Young Athletes Correct Coaching
Soccer is no different than any other sport at the youth level – and I am not inferring that anyone suggested otherwise – but every youth coach of every sport, seems to think that the technical nuances of their sport are some how more intricate or specialized than the skills of other sports… and that is not the case.
And you can replace ‘Soccer’ with ‘Baseball’, ‘Basketball’ or any other sport in the above paragraph.
Goal Confusion for young athletes can be summed up in one sentence –
Coaches and Trainers must learn how and when to apply certain teaching techniques and when to let kids ‘learn’ things for themselves – and that is especially true when we design drills in which we tell our players that the success of a drill is based on the outcome rather than the form.
If you have been a subscriber for any length of time, you know exactly how I feel about teaching skill – it is imperative and an ability that frankly, many Coaches and Trainers lack (when in consideration of pedagogical science and individual player temperament).
Having said that, by not letting young kids and young athletes simply ‘have at it’ on their own once in a while or at certain phases of development, we risk limiting free nervous system adaptability at large – and this has been a prevalent problem in North American sports for years.
We over-teach our youngsters and do not allow them free exploration (which is at the crux of sport development) but then marvel at how much more ‘naturally skilled’ international athletes often tend to be.
In Canada, very often the best hockey players are not in organized competition at a very young age or under the technical instruction of a coach, they are playing on the pond or local outdoor rink with their friends or family and doing little more than guided discovery.
The same is true of Latin American baseball players and Brazilian soccer players.
If you are not familiar with Guided Discovery, it can be best summarized as the pinnacle of outcome-based coaching.
It is when an adult (coach, big sister or Dad) simply presents a youngster with an idea.
“Here Johnny, I’m going to set out some cones. I want you to take this soccer ball and use your feet to bring it with you around and through these cones – when you get through them all, see if you can kick it into the net and aim for the lower right corner of the net”.
Now… let the kid (or kids) have at it. Offer encouragement and positive feedback, but let them learn the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s of making that drill work’
At a certain point, if quality-coaching instruction is not entered into the equation, the potential of that young athlete to excel in the sport in question will certainly diminish.
However, sport exploration and guided discovery should be the essence of youth sport participation (especially during the young pre-adolescent ages).
And herein may be the confusion.
You have read many of my articles that discuss the fact that Coaches and Trainers never TEACH kids and young athletes how to perform certain drills or exercises, but then get upset if the youngsters aren’t performing the drill properly.
And of course… that is 100% true.
The Goal Confusion article however, was in reference to YOUNG kids.
We have started having organized and lesson-oriented league play (in a variety of sports) at the age of 4 and 5.
At this age, the entire premise of sport exploration should be based on guided discovery and nothing more – while the nervous system is at the height of its adaptability, kids should be encouraged to explore on their own, and under the ‘rules’ of outcome-based activities only.
As the child reaches the age of 9 – 10 (although this can change based on the kid in question), now more formalized instruction can be added to the equation.
The problem I was stating in the article is that many Coaches and Trainers will tell there young athletes that the purpose of the drill is to ‘kick the ball into the bottom right corner of the net’, but than proceed to correct every technical problem they see – that amounts to goal confusion for the child.
And if this type of coaching occurs at the truly young ages (as outlined above), it can be disastrous from an optimal learning perspective.
I hope that this has helped in some way.
’Till next time,