Any keen gardener will tell you that a flower will blossom best in the most suitable environment; this principle can be directly applied to our children and football in the sense that the environment that they are subjected to affects their ability to develop to their maximum potential.
There are many factors that are out of a parents control, however our top 8 tips to developing children in sports will allow you to enable your child to develop in a fun environment allowing them to enjoy playing Sports for a lifetime whilst developing at a rate suitable to them.
1) Focus on the Progress
Success or failure determine who the best players are at the elite level of sport the player with the highest success rate of a skill generally been associated with the world’s greatest players, however the results are not important at a young age, what is important is as a parent that you allow your children to enjoy the process of development, this is particularly important for the younger children in their selected age groups/school classes to develop at their own rate, the success will come.
2) Avoid pressuring your child about winning or losing
Similar to the point directly above in the country we place strong emphasis on winning and losing, development is very much an individual journey and although their team mates can have a huge effect on this it is not always a positive one. In most sports the aim of the game is to outscore your opponents however I feel that it is much more important that your child is challenged at a suitable level so that he can get better but also that their good work is not overshadowed by a win or a loss.
3) Sporting Failure Vs Personal failure
“You have let yourselves down today”, anyone who has ever played sport will have heard these words normally after a sporting failure, however if we don’t make mistakes how can we learn, as a parent it is your job to ensure that sporting failures are not seen as personal failures, this may seem extremely obvious but young players take failure to heart, it is important to reassure them that just because they had a bad performance or lost in a cup final, they can take away the positives and develop.
4) Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!
All your child really wants to hear from you when they are playing football is encouragement. “Well done, keep going” goes along way.
5) Allow them to play, Make decision and reflect.
We all know that one parent who wishes they were out on the field in place of their child or maybe thinks that they are playing the latest football video game through their child! The fact is these children are learning every time they play sport; so allow them to make mistakes and it is the coaches role to aid learning, support children to rectify mistakes and demonstrate trust to their players. There is nothing worse for a child when hear a loud shout from a parent saying ‘SHOOT’ followed by the inevitable groaning sound when they have missed the target, this is often followed by the coach saying 'don’t listen to them, you should have passed it to Player X'.
Allow children to problem solve and make decision for them that’s how they will learn.
6) Encourage your child to take responsibility for their decisions
This one ties in nicely with tip 5. Allowing a child to make a decision and reflect on this decision is important in their cognitive development (i.e. mental thought process), it allows the child time to explore what works and what does not, however with this freedom of thought it is also important for them to take responsibility for their decisions. As a parent or coach its fine to ask why they tried a certain skill, pass or shot, but try to ask in the right way - none confrontational and interested in their opinion.
'When you had the shot that went wide first half why did you not pass to Jimmy?' is the sort of question that will get a 'shrug' from a child as a response, as a parent or coach your role is to allow them to take responsibility by asking 'in that situation why did you make the decision you made', the simple answer is that they may have seen something different from their viewpoint.
7) Commentators not allowed
As a parent or a coach this is the biggest NO in sport! Allow the child to take in information that they need, this should be short concise and to the point piece of information. What a child does not need in this situation is a coach or parent running along the touchline after them giving constant instructions, this stifles their thought process, reduces their confidence and will hamper their ability to make decisions and take responsibilities for it. This rule applies in training as much as it does on a match day.
8) Allow the coach to do their job.
If you take your child to a development class such as Techne Global Saturday morning football sessions or if they compete within a structured league such as a local Sunday morning football team, you must trust that the coach is doing the best for your child.
All professional coaches should hold a minimum level 2 coaching qualification specific to that sport and support coaches should hold a minimum of a level 1 coaching qualification to support a session. At Techne Global Sports this is a promise we make to every child and their parent, in addition our sessions have been developed by Omari Williams a University Lecturer in Sport that has studied child development for over a decade and has coached football here in the UK and abroad in countries where football is fast developing including China, India and Bangladesh. The Techne Global coaching philosophy is taught to all of our coaches and followed at every session we deliver.
Sunday league football teams should also follow guidelines regarding qualifications for staff, who let us not forget, are often parents and volunteers trying to do the best job possible.
In Reflection this seems like a list of ‘Do Nots’, however the fact is as a nation many years ago we got into some bad habits for children's football coaching. Luckily in recent years due to a new focus on child development we are seeing more and more excellent coaches working with children in the UK and across the globe. Unfortunately, some children still come across some of the issues raised within this blog, and I hope that my 8 tips help you as a parent and/or coach to support a child reach their full potential in sport.
If you would like more information or support within your area in the UK it can be found at http://www.thefa.com/respectg
For more information about the Techne Global Sports coaching philosophy visit: www.techneglobal.com/about
This article was written by Callum Saxby, BSc | Head Coach at Techne Global Sports
Callum has over 5 years of sport coaching experience with children at all levels having worked within primary and secondary schools, sports clubs and most recently coaching football in China as part of Techne Global Sports International Coaching Partnership Programme.