Soccer is a fantastic game, which should be enjoyable and fun for everyone who plays. When children play soccer it is evident if they are enjoying themselves and having fun by the energy, enthusiasm and effort they put into their game. Too often, the same energy and enthusiasm does not always carry over into training session. The players appear disinterested or unmotivated when working in training situations, mainly because they see the training as meaningless or boring. All they want to do is play a game.
There are a number of key factors to consider when developing an enjoyable training environment. The following Coaching Tips for creating a fun coaching environment can help to make sure that the children enjoy and look forward to their training, and through their enjoyment learn and become better players.
The Coach should also have fun
Remember 'Enthusiasm is caught, not taught'. This is especially true of coaching. Children are very quick to pick up on the coach's mood and will very often mirror your mood in their performance. If you are flat and disinterested, so will they be. An enthusiastic, motivated coach will tend to have enthusiastic, motivated children to work with. [Read More]
Use competition and set targets
Use competition and set targets for the players in drills and games. All players, no matter what their age or ability, love to play games and are naturally competitive. Encourage this in a fun way. For example in shooting drills, split the group into two teams and make the shooting drill a competition. Organise the drill so that one team spread out behind the goal and are the fielding team. Their job is to field the shots and return them to the shooting team. But if a player from the shooting team misses the target and one of the fielding team catch it cleanly, that team receive a point. The shooting team receive one point for hitting the target, three points for a goal and two points if they score from a rebound. The result of this is that you have a competitive, fun drill. The balls are recycled efficiently, all the players are involved and the shooting team have incentives not to miss the target! Rotate the teams regularly and use different shooting drills to develop a range of shooting techniques. You can use this coaching technique for coaching many different types of techniques, dribbling games, running with the ball, defending etc. It just requires a degree of imagination and planning.
Inevitably, technique will break down a little given the element of competition, but more importantly you will have injected fun and excitement into the training session. You can always take time to go back over technique and reinforce coaching points without the competition, before returning to the game again.
It is important that each player or group has a realistic chance of winning if you are to maintain their enthusiasm. Using a simple handicapping system can attain this goal as long as it is deemed to be fair. This may include a player being required to score with his/her weaker foot or only being allowed to have two touches before passing.
Another 'tactic' could be to subtly change partners to pair some players who aren't such good players, with players who are more advanced. Not only does this tend to even up the competition, but also it may help to introduce an element of co-operative learning. Players can learn from watching and playing with others who are more technically skillful and proficient, especially when they are friends and team mates. It is important that the coach knows and understands their players.
Always provide a positive feedback
Making mistakes is an integral and important aspect of the learning process. The players can learn from their own mistakes and by watching others make mistakes. It is important that the player is verbally rewarded for trying and receives positive feedback as to how to correct that mistake the next time. This ensures that the players are willing and enthusiastic about trying different skills and techniques and have little or no fear of doing it wrong or making mistakes. Criticising the players for trying things is not only very discouraging; it has no value in terms of learning. Avoid criticising errors and instead begin with a positive statement before adding your coaching point, for example: "Unlucky, you struck that shot really well, but next time concentrate on keeping your head over the ball to keep it down. Well done, keep up the good work. This is known as the:
'Feedback Sandwich' where the feedback is preceded and followed by positive statements.