The following session comes from Kurtis Pottinger. Kurtis is the Director of Coaching at coaching company Lets Play The Game Ltd.
When it comes to delivering football sessions you could be one of most talented of coaches but if you struggle to handle bad behavior when it arises then your coaching methods will have little impact on those players.
Behavior management goes hand in hand with football coaching, and all coaches need to have the right strategies in place to deal with difficult players before they become a more serious issue.
For me, the best coaches have systems in place to win the respect of certain difficult individuals and more often or not find a way of getting through to them. Unfortunately not every player can be helped, sometimes you have to know when enough is enough with some players and the hard approach is warranted.
In this article, I want to share some methods that I have found effective when dealing with bad behavior and what I also do to help prevent problems occurring in my sessions.
Setting the Scene!
Many of you don’t know but I have primary PE teaching background which I still do to this day for more than 13 years and in this time I have learnt some strategies that have helped me manage large groups of young players in football.
Young players need to know from the beginning how you run your football team. You cannot expect them to just figure it out for themselves they will need constant reminding of your expectations. First off, I would have every player sign a document that you prepared stating all your expectations of them and a brief description of how you want to play the game. Having a document prepared that they sign show’s a commitment on their side and sets the tone for the season.
Having a reward system in place I find works really well especially with younger players between the age of 6 – 10 yrs old. I see some coaches have a special player of the session award and the same on match days but I feel to keep younger players on track, regular encouragement is better. Try giving out little rewards during the session such as maybe stickers for making the right choice or performing a skill you have been working on.
Another thing I have tried is giving each player a chart and throughout the session, I would give players what I called ‘skill points’ when they did something good in the session. Every time a player earned a skill point they received a sticker to place on their chart and at the end of a certain period (I did 4 weeks but feel to do however long you want), I would see who got the most skill points for that term and give them a reward.
This doesn’t have to break the bank it can be anything such as captain for a month. What I found was that having this system in place helped keep my players engaged and focused on the task for longer and even when they began to lose focus I could quickly get them back on track.
Everyone is involved!
If the practice is not engaging and doesn’t keep every player involved throughout then they will eventually become frustrated and bored. Using ‘drills’ or overly structured practices stifle creativity and easily lose the interest of young players.
The best sessions I remember growing up were the ones where I was always involved and was playing a ‘game related practice’. Making sure all practices have some relation to the game is important and will help the players keep on task.
I have seen many practices where big lines of about 8 players sometimes more, lining up to take their turn and strike a ball and the coach is doing his best to control the bad behavior. Let me tell you something that may shock you ‘KID’S HATE WAITING’ just as much as adults do if not more so don’t keep them in lines following each other.
Another thing is kids don’t like ‘BEING CONSTANTLY TOLD WHAT TO DO’. Kids like to have some input in the session so give them opportunities to do so. There will still be times where you need to show them what to do but don’t forget most people learn by doing so learn to let go from time to time.
I find it helps if the players feel comfortable in your presence especially with younger children. Now all players need to understand that they cannot treat their coach like another friend from school, but you also want them to look forward to taking part in your sessions and using humor is a great icebreaker.
Using humor or anything that can ‘break up’ the normal structure of a practice can help win kids around to your way of thinking and stop bad behavior occurring. Now you don’t have to be a comedian to get a giggle from young players you just need to have an understanding of what they are into. For example, going to shake their hand then quickly taking it away putting it by your nose and sticking your tongue out at them, it may seem very childlike but it get’s them smiling.
What we have to remember is that they are children not ‘mini adults’ and using the strict and stern approach all the time will make your sessions not enjoyable and the players won’t want to do it.
Can They See You!
I have seen it many times, a coach will begin a session and start to deliver their demonstration. As they deliver the demo gradually you see them leave their starting position and move to an area where half of the team can no longer see the coach clearly.
Not having the correct position can cause a number issues for you when you are taking a session. Some children will look for any opportunity to not follow instructions so you need to show that you are in a position to see all of the players and they can also see you.
If you are in a game scenario that requires you to step in the situation stop the session, deliver a quick demo to help the players with the problem (no longer then about 30 seconds) and get them playing again.
Tip; if available, use the floor markings that are already laid out on a playing surface to quickly organize your players into an appropriate position to see you e.g ” everybody go stand on the semi-circle”.
As you can see many of the methods I use are there to help prevent difficult situations occurring. Obviously sometimes a player will have to be told when they are in the wrong and if it continues then their parents should be told. I have a 3 strike rule for players who continue to show bad behavior and a timeout will be issued if they reach the final strike with their parents being spoken to.
For peace of mind, I urge you to have some sort of procedure in place and that all associated with your team are familiar with it before you start implementing it. Not only will it benefit you but it will also help your players having a less disruptive football session.
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