doing in it. So it's usually fun, it's usually exciting, a bit challenging, got some risk reward stuff in there that sort of gets them going. So it's for me, how do you make it that best hour where your players are coming running across the three GTA or across the grass pitch to get to your practice that says a lot about you as a coach and the environment you've created if your players are doing that.
I say the more fun and enjoyment that they've got, the more chance they've got of falling in love with the game, which is what it's all about really. And I suppose on that, in terms of like the fun, safe and inclusive environment, that spreads all the way from kind of grassroots to performance level as well. That doesn't change. But from a performance point of view, are there any added extras that you need to try and get in that environment to make it a high performing environment?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:28:24.800
Yeah, I think we have to try and recreate their match day environment. So I think we work really hard at trying to make our training competitive, fun competitive, serious competitive, but they certainly, we work hard to make sure that they want to turn up and they want to win because that's the level that we're at and I think it's important for us that we create that environment, like I say, that replicates that matchday feel. We do quite a bit of work with sort of consequences because we have consequences on a match day if we lose we drop points so we try and replicate that in training as well but you can't get away from the fact that like say we want them to come back we want them to enjoy it as well so I think other than like that little bit of competitiveness but then I'd still probably argue like Andy's probably just said around kids enjoy competing as well. I don't think we have to go down the route of probably ours is linked to winning but certainly kids love turning up and having a challenge and trying to beat the mate at something that might just be a 1v1 tag game compared to what our level looks like. Competitive might be different but it's still that element of competition. So yeah, that's just what I throw in there. And again, a big thing for us is just making sure we create a really good learning environment. We've had a lot of youngsters this year, so it's probably looked a little bit different from last year in terms of we need the players to take on information and it's our job to create that environment that enables them to do that and turn up on a match day.
How do you go about creating a fun environment then Andy at your level?
[Andy Somers] 00:29:43.380
Just off Sam's point before, while it's in my head, while it's fresh, there's So many parallels with our schools system and education system that we should really look and try and see how things are done in schools, because in essence, that's learning some new stuff, which is what we're trying to do with them, that can really help around structure, organization, that can help play. So they very rarely do a lesson where they don't recap what they did in the lesson before, but do we do that in football or do we do shooting this week? And then we conceded some goals on Sunday. So on Wednesday, we're going to do defending And it's a completely new topic. We've got to be really disciplined to go. We're going to try and help the players get better over a period of time. And yes, for some results might be important, but like, what is success for those players is getting better and getting better at football and staying in, falling in love with the game. As you said, I think how to make it fun I think is getting to know them as players. What is it that makes them tick? What do they enjoy doing? Who's turning up to your practice and is there because they want to be with their best friends? Who's turning up because they want to get a little bit better at stuff? And I also think from a coach's point of view, it's how much you're willing to share with them. So I think we always go get to know your players, but how much do you share with them that allows them to interact back with you around things that you enjoy, that you find fun, the team you support, what you do in your hobbies, what you like, dislike, because I think that gives the kids an opportunity to sort of connect back with you as a coach, because if you've got 15, 16 players, it's really difficult to know them all. Whereas if you share a little bit of information with players, all 16, 20 have got an opportunity to connect back in with you. So that'd be one for me. And then just how you are around it. So like, are you positive? Are you fun? Does it look like it's the best hour of your week? Or does it look like, oh no, like it's a chore tonight. I'm dreading this. I'm not looking forward to it. My voice, my tone, like all that stuff, I think can really help make it fun. And I often, we talk about observation, but listening.
So tonight there'll be four groups working. I'm usually listening, going, which group's the loudest? Like, it's usually quite a good insight to how much fun they're having, how excited they are, how into the practice they are. That's not saying if they're really quiet, they're not doing some really good stuff. That's not at all. But sometimes I think it's a good insight to how bubbly it is. Just like in a school, if you walk past the classroom and you hear something going on, you probably nip back and have a look at, oh, what's going on? Why is that so bubbly? Why is that so lively in there? And that's why I sort of drew that parallel with schools before.
Can you tell us what player ownership means and why it's potentially a powerful tool to use and give us some examples of how you've used it effectively. Go to you Sam.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:32:19.280
Yeah I think player ownership is very much about them taking responsibility for their own learning. I think we have to be careful that it doesn't become all about the kids choosing what they want to do tonight, setting everything up and making the coach redundant. I think there's a balance of what it actually means. I think it helps them stay connected with what they're doing and probably helps get a bit of buy-in. I think at our level, there's probably more of it because obviously they're senior, they're older, probably expectations of what we want them to take kind of responsibility for. Our players will tell us if like this pitch is just too tight, like we can't do what we're trying to do or want it bigger or whatever and then just back to the grassroots even in terms of, I think I know in the past years, when we used to pick teams and you used to pick two people and it'd be horrible if you were the last one that had kind of not been picked. So I think it's around managing things. I've seen coaches do that a lot where they still let the kids pick teams. But some of the best coaches and the clubs that I've been doing some work with, they have like a bank of like, warm up games, and there'll be, I don't know, four or five warm up games that they'll go to, and just ask them, which one do you want to do tonight? Which game do you want to start with? Letting them manage some of the rules, like, So setting it up, I think we sometimes go, oh, I can't set up two pitchers because I can't watch both games. Like, let the kids ref one game. They'll be absolutely fine because they want to play. So they'll have to ref it. At some point they'll have to make a decision if it's a red ball or a white ball or whatever it might be. So yeah, I think the player ownership's really important, getting the buy-in from the kids of what they're doing. They love whiteboards, they love being able to put the scores on the whiteboards, and even if tactically it's like one drops out to put a score on, while they're out putting the score on, there's now an overload, underload match kind of going on.
