Understanding what young players want from their grassroots football experience can help prevent poor behaviour, writes FA county coach developer, Mike Antrobus.
Poor player behaviour at training or matchday is often caused by boredom, the desire for attention, or the practice activity being pitched too hard or easy.
To help improve player behaviour, we have to consider the link between what the players want versus what we, as coaches, want from training and matchday.
The FA Youth Development Review found that players play football because they like to “try their hardest”, “because it’s fun” and because they “love it!” Does your coaching allow players to feel these things? Can you achieve both?
During the session planning process it is important to consider what the players want. What types of practice and games would prompt a similar response to the three comments above? It is worth asking your players for their top two or three reasons why they play football. This will make your planning even more specific to your players’ wants and needs.
Role:FA county coach developer
Below are some considerations to help both the player and coach get what they want from the practice:
‘When are we having a game?’
Players want to play the game. When planning your practices give them as many possible opportunities to experience game-like scenarios. This may be as simple as 1v1 opposed games. Always have an outcome for both teams, be it a goal, target zone or points systems. This will have a huge influence on your players’ behaviour, as it links with the reasons why they choose to attend training.
Include competition in your practice. This gives players a chance to compare themselves with their peers and also experience success and failure. Note of caution: do not promote the competition as being the sole purpose of the practice. Highlight the process, rather than the outcome, and identify and acknowledge positive performance and behaviour.
Give the players opportunities to play against different opponents and try and make the challenge appropriate to everyone. If it becomes too easy or hard you will find that players will become bored which can lead to behaviour problems.
Try to plan for team talks within your practice. You can set specific questions or problems for the group to discuss and investigate whilst keeping them on task. This will satisfy their want to engage and talk to each other.
Each session should have a learning outcome providing a focus for both the coach and the group. Used alongside practices which include competition and team talks, you will help engage your players and allow you to focus on creating individualised learning to suit each player.
Don’t keep stopping the practice
Try to allow the practices to run as much as possible, only stopping the whole group to add in additional conditions or if the whole group need help on a particular coaching point. If only a few players need help then you can support these players whilst others continue to play. If the players feel the point isn't relevant to them, boredom will soon creep in and lead to inappropriate behaviour.
Highlight good play and behaviour. You will find that this may influence other players as well. They will want the same praise and attention and will recognise the need to behave in a similar manner.
Ask for feedback
Ask your players for feedback. What do they enjoy about practice and match days? What would they like to change? This will support you on your journey to help players learn and improve.