Coaching Team Games Symposium – Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield

I was very happy to be asked by Keith Davids to present at the Research and Practice Design in Elite and Development Team Games Symposium at Sheffield University on June 1st. it will be an honour to share a Learning Space and present with Daniel Newcombe (Wales Hockey) and Vanda Correia (School of Education and Communication, University of the Algarve and CIPER, Faculty of Human Movement Science, University of Lisboa, Portugal).

below is a brief description of my presentation.

As Many as Possible as Long as Possible in the Best Environment Possible

This presentation addresses the challenge of presenting a Nonlinear Pedagogy and Constraints Led Approach in coach education or workshop form.The developmental environment of sport is ever changing. Our coaching methods, our curriculum and learning environment (The Learning Space) need to not only be adapted for the development of the individual over time but in some way, must respond to the ever- accelerating changes in our world, social structures and immediate environment.

The questions examined in this presentation concerns how insights into the complex culture of child-youth sports in the 21st century can inform us as to how we create an environment at child youth level, which is central to developing an effective learning environment for: (i) As many as possible, as long as possible, and (ii), future high performance.  Often it can be parent coaches or NGBs or very experienced coaches that are taking part in these workshops or coach education courses. Explaining the science requires skillful navigation around the key theoretical concepts, without confusing practitioners, for if we want to change a culture we need to change the language. But this cannot mean that we bombard coaches with terminology. We must present it in a way that is meaningful to them while at the same time preserving the integrity of the science. It can be argued that this is an important step in how to provide further insights to advancing the practical application of theoretical understanding and pedagogical guidelines for designing learning environments in children’s football, while also acknowledging the value of integrating coaches’ experiential knowledge with empirical knowledge.

Full information here: Coaching in Team Games Symposium SHU 2017

I am really looking forward to meeting up with some great people especially Al Smith and Mark Upton who will be hosting a Re learn event later that evening.

 

Practice Repetition without Repetition (Part 2)

image cla

A good start to this critical analysis piece is a great quote from Mark Upton in a recent blog. “We can’t be our best until you’re your best”- In this case- “I can’t be my best until you are your best”. I wanted to initiate a discussion in relation to something I have thought long and hard about. The use of a constraint in my last blog to set up learning opportunities embracing the principles of co-adaptability within a SSG. I have for a while been split between using the “no forward pass” rule or not. The intention is that it should be a very brief constraint used to “set up” the game as in dribble (identify free space or provoke to create space elsewhere) and get players tuned in to the role of the goalkeeper in the modern game.  Within the community of practice and research I am lucky to have some great minds to reach out to with the aim to initiate a discussion. Daniel Newcombe (Senior lecture @Oxford_Brookes and Hockey coach for Wales senior and U21 team, Dan Clements  (Head of Performance Hockey Wales) and researcher/coach James Vaughan (AIK Sweden, PDP).

Discussion outcomes:

  • It can be argued that the rule will change how the defenders defend and therefore make the affordances false. The players won’t be choosing when to carry and when to pass forward around the affordances in the environment(Daniel Newcombe).
  • The rule may create conditions that are less representative of the game. By limiting the options for the attackers, we are moving away from the principles of the game. Similarly in this valuable learning time we want them to have the chance to develop all of the aspects of their game that are related to this aspect (attacking play) – if it is on to pass it forward take that option as you would in a game (Dan Clements).
  • “We can only constrain what is in front of us”. This was an interesting point by James Vaughan. He was referring to the socio-cultural football environmental constraints that these young players train in. For example, if there is an “isolated drill” culture then the focus of attention may be on the performance of a technique as opposed adapting the best skill in a game situation. I often refer to this as friendly with the ball but a stranger to the game. James like me sees the value of the rule in a certain context as a way of helping adjust the young players focus of attention and create many 1v1’s in game contexts. However, we both feel that the points made by Daniel Newcombe and Dan Clements are important and central to our work in creating affordance driven learning spaces for our young players.