So yeah, just really important, and just figuring out different ways and different tactics of how to embed that into your session without like say making yourself totally redundant where we think actually all player ownership means like the kids run the whole session themselves because I'd argue it's not like either.
[Andy Somers] 00:34:13.940
I agree with what Sam just said there And I do think we've worked with the younger groups who've got a responsibility to really help players do this at times for during the years that they're working. So when they do get to a performance level or a different, like, it's not a shock to them of someone going, oh, you're going to lead or what you think about this or how would you do this? Because I think sometimes we underestimate the knowledge they have, the information they have in their heads and their ability to actually to lead and to do. It doesn't have to be on their own. It can be in a small group. So we were talking before around observing your players. You may observe three or four players that are doing something. You might ask them to own a part, just because you want to check their understanding of actually do they understand that or not? And that may be a really good way of giving them a little bit of ownership. And also I think within your groups, it can be used to build up confidence, self-esteem of players who may not be able to do something at a certain level. So you might have some flyers in your group that can, everything you do, they're the one who can do it. They're really good. And you might have a couple in your group who are really struggling.
How do we utilize ownership with them and giving them some empowerment within the practices that means you're not only growing them as a footballer, but you're giving them some value, some confidence, some self-belief that they can use in other areas, whether that's at home, at school, with friends, that can be really, really powerful and sort of really help them in that group of 10, 12 players because it can be really difficult being in a group of, especially if you're someone who can't do something. And I think that's the same as whether you're five or six or whether you're 35, 36, 50 at work and you're put in a strange environment. How people work with you, give you ownership, empower you to do stuff makes you feel very different. So I think it can be really powerful.
I think that's really interesting because quite a few people that we've spoken to on the podcast, that's almost like their first start into coaching and things like that. Or they remember the coach that kind of gave them some kind of responsibility and really led them and it sticks with them. So yeah.
[Andy Somers] 00:36:13.320
I think it's common. And when we talk about like PE teachers, it's a common thing when we all, who's that person you remember? It's a person who sort of believed in you, they wanted to get to know you, they give you an opportunity to do something, they made you lead, they helped you lead. I think that's really important. I think as a coach, when we do talk about these types of people, it's often the coach that comes up. PE teachers and coaches are really, really powerful people in these young players or people's lives.
James Lee Burton Looking at the environment management side of things, at grassroots level, it's quite common that coaches don't really get too much time with the players. So if you think about it, you might tend to have an hour in midweek and then of course match day at the weekend. So what advice can you both give to help coaches get the best out of their training sessions and to get the best out of the environment and settings that they're in?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:37:04.180
I think for me it's we talk a lot around like you've just said that you'll ask a lot of coaches how many times a week do they train and they'll go an hour and I'll always argue back going actually you probably train two because you have your match day as well so I think there's a real opportunity to maximize your time in terms of doubling it. Don't see your match day as something completely different, it's another hour for the kids, an hour and a half, hour long you play for them to learn to implement some of the stuff you've been practicing. So yeah that's really important. I think planning, obviously if you've got an hour like how are you going to plan your hour if you're doing 20 minutes of me and you just passing the ball backwards and forwards are you absolutely maximizing the time that you've got with the kids so if you link that back to what do they come for how do we create the right environment we're talking about like fun engaging a little bit of competition I'd sort of say are they going to get that from doing things like that so my challenge would be is in that hour can you make the full hour like from that really good experience from the minute you get them at six o'clock right through till seven that they've had all them different kind of things I suppose.
So yeah just maximizing your time and working your planning and I know that's not easy I know there's a lot of volunteer coaches out there that probably come straight from work and have to wait till the team's on before so they have to set up but while you're setting up can you give the kids something to do or give them a little task so once you are set up, like you're ready to go?
So for me, it all links back to planning and just making sure you're fully maximizing that time of going. And I always go, like when you leave your session or you do, like, would you want to be in your session? If you don't, then it probably gives you a good idea of how fun it's probably not.
[Andy Somers] 00:38:37.280
Yeah. Just a couple of bits just to add on to Sam. One, is there a way of sharing any of this information pre? So whether that's in a WhatsApp group that you might have to go just so you know this is what we're doing tonight so your kids know because I think parents will be driving in there etc. I think we have sort of boards that you can put your sessions on so kids can actually go and have a look before they start of like oh right we're doing that tonight like that's it can help and sort of give you some more time And the other one that I think is really important that we sort of sometimes negate is like, be quite consistent with your practices. So if you're familiar and your players are familiar with the practices you're doing, I think it takes away all that time for you and them of trying to figure out what's happening. So I know at the start I said like two goals in a game, that might be a type of practice, but your players know it, you know it, you know what it's going to look and feel like, you know what you're probably going to get from it, you know what you're not going to get from it. So all of a sudden it takes a lot of the sort of uncertainties away, but also your players are really quick to get going. If they've played the practice before, the theme might be slightly different. So it may be an attacking practice tonight, but it's the same practice design. It's just got a different outcome based against it, but your players will know it. So they'll get into it really quickly. And it really does sort of maximize and makes best use of that time rather than, right, I've got to practice that. I'm going to Google something, right? I found something, I don't really know how that works on TV, never mind with my group of 10 year olds on an AstroTurf that's sand-based when I haven't got enough footballs and I haven't got all the bibs and cones that are the same. So all of a sudden, it's like, in some ways, we're setting our own selves up to not be successful. So find your practices that work, find your practices that give you returns, goals, fun, engaging, directional, stick to them. Your kids will love them, you'll love them. And then start to work within those practices and like, right, so I'm going to work on finishing. Is there anything I might change in this practice to get more finishing?
