The 5 biggest mistakes made by coaches

Alistair Smith has been the designated learning consultant to the FA for 17 years – his tips could help you avoid some common coaching pitfalls

1.    Too many instructions
Simply telling a player to carry out set instructions and tasks is an ineffective way of learning. Twenty years ago there were several successful coaches who were disciplinarians and a lot of young coaches tried to copy that style. There is a place for giving commands occasionally, but you need to have a variety of communication skills. Try asking players questions or showing them something visually. 

2.    Confusing sessions
Before you do a session, ask yourself ‘am I doing this to make myself look good or to improve my players?’ Too many coaches try impressing their peers by putting on over elaborate sessions, which confuse their players.  It’s really important to meet them where they’re at – if they can’t do what you want them to, then they’re not ready for it. There is nothing wrong with using a simple drill. Forget your ego and think of your players.

More after the break

3.    Ignoring small-sided games
One of the most common complaints I hear from coaches is about the quality of pitches in this country and the negative impact it has on the sessions they can do. If this is the case, you should train indoor during the winter and use a five-a-side hall. It’s so important young players get as many touches of the ball as possible. Technical based sessions in small spaces will accelerate the development of your players and the winter is the perfect time to work on these inside.

4.    Too much talking
The last thing you should do if you’re working with children or teenagers is spend 20 minutes giving them tactical information, because they just won’t listen. Give them brief, clear instructions so they understand what you want from the session. The ball should be rolling for 70-90% of the session. Also, resist the temptation to interrupt when things go wrong on the training pitch. You need to allow the player to explore and learn from their mistakes. Asking them a question about a mistake afterwards is more effective.

5.    Not revisiting sessions
I see too many coaches put on a series of sessions – for example on the principles of the pressing game – and then they don’t do it ever again. You should learn the principles, apply them and then revisit them. Doing this every few months will ensure your players have a quality understanding of different technical and tactical sessions and how to apply them on the pitch.

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