Deliberate design for a deliberate learning intent

We want players to detect information sources that are best suited to performance in that situation. By designing sessions that are affordance-driven young players can educate their attention and learn which sources of information to act upon and when to act, while also learning which sources of information are less useful or irrelevant for that particular task.

Therefore, training must not be based on the repetition of exercises, as the learning process requires an intention in the action to achieve a real educative purpose (Oliveira et al., 2007).

How?

  • Practice repetition without repetition
  • Keep perception and action coupled
  • Training is affordance driven
  • Promote an external focus of attention
  • Representative Learning Design(see here)

It’s about helping young learners to engage with the value of what they do- (James Vaughan)

In many national coach education curricula, there is a tendency to give the solution to the problem in the theme of the session. This traditional methodology risks the development of an internal focus of attention among our young learners

In the following practical session, we analyse “Attacking play”- as ‘identify’, ‘create’, ‘occupy’ and ‘attack’ space. Attacking play is carried out through football actions. These Football actions are solutions (opportunities for action) and we should design training where young learners seek out and use these solutions (our invitations for action). The learners decide which football action should be used and how, where and when it should be executed. In this way training design is ‘affordance-driven’. Football actions can be composed of several elements – for example, when a player runs, dribbles and ends with a shot on goal. The action may also be a single element – such as a header duel with jumping and landing.

ATTACK PLAY 1

 Design the task not the solution.

These tasks should promote interactions between the footballers, as intelligence is developed when people collaborate and cooperate with other people to solve problems (Punset, 2007). Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning the coach can try and “nudge” the young learners in to constantly trying to adapt new ways to counteract new strategies that opponents are introducing in to the game. The relationships with teammates and interaction with opponents develops an interesting dialogue and an astute coach will observe and use this dialogue to create a learning space.

To understand “football action” one must understand the big picture. A picture that dictates that no action is isolated but is nested in interactions between team mates and opponents both within the game and from previous games.

Football actions are solutions and we should design training where young learners seek out these solutions. They decide which football action should be used and how where and when it should be executed. Training design is affordance driven -“we use constraints to afford” (Danny Newcombe).

Football action: Can be composed of several elements – for example, when a player runs, dribbles and ends with a shot on goal. The action may also be a single element – such as a header duel with jumping and landing.

4v4 Game- Developing Attacking Play – Finding Gaps

Score a goal by taking the ball over under control between the yellow or red cones line using football actions

8 players (mixture of 10 and 11 year olds)

2 of the players were regular goalkeepers for their teams. I discussed with the goalkeepers before the session the role of the modern goalkeeper (see here), their role in the build-up of play and what are the relevant football actions.

I want to create learning opportunities where the players can develop the concept of how we identify, create, attack and occupy space in attacking play. The training design should promote an external focus of attention. The players in the attacking team (with and without the ball) search for gaps to exploit (information).

ATTACK PLAY 2

I have observed that many young learners will pass the ball instead of accepting the better affordance of a gap in the opponent’s defensive organisation (inattentional blindness?). This gap often affords the opportunity for dribbling/driving the ball (or perhaps a penetrating pass in depth from the goalkeeper?) in to free space and thus threaten the opponents goal.

  • How can we manipulate the task so that the young players are forced to search and identify gaps to drive/dribble (in the case above the solution) the ball into so that they can create a goal scoring chance?
  • How can we manipulate the task to encourage young players to identify, occupy, create and attack space by accepting the best affordances (the solution)?
  • All this without diluting the affordance available

The defending team is rewarded with 1 point if they intercept a pass.

“This should see the defensive team subtly remove some of the passing options which should encourage the dribble more” (Daniel Newcombe). This will also make players decide to pass less as there is increased risk involved. Having set up this session design many times it can also be argued that this constraint makes the attacking team have a more deliberate intent with their passing. The attacking team takes less risks but may evolve the attacking play by using the pass to move the opponent (disorganise the opponent) to create gaps to dribble/ drive in to.