Well, I might make it a shorter pitch so the goals are closer together. So actually Every time someone touches it, they can actually shoot. Brilliant. Tonight we're going to work on crossing. Right, well, I'm going to make it a bit wider. So actually, the ball goes wide. So they have to start crossing. Little things like that, but try and be consistent with what you're doing with your players.
Are there any other specific things to think about when you're planning a session, other than not going crazy and adding loads of different things in.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:40:51.340
Numbers are probably a big one that crops up with coaches a lot in terms of panic mode a little bit if there's an odd number. I think we see a lot of coaches either go to joining in the practice or putting somebody in a bib that plays on both teams and I think one of our messages at the minute is don't worry play overloads, underloads, it really helped the kids when they play on a match day whether they're playing 5v5 or 11v11 you take snapshots of the game from above it'll very rarely be like you'll see like a 1v1 or a 2v1, a lot of it will be some sort of 3v2 or a 4v1 maybe if it's an attacker going through or so the more opportunities that the kids get for that the better and even if you have got like even numbers playing like 6v4s and things like that if you've got10.
And then just for me the other thing is just think about the environment, like the weather, so when you're planning if you're doing something quite static and it's cold and it's wet it's probably not the best thing for the kids. If it's an absolute blistering hot day you might want to think about maybe like a more relaxed practice or where there's like sort of active rest sort of stations or breaks or whatever so probably just think about like the weather when you are planning. They've been my two key things around don't panic on odd numbers, don't join in like there's too many coaches that want to join in, let the kids play, they'll be fine. Yeah, and just take into consideration the weather and is it right, is your practice right for the kids in that weather?
[Andy Somers] 00:42:10.120
Yeah, the numbers one, I would back sort of with Sam and again, if you've got practices and you've found practices that are really specific on numbers, that's when you get your panic. So I know I'm working on a square and I need two in every corner and all of a sudden I don't get that. That's when the panic sets in, which is again why I would say so what practices can you have where instead of people being stood on things, they're in it because being in it means you're not so restricted to people being in places and very rarely do the kids recognize the odd number, how you balance it and how you build that. So I've got 10 as Sam said, or I've got 11 turn up tonight. Well, my five, I might have a couple of the stronger players in that five, which actually make up for that extra player that's missing. But the players very rarely sort of recognize it as long as you get the balance right. So I would try and get your players, I think, in your practice rather than around it, because then you're less dependent on who turns up and who doesn't.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:43:00.060
I think just in terms of help planning as well for novice coaches that it's just some sort of real basic stuff but obviously a lot of like WhatsApp groups with parents that all go, oh such and such is not coming tonight. I know some don't and the really basic conversation I had with someone the other day, I didn't even think about that because it's probably not something when you first go into coaching you probably don't realize that you've got an additional responsibility as well as coaching that you've got to communicate with parents and all that so especially like the new thing on WhatsApp now the little poll thing where you can just get them to go so I know actually there's nine or whatever and look if you get a last minute dropout that's different but I think especially as a novice coach I think you can panic I think sometimes you can over plan I can remember when I first started everything needed to be wrote out I needed to know where all the players were so I think if you can help yourself out in terms of having some pre-conversations to kind of know your numbers it'll certainly help with that but don't panic if a different number does turn up.
It is definitely a key message to put across there for sure. Kind of to wrap this little segment up here on environment creation, what advice do you both have for coaches to help them ensure their sessions and environments are more inclusive. Andy, if we go to yourself first.
[Andy Somers] 00:44:06.260
I would just ask the question of like, why are they coming? Why are your kids coming to your practices? Which then will help you put something on that's going to be the most beneficial thing for them. I think that's sort of the crux of it all. Most of your kids are 10 and I think will all resonate with sort of your kids asking you, when are we playing a match? When are we playing a match? They're turning up to play football. How can you give them that as quickly as possible and as much of it as you can during the time you've got them. So yeah, that'd be my main point.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:44:36.100
Yeah, I think just around individual challenges, I know we talk about managing difference and it's hard, it's really hard, especially if you've got a group of players and the ability level is quite different. So I think, again, it probably links back to planning, having some ideas in your head of how you're going to help, probably the ones that might struggle a little bit, and then setting some different challenges for your better players that you know are going to thrive in the session.
I think making sure you give players opportunities to contribute. So the ones that are a little bit quieter that don't really say much really taking the time to go back to that player ownership like directly asking them a question if they've got anything to add or asking them how they're feeling in the session as opposed to addressing everybody and just as their opportunity like in terms of just sometimes safe spaces. So if you've got a practice and again, there's somebody that constantly gets a ball taken off and what's a bit overwhelming in that situation, are the spaces potentially within your practice that they can take the ball into where like they can't get tackled just so they feel like a part of it.
So yeah, they've been my three things, especially around trying to give sort of those individual challenges.
The third topic that we want to chat about today is player engagement and some of the stuff that we've been talking about so far probably goes into this in terms of the observation, in terms of seeing how involved they are, if you need time to learn, but also in terms of player ownership as well. So I'm expecting some of these messages to come out, but to start off Andy with yourself, how important is it to really know and understand your players to be able to keep them engaged and motivated?
[Andy Somers] 00:46:02.440
From a personal perspective, it's the most important thing. It's the thing that's going to have the biggest impact on you as a coach and what you're doing. So we can all get practices, we can all get stuff and find stuff. There's lots of stuff out there. There's lots of things we can access, but really getting to know your players is the bit that's going to unlock a lot of the stuff that you do with them and how you do it and why you do it and impact on you as a coach and your planning, your delivery, what you do with them, etc.
