The life of a grassroots football coach is a wonderful, enjoyable, and enriching one as you spend your cold midweek night being the influencer on the young children and young adults who you have the responsibility of supporting on their football journey. However, as with any responsibility there are challenges that you face. One such challenge is managing the behaviour of your players within your training session, in most cases your players are well behaved, but lets face it sometimes even the best can stray away from this good behaviour. Be it talking while you are trying to explain your new practice, messing around with their friends, and not obeying the rules of a practice or in some instances not interacting with their teammates in a manner of which is acceptable.
It is a question most coaches ask, or coach developers often get asked when delivering grassroots courses to new coaches – “how do you handle the kid that misbehaves” with that in mind INSPIRE FC wanted to share our 3 tips for any grassroots coach to manage the behaviour of their players at training:
Catch them IN, not always catch them OUT!
Kids and young players often seek one thing from their coach and their peers, attention. This sometimes leads to behaviour declining as they seek attention and approval and we as the coach often (and rightly so) oblige by calling this negative behaviour out, for example “Chris, can you please stop talking while I am explaining the practice” this is catching them OUT.
Look to try and play the long game with players and catch them IN. For example, when a player is showing the positive behaviours, you wish to see “Chris, really well done, you were the first person to listen to when I started to explain the game, well done!”. Subsequently, this highlighted positive behaviours affirmation to the players for doing what I asked
Look in the mirror before looking out the window!
Look in the mirror if there is a collective of players misbehaving and messing around whilst waiting to play whilst talking continuously while you are explaining. Why? Look at yourself first, “Do I need to change something myself?”. This may be that the players are talking continuously while you are explaining the practice because simply you are taking too long to explain the practice or coaching point.
On many occasions this stop in play can see boredom quickly creep in and then behaviour slowly follows. For example, I am sure you have all had that scenario of sitting in a room and someone is talking for too long explaining the same point over and over, your brain naturally begins to wander even as an adult. Looking in the mirror may also mean looking at your session design, is the design set up that engagement and ball rolling time is minimal which again leads to the enemy of any session, boredom.
It may be that there is a large que of players waiting to take their turn and this leads to boredom and behaviour issues. It may also be that the task for the players is too easy and thus boredom sets in. Now this isn’t to say that all behaviour issues are coach related, but do ask yourself the question “Do I need to change something myself?”
Listen or seek to understand
All humans carry emotions with them, albeit at work, school or when at home. Young players and young children are no different. This may be a player that is under pressure to perform in school exams, and this leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. It may be that recently a player’s parents have separated which has led to some emotions which are being carried into training. We are sure you are reading this and can think of many more scenarios you may have experienced personally or seen in your players which has led to a player’s behaviour suddenly being different.
This is where a connecting, listening and being an approachable person with the players you work with will then seek to gain an understanding of how they are feeling, which shows that you care.
More coaching tips:
- Clear, concise, less words = more, use your tone of voice at the right moments
- Thank individual players and/or the group for their contributions through animation; for instance clapping, fist bumps, positive demeanour and high fives
- Changes to coaching manner; friendly, semi-authoritarian, utilise body language
Set the expectations, stick to them and reinforce them
- Develop individual or team standards and values
- Remind each player and/or the group the reason why they’re at training or a matchday, to learn, have fun and improve – hold individual players and the group to account if they’re not adhering to the standards they agreed on
- Utilise other players as positive examples of what you’re looking for as a coach
Player led approach – give players ownership in;
- Setting up the area
- Leading skill based warm ups
- Developing rules for the opposition in conditioned games
- Developing a strategy to outfox the opposition
- Time keeping, score keeping
- Player create strategies to beat the opposition = create leaders
Praise players and reward players for good behaviour
- “Catch them in the moment”
- Highlight the positives then show and explain to the rest of the group (positive reinforcement)
- Praise specific elements of what a player or group has done well by; recreating the scenario and all others are engaged watching and listening
Relate to the players and get down to their level!
- During introduction periods to each session, ask them about their day, how they are and get to know the person more
- To gain kids attention get down onto their level
- Take a knee, look the players in the eye
- Once you have their attention, with everyone focussed on you, you can begin to speak
‘‘Everybody in, 3….2….1’ or ‘Last One In’
- After a while players will begin to understand ‘3…2…1’ and begin to run towards you and gather at your feet.
- This technique is also very good to use to hurry players up when they are taking a throw-in, goal kick or simply being slow in their actions.
- Last One In – the team claps and the last player dances – then straight back into talking about football (next progression, condition or practice)
When required, intervene when poor behaviour occurs;
- Do not start a practice until all player’s have arrived and are listening
- Warning 1, Warning 2, 3 Strike System
- Timeout for 5-10 minutes and/or Sin Bin Zone
- Yellow and Red Sin Bin
Session Design and Practices;
- Set the area up for the session with limited changes needed
- Add competition elements, progressions, match day scenarios, coach the individual and team
- Make the practices fun and engaging by including more game based practices (research Whole-Part-Whole Methodology
- Utilise Intervention strategies – command, trial and error, guided discovery, observation and feedback, question and answers
- Coach Individuals in play on the run
- Team Tasks – that are just out of touching distance
Hopefully you have found these tips useful and we are sure you have many more yourself! INSPIRE FC encourages you to share these ideas and trips far and wide with your grassroots coaching colleagues as we all face the same challenges!