  • Red cones = 2 points
  • Yellow cones = 2 points
  • Points system can be varied depending on where you think the players need to learn to focus their attacking intentions. If you want players to attack central them maybe 3 points between the yellow cones and 2 points between the red.

Discussions with the goalkeepers:

  • Communication
  • Positioning – Open to receive pass (always offer depth)
  • Body profile – find position to receive ball with foot furthest away
  • Horizontal movement in support play
  • Vertical movement in support play
  • Identifying space/ gaps

Discussions with all players

  • Communication
  • Positioning – open to receive pass or give support in depth
  • Width and depth especially when the goalkeeper is in possession
  • Timing (ie movement in depth to receive pass from goalkeeper)
  • Using football actions to provoke and deceive (to disorganise opponents) to create space for yourself and others
  • Identify and attack space (dribble or receive a pass from goalkeeper)

I would like to conclude with a great quote from Mark Upton’s recent blog. “We can’t be our best until you’re your best”- this for me is a great reference point for the type of dynamic our training environment, the learning space should promote. This is what I was referring to earlier when I said that the relationships with teammates and interaction with opponents develops an interesting dialogue and an astute coach will observe and use this dialogue to create a learning space to help each player be their best.

Many thanks to James Vaughan, Daniel Newcombe and Dan Clements for a great discussion.

Footblogball quiz: Which band sampled this track on their early 90’s groundbreaking ablbum?

Practice Repetition Without Repetition

I was recently reflecting on a session I was involved in a few weeks back as guest coach to a group of 10 year old’s. The information I had received from the coach was that he wanted to improve the teams passing game.  The team coach and I set up some simple 3v1 rondos to start the session. The challenge given to the players was to identify, open and occupy space where they could receive the ball with the foot furthest away. After a while we discussed the relationship (communication) between the player in possession (focus of attention) and the players looking to be available to receive (focus of attention). This was to promote:

  • An external focus of attention to promote perception/action (a focus on the effect or outcome of the act as opposed to how the action was carried out) https://twitter.com/markstkhlm/status/835143356934127618
  • Help develop a body profile that will promote an external focus of attention

During the 3v1 rondos the coach commented that some of the players had problems with “passing technique” (passing was to soft, lacked power and the ball was intercepted or went out of play). Before the session began, having arrived early, I had seen many of these players successfully hit the crossbar with powerful shots from 15-20 meter or had no problem knocking a 15-20 meter pass. So, what was the problem?

We want players to detect information sources that are best suited to performance in that situation. By designing sessions that are affordance-driven young players can educate their attention and learn which sources of information to act upon and when to act, while also learning which sources of information are less useful or irrelevant for that particular task.

Therefore, training must not be based on the repetition of exercises, as the learning process requires an intention in the action to achieve a real educative purpose (Oliveira et al., 2007).

My reply to the coach was that we need to educate their attention.

How?

  • Practice repetition without repetition
  • Keep perception and action coupled
  • Training is affordance driven
  • Promote an external focus of attention
  • Representative Learning Design (see here)

It’s about helping young learners to engage with the value of what they do- (James Vaughan)

Design the task not the solution.

In many national coach education curricula, there is a tendency to give the solution to the problem in the theme of the session. This traditional methodology risks the development of an internal focus of attention among our young learners

In the following practical session, we analyse “Attacking play”- as ‘identify’, ‘create’, ‘occupy’ and ‘attack’ space. Attacking play is carried out through football actions. These Football actions are solutions (opportunities for action) and we should design training where young learners seek out and use these solutions (our invitations for action). The learners decide which football action should be used and how, where and when it should be executed. In this way training design is ‘affordance-driven’. Football actions can be composed of several elements – for example, when a player runs, dribbles and ends with a shot on goal. The action may also be a single element – such as a header duel with jumping and landing.