So for me it's crucial and the most important thing but takes loads of time and takes loads of effort and commitment from you to want to know it. I think when we start out on a coaching journey, it's probably not highlighted enough. We talk about practices and we talk about behavior management and we talk about this, but a lot of that comes back to the kid or the player that's stood in front of you, and do I understand them? Do we understand what they want, what they need, to be able to then put that on for them?
And as I said, it takes time to build that picture up, but you're not in a rush. Some kids will be more open, some will be more guarded, but question, ask, talk, speak to the parents. How do we gather this information on our players that really helps them feel connected to us and us feel connected to them? So I think of examples like a team I know do welcome cards, there's 10 questions that your players ask when they join the club. None of them are to do with football, really, about coaching, but it might have who you support, have you got any brothers or sisters, what school do you go to, what's your favorite subject, what's your favorite food, all that sort of stuff. And I've seen it live in action where the kids rocking up for their first session and the coaches sort of across the grass, going, oh, here comes whoever it was, favorite player, and the kid's face just lit up because it was like, oh, that's my favorite player. So by having that pre-information, like that kid, all the anxiety and stress and pressure just disappeared instantaneously. So I just think it's absolutely fundamental to what we do, because we have a responsibility for helping these be the best human beings they can be, because not all of them are going to go on to play at the elite level of football. We hope they go on to play football for the rest of their lives, but they're all going to be people in society and jobs and life and schools that we, yeah, the more information we can get from them, the better.
Same for yourself, Sam, any advice other than, I mean, the welcome cards, absolutely love that idea. That is brilliant. Is there any other advice that you could give to coaches to kind of help them understand their players?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:48:20.380
No, I think Andy's pretty much covered most of it, to be honest. I think there's a point of not scaring coaches as well, going, don't worry, you've got to literally know everything about every player. Because like I say, it's a tough challenge out there when you start coaching for the first time you've got that much to think about and that much to do.
But yeah obviously the more that you know things like birthdays like even just knowing a kid's birthday and singing happy birthday we know how we feel as human beings when it's my birthday last weekend and when people said happy birthday you know it's my birthday.
So yeah same thing and even sort of at senior level I think this player engagement piece and knowing your players is so important. I think it's important for us to know like the stages of life kind of our players are at and the ones that are applying for jobs for the first time and they're going through that nervousness and that might affect the performance and things like that so and that comes back to the relationship that we have with them as to what they're willing to kind of open up I think probably at grassroots when you're dealing with children it's probably more parents that you can go to.
It's a bigger challenge when you're working with adults and the older because it's you then have that relationship that you have to build and get to a point where they're happy to come and share some of their stuff with you so you know how to manage that and what's going on and how you're going to sort of get the best out of them. But yeah, just to echo kind of what Andy said.
[Andy Somers] 00:49:33.680
I think birthdays are really interesting. Like if there's one, I'd say try and figure out, like it's quite an easy one because you usually have it on some sort of registration, but it can give you quite one, that feel good thing of celebrating the birthday, but also can give you a bit of insight into that player, especially if you're working with the younger groups, you'll have kids that have got a year between them. That's a big amount of time for a young player. So you think of like a child who's one and then a child who hasn't yet been born, that whole year of catch up is still to come. So it gives you an insight into growth, development, why they might be picking stuff up. So that's a real - quite a quick win just to understand like the makeup of your group and the age of your group and the stages that your group might be at. Because it does take, in my opinion, takes quite a long time for that to level out that difference in learning and what they're doing.
That's really important point to kind of keep an eye on, isn't it really? If you think about your own players then, how do you tailor your sessions to keep them engaged?
[Andy Somers] 00:50:29.820
Try and always have them at the front of my mind whenever we're planning anything. So we have a syllabus of work that we will be trying to develop our players alongside, but I would always sort of push and it's different - different coaches have different opinions, but I would always put the player at the front of that and go right. So what do these players need in relation to that topic tonight, rather than the other way around of all we're going to do shooting will do this and let the players figure it out themselves. I'm going right. We're doing shooting like this is the group. This is the players. This is where they're at. At the moment. Some players have got loads of confidence and are doing loads of really good stuff and really enjoying games on a Sunday and are in the top two or three in that group on a Sunday. Some players are really struggling, going through a tough time, having a bad time at school, et cetera.
That really influences how I deliver and how I work with my players. So is it the night that if I know a kid's low in confidence, that changes everything. Like I'm going to be going back to our original point around, I'm going to be looking for all the good stuff. I'm probably not going to try and pick up anything they do that may be just not quite right, but I'm going to find everything they do that's really well. I'm going to praise as much as I can, and I'm probably going to let them have loads of goes without me sort of getting in the way.
Whereas if there's a kid who may be in a really good place, in fact, that might be a really good opportunity for me to go, ah, I might be able to just nudge them on a step here. If I do spot something, I can work with them. So for me, the player's right at the front part of planning, not sort of maybe the third or fourth piece of the jigsaw. I just think it's really important they're at the center of what we do, because they're what it's all about. They're our future players, coaches, referees, volunteers. So we've got to make sure we give them the best possible chance.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:52:10.400
Yeah, I think just from a senior point of view, probably getting the balance. So it probably swings a little bit away from some of the stuff that Andy was saying but at the same time kind of bringing it back and what I mean by that is there'll be certain training sessions where we've probably got to work on something tactically which let's be honest they're probably not the most exciting of sessions I've been involved with them but we know like following that or like sandwich either side - We've got to give the players what they want and my players are no different from a bunch of under 10s. They want to play football, they want to play little small sided games, they want lots of shots and that sort of stuff. So I think it's important we get the balance of that learning piece that might be a little bit, I don't want to do this tonight, but actually go in, right, you're probably here at the minute, but right, we're going to get you back up to here now because we're going to do this, we're going to do this, we're going to do this.
