LEARNING (or not what you coach but how they learn)

      essinge lek Millie          

The more I get into coach education and the deeper discussions become with regard to coaching ideas, philosophy etc I have started to form the opinion that It is less about how I coach but more about how they learn. Could my ability as a coach be defined by my understanding of how each individual player learns?

If we value learning, we respect that it is not a race. Then the potential for a transformation away from the conventional football education paradigm is extraordinary. Yet with how many coaches does this register? There are many well-meaning attempts to promote excellence among our young players but it more than often happens in the parallel universe of a result orientated environment. Is it any wonder that the development of an individual can get lost in the traditional conveyor belt of talent identification? Especially when during this very important early learning period talent and winning/ beating an opponent are not recognised as distinct concepts. We must respect the fact that learning and development are non-linear. We must also allow space for natural curiosity where critical thinking and creativity are encouraged.

                                                      How Do We Learn?



Children develop a love for books before they learn to read. They also develop a love for football before they learn individual technique or understand its concept. When children are learning to read they never lose sight of the book. My daughter is learning to read. She makes up many of the words that she does not understand using the pictures on the page as a reference. This is creativity. It is her solution. Her learning to read is all about the book. My parental instincts may be to help her learn to read as quickly as possible. But why rush it? Imagine all those invented words that lead to fantastic creative stories that make perfect sense in her imagination. Why sacrifice them? Are they not as important as the eventual goal which is to learn to read?

Children learn best by doing, where the learner is actively involved. A good example of this is given by USA based coach Dave Clarke in an interview I did with him for my FOOTBLOGBALL blog. He said that youth coaches should be more like kindergarten teachers.

At my daughters kindergarten here in Stockholm the teachers make the classroom a stimulating environment through the use of counting blocks, stencils, finger paint, collage, role play, dance, animals, nature, music, ipads. In a nutshell, hands on learning with stimulation and creativity through guided discovery.

Learning is a non-linear dynamic process and it is a messy one. Your training sessions may look messy but that can just as easily mean that learning is taking place (have you ever visited a kindergarten when they are working with finger paint?). Too many coaches want to control what is going on and want everything to look organised and orderly. By doing this the coach is also trying (often unknowingly) to control what is being learned. This in itself can be disruptive to the learning process of the child.

I think back to my daughter sitting there “reading” a book. Fantasy and creativity are all part of her world at the moment. She asks me to read her a story. She points at words and pictures. She wants me to give her answers in both Swedish and English.

I bought her that book. But I did not decide what was to be learned.


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