A model is an “imitation or simulation of reality, built after specific elements of the phenomenon which is observed and investigated” (Navarro, 1997).

ATTACK PLAY 1

Deliberate design with a deliberate learning intent

These tasks should promote interactions between the footballers, as intelligence is developed when people collaborate and cooperate with other people to solve problems (Punset, 2007). Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning the coach can try and “nudge” the young learners in to constantly trying to adapt new ways to counteract new strategies that opponents are introducing in to the game. The relationships with teammates and interaction with opponents develops an interesting dialogue and an astute coach will observe and use this dialogue to create a learning space.

To understand “football action” one must understand the big picture. A picture that dictates that no action is isolated but is nested in interactions between team mates and opponents both within the game and from previous games.

Football actions are solutions and we should design training where young learners seek out these solutions. They decide which football action should be used and how where and when it should be executed. Training design is affordance driven -“we use constraints to afford” (Danny Newcombe).

Football action: Can be composed of several elements – for example, when a player runs, dribbles and ends with a shot on goal. The action may also be a single element – such as a header duel with jumping and landing.

4v4 Game- Developing Attacking Play – Finding Gaps

Score a goal by taking the ball over under control between the yellow or red cones line using football actions

  • Red cones = 1 point
  • Yellow cones = 2 points

8 players (mixture of 10 and 11 year olds)

2 of the players were regular goalkeepers for their teams. I spoke with the goalkeepers before the session about the role of the modern goalkeeper. We decided that the first part of this session would place a focus on the goalkeeper’s role in the build-up of play and what are the relevant football actions.

ATTACK PLAY 2

I want to create learning opportunities where the players can develop the concept of how we identify, create, attack and occupy space in attacking play. The training design should promote an external focus of attention. The players in the attacking team (with and without the ball) search for gaps to exploit (information).

I have observed that many young learners will pass the ball instead of accepting the better affordance of a gap in the opponent’s defensive organisation (inattentional blindness?). This gap often affords the opportunity for dribbling/driving the ball (or perhaps a penetrating pass in depth from the goalkeeper?) in to free space and thus threaten the opponents goal.

  • How can we manipulate the task so that the young players are forced to search and identify gaps to drive/dribble (the solution) the ball into so that they can create a goal scoring chance?
  • How can we manipulate the task so that the young players can create space to drive/dribble (the solution) the ball into?
  • How can we further manipulate the task if the defending team (principles of co-adaptability) come up with a solution that limits the possibility of space for the attacking team to exploit?

ATTACK PLAY 3

To encourage the players to create, identify and attack free space we can add a “no forward passes” rule. (observe this is a brief temporary constraint for further learning) The goalkeeper was the only player allowed to pass forward. This also creates another learning opportunity with regards to the principles of the game.  A player will naturally take up a position of support and depth behind the player in possession and this will in turn create space for that player to attack with the ball. When the goalkeeper is in possession players may look for gaps to run in to behind the different lines of defensive pressure to enable them to receive a forward penetrating pass.

Discussions with the goalkeepers:

  • Communication
  • Positioning – Open to receive pass (always offer depth)
  • Body profile – find position to receive ball with foot furthest away
  • Horizontal movement in support play
  • Vertical movement in support play
  • Identifying space/ gaps

Discussions with all players

  • Communication
  • Positioning – open to receive pass or give support in depth
  • Width and depth especially when the goalkeeper is in possession
  • Timing (ie un in depth to receive pass from goalkeeper)
  • Using football actions to provoke and deceive (to disorganise opponents) to create space for yourself and others
  • Identify and attack space (dribble or receive a pass from goalkeeper)

Let’s develop the game and open the possibility of the use of other tactical components.

ATTACK PLAY 4

Before we further manipulate the task, there is a distinct possibility that due to the no forward pass rule the defending team have decided to press high (solution) and try and gain possession high up the pitch.  We can create an opportunity for the attacking team to also exploit the space behind the defending team if the defending team press high.