So even at our level it's important that we make sure that we're giving the players sort of like what they want and what they need.
What kind of signs should coaches look out for to help them notice whether players are engaged or not in a session?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:53:04.740
I think messing around is usually probably a good sign that players aren't engaged and that's not always to say that the session's not right. I think we have to be brave enough to go sometimes they're kids and sometimes they will mess around because they just want to mess around. Even I've seen kids mess around when they're playing games. So I don't think we have to get to a point where we go, oh God, if the kid's not messing around, my session's not good enough.
I'd probably say, look at your session. Is it engaging? Are they stood at the back of 10 people in a queue? There's not really anything else to do other than probably pull my mates hair or whatever. So yeah, I think things like just messing around, I think having kind of targets for players helps with their engagement levels. I'm a massive fan of, I talk about all the time, having like a coaching presence and presence and bringing energy and motivation and sometimes the most boring of sessions, because I don't sound right, but not the highest level of engagement. Certainly with senior players, I know that if I'm at my best and my personality and my motivations on point, I'll get the best out of the players and we'll make it the best session even though it's probably not the most exciting. So yeah I just think that messing around bit, a little bit of boredom, chatting is probably a sign that they're disengaged somewhere and I suppose then it's the coach's challenge to work out the reasons why. It might just be literally a change of task, they might have been doing something which we've been engaged with from the start and it's just started to go, just getting a little bit ready for a different task.
Now someone told me years ago and I've worked to it now that for every year of their life that's roughly how long that their concentration span lasts for. So if you've got a 10 year old they've probably got 10 minutes in them in terms of the same thing, what they can keep going with before you go actually change defenders, swap ends, rotate teams, whatever it might be. You've got a five-year-old, they've probably got like five minutes in them before you've got to change something within the session, and that's not picking it up, changing it. That just might be like, say, like a change of rotation of players or swapping defenders or whatever. Just some sort of intervention from the coach, basically.
[Andy Somers] 00:54:54.060
Yeah, that last one is a really good point. I think when you're planning your practices, like the short, sharp stuff, I think is really interesting and really useful for coaches.
One, because if it's not working, it gives you a quick opportunity. So we're going to do this, we're going to do it for three minutes. Let's see. You get a feel for that coaching sort of craft thing of like, I get a feel for whether this is working or not. And if it's not in three minutes, I know I can influence. I can do something of, do I put a time restraint on stuff? Do I put a scoring system in that will help? Or do I go, that's not quite right. We're going to do something slightly different, but I've got a chance to do it. And if it is fine, you go, oh, we're going to do the next three minutes. And can you beat your score from the first three minutes? Or if there's two teams, they're winning one nil, can you in the next three minutes try and it gives you some of the stuff probably that we've talked about throughout this chat. It gives you some natural opportunities to really weave them into your coaching.
Then the other couple of bits, I think I've gotten there, like too easy, too hard, don't understand. There's like three things that will cause just a difference in behavior or cause if it's too easy, maybe not doing the things you want in the practice because they know they can do it. Too hard, I can't do it. I'm not even going to try. I'm just going to stand at the back of the queue." Then that don't understand one of nothing really happens. It just becomes a bit of a muddle of stuff. There are always things to have a look out for that you can probably check on as well of, how well have I explained that to the kids? How well do they actually get it. But on that one, don't dive in too early because whenever we learn something new, it takes time. So don't go straight away. You might want to give it that first three minute cycle to go, right, this is my observation three minutes. I'm going to see, does this land properly with the players?
[Sam Griffiths] 00:56:31.080
I think on that, just like, don't be frightened to ask as well. Like, depending on what age group you're going, like, do you understand? Because some won't, some will probably have a go and stand there, like, looking at the sky, thinking, I just don't know what I'm doing. So, I think that goes back to that relationship connection piece, like, with your players, like, go and put an arm around and go, do you understand what we're doing? And they might go, absolutely not, no I don't. Or yeah, I do, okay, well that gives me an idea of where you're at then. So yeah, and that's coaching, like getting in amongst it and asking them little flyby questions as we call it, or help you connect with their understanding and what they're feeling in the practice.
[Andy Somers] 00:57:05.580
And you don't have to answer that question. So like, Sam - do you understand? No. Ah, can you explain to them? So we talked about ownership before, we talked about impact. Can you explain to them what's going on? So also, there's a bit of like their lead in, but I'm also probably checking the other players understanding do they actually understand? And if they don't, it's probably something that I might have done that's not quite right. So you get that sort of day, you're like natural opportunities to really to do that piece. I think back to a coach, I swear we used to have kids who used to come late because they used to travel distances, etc. There was always a player identified to be the person who would welcome the players in. So if I was coaching, I've got 14 players that are all here. I know there's three still to come. There was always one player that was the person who would make sure they understood when they arrived, what they were walking into. And that player was chosen depending on where they were at, whether we wanted to give them a bit of ownership, empowerment, whether they were really good, whether they needed some confidence, we wanted to boost them. So that was really interesting. It was a really good thing to do.
Yeah, this is really interesting, a really good tool for coaches to be able to use. And just while we're on this topic in terms of player engagement, I suppose it's just kind of putting people at ease. Obviously we always want people to be engaged, motivated and enjoying sessions. It's probably utopia if that was to happen all the time. So just kind of a bit of reassurance. This is something that, you know, you're going to come across players that come disengaged, aren't you? For reasons that we've spoke about.
