The following session comes from Kurtis Pottinger. Kurtis is the Director of Coaching at coaching company Lets Play The Game Ltd.
I find it alarming when I still see coaches not using clear demonstrations in their coaching sessions. A common theme you tend to find is, coaches using more verbal instruction than visual instruction which often leads to confusion with the players. Now verbal instruction is still important when teaching a new skill but it shouldn’t be your main method to communicate your message.
Demonstrations are accessible to all types of learners because something that is seen, is a lot easier to digest then receiving the same information verbally. Being able to see the skill live, allows the player to store a picture of what you want in their memory and replay it until they learn it themselves.
To deliver good demonstrations there are various techniques that a coach should consider.
Attention of The Group!
The first thing a coach should look to gain control of, is the group’s attention. Often, I have found coaches tend to accept poor attention levels from their players and still try to demonstrate the skill/tactic. For us to deliver good demonstrations you must make sure every player is watching. If your players are not paying attention when you’re demonstrating, they won’t understand what you are trying to show them.
With most of my players, I tend to use the ” Stop, Stand Still” verbal instruction to quickly gain the attention of my players along with sometimes a whistle beforehand. This tends to work a lot better than just saying ‘stop’ or ‘freeze’ and I will explain why. When the players are in motion and you say your command the first thing they hear is ‘stop’ which is then reinforced with ‘stand still’. Hearing ‘stop, stand still’ allows the players more time to take in the instruction you have given, and over time they begin to stop a lot quicker. With players below the age of 7, I would also add the word ‘and’ so it becomes “and stop, stand still”. This is because players this young take longer to process information especially when they are very active in a session.
Less Talk, More Demonstrations!
There is an old saying “a picture paints a thousand words” which i am sure all of you reading this have heard, well it couldn’t be more true. When you deliver your demonstrations try to talk less and show more. Doing this, will allow you to get your message across a lot clearer and quicker which also helps the players understand a lot more.
When you give demonstrations try to keep them short, but don’t cut out important detail because of it. Young players tend to have very short attention spans so even if you have great demonstrations that last for 2 minutes you will find that some of your players lose interest. I would try to aim for no longer than about 45 seconds for your demonstrations, as I’ve found any longer and your players start to find other things that will interest them.
You should think about where to place yourself during your demonstrations. When a coach delivers a demonstration, it is important that all the players can see what is taking place, so careful consideration needs to be given in your planning. If you cannot see all the players then it’s very likely they cannot see you.
Consider using resources that you already have at your disposal, to help make life easier for yourself. If there are markings on your playing surface use them i.e players sitting or standing around the semi-circle while you demonstrate. Using the surface markings saves time and are clear for everyone to see, meaning less disruption when trying to organize the group. Also consider using the cones you have placed on the floor for your session i.e ” go by that blue line of cones”.
Your position as a coach should always be central to the group of players. Consider the weather conditions as this can have an effect on where you position yourself i.e bright sunlight in the players eyes.
You have to make sure that your demonstrations are clear and follow a step by step process. Following a gradual process, will help the players take in the detail you are trying to show them, which will increase the likelihood of them learning the skill/tactic.
I find that showing some enthusiasm when demonstrating begins to rub off on your players. When your players see you putting a lot of effort into showing them how to do the skill/tactic they will naturally try to copy you. Think about how you can also express this in your tone of voice. Varying your tone of voice can help keep the players engaged in the skill/tactic you are demonstrating. Always speaking in the same tone can leave the players disinterested in what you have to show them, so try to use a mixture of high and low-level tones.
Never rush through your demonstrations just to make sure that they finish quickly, as this will most likely force you to demonstrate again because your players didn’t understand your first demo.
Involve your players!
In a lot of my demonstrations, I try to involve the players as much as possible. This is either through asking questions or actually using the players to demonstrate using the next skill/tactic.
Involving the players in the task helps give some ownership to the players, which helps keep them engaged in the session. As I have mentioned before in my earlier posts, It is our job to create players who are good decision makers and involving them, helps paint a picture in their minds of the outcomes you want from the session.
With the younger players (5 – 10 years old), I tend to find they cannot wait to demonstrate with you, so I tend to use it to my advantage when keeping the players on side. Whenever you find the group being too fussy or chatty try saying something like “Right, let me see who is listening only they can help me demonstrate” and see how they respond.
To create good decisions makers we have to allow the players to feel involved, and not dictated too. giving them responsibility can give them confidence to take risks and try new things, which is what we want to see from our young players. I bet Messi didn’t have many tell him he shouldn’t run with the ball so often or try those clever passes he does. If a player feels comfortable enough to try those things then all we have to do is guide them to make better decisions when using it.
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