Rule: Forward passes may be played from the attacking teams own half.

We still want to encourage the players to identify and attack free space (gaps) by dribbling the ball. Now we also want them to achieve something similar by passing the ball in depth to an oncoming forward (identifying gaps and timing) who will attempt to drive/dribble the ball between the cone goals.

Review of discussions and open out the game

ATTACK PLAY 5 A

I would like to conclude with a great quote from Mark Upton in a recent blog. “We can’t be our best until you’re your best” (see here)– this for me is a great reference point for the type of dynamic our training environment, the learning space should promote. This is what I was referring to earlier when I said that the relationships with teammates and interaction with opponents develops an interesting dialogue and an astute coach will observe and use this dialogue to create a learning space to help each player be their best.

Practice is repetition without repetition

Relearn Long Term Player Development – A conversation with Dave Clarke

mark sub
Dave is one of the premiere college coaches in the NCAA’s highest division, head coach for women’s soccer at Quinnipiac University, a licensed Instructor for the United States Soccer Federation and also works with the US Soccer National Training Centre. Dave first appeared in Footblogball in November 2013- (see here)

Dave and I have remained in contact since and last week we had a very interesting conversation that we both decided would be interesting and challenging material for a blog post.

“We know that every system in the universe resists change to maintain a status-quo” – Andy Kirkland (Lecturer in Sports Coaching at the University of Stirling, Scotland’s University of Sporting Excellence)

Footblogball: In a recent discussion you said to me that sport wastes a lot of time trying to convince people we are developing players when we are not? I can sympathise with this point of view. Here is my take. For any future player development, it is important that we look to the past, knowledge of environment, individual constraints, history of movement opportunities. Our society has become very affected by compartmentalism and reductionism and this is very evident in many development programmes that are selling in fake fundamentals as learning. Also, the cult of the individual coach in soccer selling in individual technique training (with little or no empirical foundation) to pre-pubescent kids as a business has done very little in my opinion. The erroneous assumption that there is a typical or ‘normal’ way of performing an action. Early competitive pressure driven by feeling of falling behind if you don’t practice enough drives the start age down and the training volume up in early years. In the race to the bottom the toxic word of talent regularly takes centre stage far too often and far too early.  Al Smith summed this up in one of our conversations when he said that “the biggest enemy of progress is an environment that allows any kid (or their parent) to define themselves as a ‘high performer’ – that’s just status anxiety masquerading as development”.

To quote Richard Bailey from an interview I did with him in November 2014 – “There is a significant conflict between how children learn and how elite programmes operate.  Until very recently, talent development programmes were designed without any reference or consideration to healthy development, and treated children like mini adults.  Let’s be honest, though, most elite sports programmes are not designed to meet children’s needs; they are designed entirely for adult ambitions”.

If we took apart our present child/youth sports structures and began from zero building a development culture on the physical and emotional needs of children first, it would look a lot different than it does now
Dave Clarke: Player Development and especially the word development has become a dirty concept for me. It is a phrase thrown out there by clubs and coaches, but what does it mean? I understand what coaches want it to mean, but perception and reality are two totally different things.

Soccer in the US is a big business as it is in many countries around the world. Clubs promise players and their parents that they will develop their players. Do they? Do the clubs share their Best Practices? Their methodology? What is Player Development for a 10-year-old joining a club for the first time versus a player who is 16-17? How does this development take place? What does it look like? What is the evaluation process or review that takes place to ensure development occurs?

We use the term Development and no one ever seems to question whether or not we are truly developing players. Chelsea and Man City are facing each other in the English FA Youth Cup Final. The two clubs have spent millions on their Academies, on this crop of players, and used the term Player Development throughout and yet how many will play for either first team? How many will go on to accomplish great things in the game? Sure, some will go down the leagues and play lower level EPL or make a decent living, but I am sure those players all felt they were going to make the big time in their respective first teams.