[Andy Somers] 00:58:25.440
100% - don't worry. You can't do everything to every player every week in every like hour. It's just is impossible. So you'll know pretty quickly. I've got a player in my head where I'm going, within about two minutes, I know whether I can push or not tonight. And if it's a no, then that's fine. I will try and get their engagement as high as I can, but I can't force it all the time. In essence, that's where I'll go back to practice and go, at least if I do this practice and I don't do anything with them tonight, I know they're going to get some bits from the practice. But yeah, you can't do everything with everyone and don't beat yourself up over that. It's just, it is what it is. It's one of those things where working with human beings, even more so with younger players, it's really difficult. So don't be too yourself about it.
[Sam Griffiths] 00:59:04.440
I think that goes back to the point of, again, like knowing your players. So there's players that will just come to football to see the mates, like they're genuinely not bothered about learning much or playing. They just want to see the mates and that's why the game is what it is. So I think it's just appreciating as a coach that if I'm putting this session on that working really hard to help the kids get better at this actually. I know them three like just love coming for a chat and when we play fun tag games and race games and shoot in the dead engage but anything where we might be going do you know what tactically we just need to work on this little bit maybe I don't know what it might be getting a ball forward or defending or whatever it might be that I'm probably going to trade off those three probably going to lose a bit of like engagement I don't think you have to start going - oh god how am I going to engage them? I think it's just having an appreciation of your group that some sessions you'll get maximum engagement from these six, other sessions I'll get maximum engagement from these. At the end of the day, like Andy said, that not everybody comes to football because they want to be the next superstar. Some come because it's a social event for them and they just love seeing their mates. And that's our job as coaches to differentiate between that and like I say, just at least put them in an environment where they can enjoy themselves.
[Andy Somers] 01:00:11.980
Yeah, I think that like a little reel that runs around the back of your head of like, if nothing else happens, do they get the opportunity to like run round score some goals be with friends do you know like all the time if they're doing that like you'll be okay like you'll be good with stuff yeah then you can start working with players that might be able to or want to but like how do you make them whoever the player is they should like leave it more in love with it than when they came. So little things like we all love scoring goals, make sure your kids get opportunities to do it during the night because they're going to go away and go, oh, I scored two tonight or this. And if you've got kids that aren't engaged, like doing a 7v7 might be the best way of doing that. So if you know you've got kids that some are really engaged, like doing four 2v2s where they get loads of opportunities to score loads of goals, maybe more beneficial than putting them into a big number game. But yeah, I drive them a couple of things going like when my kids leave I want them to feel really good and I've had some success at this stuff which is what the game's about.
Really good insight from both of you there on that. So our last section that we're going to look at is effective communication and relationships.
So some of the messages might pull through from other things that we've spoken about. As a first one, if we think about this as a picture, so a new football coach has just volunteered at the local club and it's the first time they've ever got involved with any coaching. Who do they need to develop good relationships with and why is it beneficial for them to develop good relationships with them? And I'll go to Sam.
[Sam Griffiths] 01:01:37.360
I'd go parents. I think it's something that probably not devalued but I don't think it's probably at the forefront of new coaches minds. Like I say, they'll do the coaching call, get a nice new bag of 10 footballs and some cones and it'll be like right off you go. I think they have such a good opportunity to create a good network of people around them. Let's be honest, parents can like make or break your team. Like if you get their buy-in and their support it can really help and if you don't it can really hinder as well. So my first point of call would be parents in terms of building some relationships with them as much as we've said around getting to know the players and understanding your players like your parents understanding you like what's your motivator, what's your driver - nine times out of ten you're probably going to be the mum or dad that's been asked to do it because nobody else wants to do it, so you should already be sort of a little bit ahead of the game. And just getting them to understand like what you're going to try and do with the kids over the season, whether it be, you know, like playing time or like you're going to get the kids playing loads of positions because I know it still happens now where parents aren't happy that somebody's playing as a defender because they're a striker and they score the most goals.
So I think as long as the parents understand what they're buying into, so if your son or daughter is playing for me, this is what they're going to get this year. They're going to get loads of chances to play in different positions. The kids are all going to play like equal playing time. It's not going to be like the best team that's going to be put out every week. And then I suppose for me, the parents are then on board or they have two choices because they might go well actually no that's not what we really want that's fine they can go and find somewhere else but I think getting that buy-in and having that support from parents is huge even like at training. If you are on your own like being brave enough to ask parents to just help you set up something or if you want to run two, three games, because I think the problem that we have with some of the coaching is that if coaches are on their own and they've got like 14 players, they've got to play 7v7, they're probably reluctant to do what Andy said in terms of some of them parallel practices because they're thinking I'm a new coach, I can't watch everything, but if you've got a good relationship with parents, oh, can you, you and you just watch some of the three pitchers for me? So that'd be my key thing, is building relationships with parents. And we've already obviously spoke about the importance of building relationships with the players.
[Andy Somers] 01:03:44.760
Yeah, I back the players. Sam's bit around parents, like really important players, because if I'm dropping my daughter somewhere, I want to know that that coach has got the best intentions for the kids there. So the quicker you can get to know your players, I think that sends off a really positive message to the parents of like, oh, they're in it for the right intentions for me and my kids. And the other one I've got is around like other coaches in that club. So you'll probably have been the volunteer mum or dad who stepped forward because your son and daughter's playing. There is probably another 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 people in that club who've all been in that position. So other coaches in the club who can help share experience, try and do things like we are of like, don't worry about that. Don't worry about this. Here's something that might be really useful for you. Here's something I did. Here's some practices I used with my players at this age. I think that's really important because it can often feel quite isolated of I've been given a bag of footballs and some cones and some bibs and now I'm responsible for these 14, 8 year olds or 10 year olds.
