Creating an environment where making a mistake is a positive thing

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I believe that mistakes are a fundamental part of learning, and creating an environment where children are encouraged for their effort, not just the result is vital if we are going to produce a player who in willing to take players on or keep control of the ball under pressure. As Albert Einstein said “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Looking at today’s England players and comparing them to players from the Brazil or Spain national team for example, there are two differences that leap out at me. The first is how uncomfortable England players are in possession of the ball, when put under pressure, compared to their counterparts from South America and Spain. I believe this is at least in part down to the culture that existed in England of ‘get rid’ and of berating players for losing the ball.

The second difference is how willing players are to take on a man. I have watched Liverpool for 36 years and have been lucky to watch some fantastic players in those decades, but one player in particular stands out as a victim of the English mentality to berate mistakes and that is Steve McManaman. He started his Liverpool career so brightly, beating players for fun with his silky dribbling skills, but as the years wore on and he got used to being berated by the crowd when he lost the ball, he seemed to stop trying. He would jink towards a player, drop a shoulder, and then come backwards and pass it. It being both the ball and responsibility. To my mind, he learned that losing the ball was bad, and thus stopped trying and thus depriving the club of arguably his best attribute.

The Football Association have made great strides in trying to help with this by introducing mini-soccer and the Respect guides, as well as running coaching course for the coaches, but I still see managers moaning at players for making mistakes too often at U7’s level and it is even worse as the kids get older.

I believe coaches should praise the effort of players who try to keep a hold of the ball, even if they lose it, because it teaches them that they were doing the right thing and gives them the confidence to try it again. With practice, they will develop and improve. Criticising the mistake teaches them that it is better to pass the ball, and the responsibility to someone else. I think it is equally important that parents are on the same page with this, but that is another story!

Do you have any views on this? Any thoughts on how this can be coached? Does anybody disagree?

Please get involved my making a comment to keep the conversation going.

 

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Should coaches give players more time with the ball?

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While on an FA Youth Award course, I came across an interesting idea that makes an awful lot of sense to me.

It was apparently a strategy implemented by Dutch clubs such as Ajax, in which the youth players were given 10,000 touches of the ball every day in the belief that more touches would equal better mastery of the ball. You can read more about the Dutch way in a Guardian article here. It makes sense, although despite Malcolm Gladwell’s theory in Outliers about 10,000 hours being about the number of hours it takes to achieve mastery, I am not totally convinced on the number. What I am convinced about however is that the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ is as true in football as it is in most walks of life, and so the more touches of the ball a player gets, the more likely they are to progress. I believe that if you give two identical players separate training opportunities, and the first gets 1,000 touches of the ball a week and the second gets 1,500 touches, the second player will progress more quickly.

Pretty obvious stuff really, but it does beg the question should the vast majority of the time you have with your players each week be with the ball?

I see and hear training sessions in which players queue in preparation to carry out a skill or game, and others in which running without the ball in encouraged. On the FA course I was on there was a youth coach from Chelsea who said he’d get shot if his bosses ever saw boys standing around, waiting. So thinking of the 10,000 touch rule at Ajax and the practice makes perfect rule of life, should we be making sure that more minutes in our training sessions are spend actively with the ball?

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts below, either agreeing or disagreeing, which you can do by just adding a comment.

You can follow me on Twitter @YouthCoachMike if you’d like to hear next time somebody posts, and if you would like to contribute to the blog with an article of your own, please email it to me at mike_nicholson@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks for reading.

 

Welcome

I am an FA Level 1 coach, and passionate about improving myself as a coach in the hope that I can help develop the next generation of footballers. I created this blog so that youth coaches all over the world can share ideas, and discuss their own coaching journeys. I hope you will get involved and find it useful.