So making sure you've got that support around you of other coaches is I think, yeah, really, really important for coaches who are starting out.
Sam, you kind of mentioned that parents can kind of make or break a team depending on the relationship you've got with them. Now parents, they do just want the best for the child but they can be challenging to deal with at times. So what advice can you give to coaches who maybe need to deal with some parents who are being a bit difficult or maybe challenging them, maybe it's the playing philosophy, maybe it's equal playing time, whatever it may be that they don't necessarily see eye to eye with, What advice have you got for coaches in that scenario?
[Sam Griffiths] 01:05:17.980
I think it probably just comes back to my original point in terms if you've got that relationship with them I think it's quite an easy nice conversation that I'd like to think that two adults could sit down. I don't have a problem with parents having an opinion or like disagreeing with some stuff but I think if you've built that rapport and you've got that relationship that I'd like to think that adults can sit down and have a conversation of this was kind of spoke about at the beginning this is what we're trying to do, so this is the reason why I'm a big believer like as a coach you've always got to be able to justify like why you're doing what you're doing so I think that's important that when you first step into that coaching environment that you have got an idea of your values and beliefs. So it's not necessarily like coaching philosophies and playing styles and all the high stuff it's just like these are my values as a person so this is what I want to work towards but then I think you also have to be strong enough to go if it's really as bad as what the parent thinks or it's really not as good as what they want then there's loads more clubs out there that you can take your child to.
I know like in the past I spoke to a lot of clubs around really challenging parents that have kind of caused issues internally which has then had an impact on others and they've had like a mass exodus so yeah I like say I think I do believe if you get that rapport right from the beginning, if you miss that opportunity it probably opens itself up to more challenging and things like coming in but I think if you do that at the start you've got half a chance of having a very good relationship with parents and I think it's something that we've spoke about in the past as part of the FA around helping and supporting parents more as well and understanding that when you sign your child up to a club like there's probably some expectations as parents as well.
We always say when you take them to swimming lessons or piano lessons parents don't tend to want to have a voice but obviously football is one of them things that everybody thinks of the next whoever manager and part of that comes with the role in managing that and that's a coach's responsibility and I think we've got to work hard at supporting coaches in those and all we can do is suggest things like that parents meetings at the start of the season don't have your first training session ask the club if you can have like the room or whatever for the night and get the parents in and see what their expectations are because their expectations might not meet anything kind of where your head's at and I know sometimes that can take a bit of time but longer term it helps so much.
[Andy Somers] 01:07:30.720
One thing that does sort of spring to mind at Sam's Talk is keeping people informed of things that are happening. So Sam mentioned swimming. My daughter swims. I don't feel the need to speak to the person who leads it because we get something every week that tells us how she's doing. So it's all there, really. Every Friday from the school she goes to we get an email of what they've been up to and what's coming up next week. So you feel really like well informed of like what your child's doing and where they're up to. And I think I'm not saying that needs to happen all the time, But how do you keep your parents just in the loop of - just this is what we're working on for the next six weeks. This is what we're doing. This is what you might see. So the sort of common one is all we're going to try and get our players like play out from the back. Like there's a chance if you make a mistake doing that, like it's going to end up in your goal.
So there's a chance you're going to concede loads of goals. So being really open with that of parents, just so you know this for the next six weeks, we're going to ask our keepers to really try and roll it to our players to try and get our defenders ready. But just that may result in us conceding some goals in the next week. But whenever you see some positive stuff of our players doing it, can you really reinforce it? Like, it really changes the message of it being about the kids and development, rather than, oh, we might lose 8-6 this week. And that may be seen really negatively, but we actually got the ball out from the back 20 times during that game, which the parents can sort of focus on rather than the results.
So I think the more you can keep them in the loop informed, I think the easier your job becomes and it just helps along the way. Yeah.
[Sam Griffiths] 01:08:57.040
And I think just in terms of that, what Andy was talking about, like in terms of the team stuff, like individually as well. So I do know one of the biggest problems, which that's the right word, but in grassroots with parents is when they don't agree with the child playing in a certain position, especially if they're a forward and they know they can score loads of goals.
And I think sometimes that when I've seen coaches put them in defense instead of just pulling the pair and going look we're doing it for this reason. They're a really good forward and that's probably where they're going to play but actually to help them with the game we're going to play them at the back because actually that will help them understand like playing against a striker the position that they might play will really help them like how to make it hard for a defender as opposed to just kind of doing it without any communication at all.
And then the point if they're still not happy with that, then obviously then that's different. But I agree with Andy in terms of just sometimes, like just taking that little bit of time to communicate your reasonings.
How important would you say that it is for coaches to have good communication skills? And do you have any top tips to help coaches develop their communication skills?
[Andy Somers] 01:09:54.220
It's obviously a really important key skill around sort of the coach and how we work. And I think what you do in other walks of life that you can use, so what you do in your day job, what you do in other things that you can sort of shift across and I would just continue to ask yourself like yeah, like how and why I'm doing things. I think it gets better by doing, so like the more you do the more chance you get to refine, or I talk too much there, or I did this there. And then also getting access to people and people in the club, people at the FA, etc., that can help you and give you sort of support in this space around what you should and shouldn't do is really, really important. I think it's got to be really clear that all the stuff we're talking about, as we've been going through, I'm thinking, oh, we've got that that helps you. We've got a podcast that can help you. We've got something on YouTube that could help you with that. We've got an on the ground resource around mentoring that could help you with that. We've got a course that could help you with that. So this is not saying that all this stuff is for you to go and figure out on your own. This is that we've got things that we think you can help you with some of this stuff, but there's also stuff that you can help yourself with. But I would say having good communication skills is vital because you can have the best plan, but if you can't then get that out with your players, it's sort of always going to sort of maybe fall over. So yeah, the ability to be able to communicate that in whatever format. Some coaches I know are great at talking and are great and can sort of sell any message to anyone sort of really quickly. Others are really shy. It's the first time they've ever worked with a group of kids. So actually having it on a whiteboard rather than them talking is really, really useful for them. And it gives them confidence that the kids can get playing before they have to do anything. So I think it's just about finding the method that best suits you and then try and tap into resources where you can get better at some of the other stuff as well.
[Sam Griffiths] 01:11:38.300
Yeah, for me, just I think language is key. So it's a really hard world to go into coaching, especially if you've played yourself or you've been in kind of environments of just remembering some language kids won't get.
I hear a lot of typical football language that kids kind of look at coaches going no idea what that means so just remembering like you're not them, they're not mini adults, they're not playing a mini version of the game you played And then the other thing is body language. It can say so much like and a positive of just a little thumbs up.
So if someone's had a shot and kids look for reassurance all the time, they'll look over to you and if you've got a little thumbs up it'll just give them. And then on the flip side of it, if they turn around and you've got you throwing your arms up in the air or you've got your head in your hands again it's probably not verbally you might not be saying anything but if people catch you doing it clapping things like that so positive body language is really important and at the same time as being aware of what negative body language is even sort of coaching if you can't be bothered to be there that night and you stood on the side with your arms folded slumped down on like kneel down on the floor or whatever just think about like the way that your body language portrays and what message is that sending out to players and parents.
[Andy Somers] 01:12:45.300
Most of the coaches we talked about are like parents. So I always think back to like, when you're with your kids, like think of some of the stuff you do and how you do it and why you do it, because it's the same stuff. Like your kids know when you're like not in a good mood or you're a bit stressed, like they say it to you. So Then you're working with other kids, they're going to pick up on it really quickly. Just think about you as a parent, or if you've got nieces, nephews, how would you be with them? What would you do? Just use the same methodology, same ways of working that go, when they come home from school, I might have had a really bad day at work, but she's not going to know that. My kids aren't going to know that. They're going to have a great time for the next couple of hours between now and bedtime, and then I'll deal with all the stuff that's gone on. So I think that's really important that you're as positive and excited as bubbly and as fun as you can be in that time, you're with them.
So that leads into all of these values that we've spoke about and the ways of presenting yourselves kind of leads into how important is it then for coaches to display good behaviors and to be a good role model for their players?
[Sam Griffiths] 01:13:46.680
Yeah, definitely. I think if you're prepared to put yourself in that position of being a coach and undergoing like your coaching badges you have a responsibility to be a role model and I think we touched upon it before that you're probably the next biggest influencer in a child's life behind probably mum, dad and potentially a teacher. They're the ones that when they grow up and they talk back and reflect back on like their experiences of football that they go to the coach.
And you know what, sometimes they're negative experiences as well. And like you want to be the positive one. You don't want to be the one that they go, oh, they're boring, or like, they weren't very nice. You want to be the one that kids kind of are excited to talk about. So yeah, I think just in terms of your professionalism, the way that you portray yourself, your organizational skills, it's all the stuff we talk around, around like taking that responsibility of being a good coach and just say just work really hard at bringing your own personality to life because you've obviously gone into that position, yeah probably because there's been no one else to do it most of the time, but it should be a privileged position of being a, like I say, a big influence on these kids' lives that are really going to look up to you.
[Andy Somers] 01:14:49.340
Yeah, such a big role model for the players. I go back to like when you're around schools and then someone from like a football club will come in to deliver some PE or some sport in school and the teachers are like, oh, they're different. They're such different kids for you than they are. I think we don't understand the power that you have in that role as a coach. So I think everything from how you speak to people, how you are, all of that stuff that the kids are picking up on. I'm sat here now thinking of coaches I had when I was a kid. I can picture them, I can name them. I could tell you how they made you feel. I'm sat here smiling because I know they give you that warm feeling of loving the game, our responsibility to love the game and make sure that like you're not the one that puts that fire that's burning out in them, be the coach that like makes them absolutely love the game and in 20 years’ time when they're doing something else they refer to you as that person that was someone that had a real big influence on their life, whatever that might be, whatever they're doing.
All right, well, we could talk all day, we really could. It's been fascinating listening to you and we've kind of, it's a bit of a whistle-stop tour through a few key themes that we felt was important to get out there. So we've kind of just unboxed them a little bit and we can probably go into way more detail than we have, but we have kept you for quite a long time. So thank you very much for coming on the show and hopefully our listeners will take away so much information from that chat. So thank you.
Hopefully you've enjoyed it.
Thank you very much.
[Sam Griffiths] 01:16:13.440
Yeah, thank you very much.
Thanks for coming on.
Right well that's all we have time for today. A bit of a bumper episode to end this season for you. But don't forget to check out the episode description for the transcript of this episode and for all the links to our platforms. As usual, there you will be able to click through to the England Football Community. This is where you can post your coaching questions for us to discuss on the podcast or just simply to connect with loads of wonderful coaches.
Yep, we really do love helping you out with all of your coaching questions, so please do go and check it out. That's it for this season, but don't worry, we'll be back soon with another episode of Coachcast. So if you haven't already, hit subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out. From all of us at England Football Learning – thanks for listening.