The more I read about Player Development the more it seems we are not really bringing through the players in the manner we had hoped. By we, I mean Coaching as an industry. What are the real percentages? If we were a town school system being audited by the Department of Education we would be given a failing grade for the lack of progress of the majority of our students.

Clubs and coaches get by and develop reputations when one of their players makes it as a pro, reaches the national team, gets a scholarship, etc, but what about the other 99%? What happened to their development? We would not let a high school teacher away with helping his/her best student to get into the college of his choice to the detriment or lack of progress of the rest of the class. So why do we accept it in sport in general and soccer in particular?

We also accept clubs and coaches at their word when they say they developed players. Of course, they mean the one who makes it, but did they truly develop the player. Victor Wanyama is one of the best defensive midfield players in the Premier League as he is proving this season. Does the Spurs coaching staff get the credit for his development or should it go to Celtic who put him on the European stage in the Champions League? What then of the roles of Southampton or Beerschot or his four youth clubs in his development? Did his family or friends play a role? His teachers? Who develops a player such as Wanyama? Or is a process like school, the Kindergarten teacher every bit as a important to the Ivy league student’s educational process as his thesis advisor?

Footblogball: Another topic that stayed with me from our conversation was – Pro clubs should just set up leagues from U12-U16, let players play, no parents, no instruction, and it would still help bring players through at the same rate as the clubs and their Academies. I find this very interesting.

Recently I read an interview with an Elite NGB coach in response to criticism directed at National elite selection training camps for young teenagers. His response was something like how many elite players must come through our system before people understand that it works? Without reflection, this may seem quite impressive and indeed be interpreted as evidence that the system works (if that is how we evaluate a system). Every system will produce an output. On deeper analysis and reflection, we can also argue that there are many shortcomings. The system being referred to is now more or less the only system available. I have previously analysed this system in the article Survival of the fittest or survival of talent (see here). Has this system wrestled away other systems that used to emerge naturally to become the only lens through which talent is identified? The system seemingly both physically and emotionally is only meeting the needs of those that satisfy a certain criterion at a certain point in time. Just like Dr Martin Toms said, I too predict that if we colour every child’s hair green then in the future we will have green haired professional footballers.
Dave Clarke: I look back on my own playing career and how I was influenced by some coaches with great reputations for developing players. And yet, I feel that my most of my technical and tactical development was from street soccer, summer 7v7 events (playing up 2-3 years), and playing on my own. Yes, I received some good coaching, but most of my early development and later development as a player came from watching the game, watching other players, playing in free environments.

I think clubs and coaches have tried to replace free individual development with structured practices and the question must to be asked, has it worked? It hasn’t worked in Ireland or Scotland because there is a lack of technically skilful gifted players coming through compared to 20 years ago. And it doesn’t seem to be working in many other countries either.

Maybe clubs have to rethink their process and instead of forcing development allow it to happen organically.  One idea I would play about with is a 7v7, 9v9 or 11v11 version of the Dutch Street Soccer. Let the games replace training sessions. No coaching during the game – only coaching points before, at half time and after the final whistle. Instruction would be limited to telling players to try things – concepts like dribble until they lose it, take players on, score by dribbling around the keeper, can you chip him form the half-way line, take risks, don’t be afraid to give away the ball, turn in your own area, etc, etc, etc. – all the things players do in an unstructured environment which ultimately helps them become the players we pay to watch.

I would not let the parents attend the games – keep them in the club house, an idea I saw in practice at PSV Eindhoven. This way players will not be afraid to make mistakes, they won’t get yelled at to do things and will problem solves as they figure things out for themselves rather than be told what to do.?

At 16 or 17 the clubs can then take the best players from the leagues and start to coach them or teach them in the philosophy of the club. In terms of pure numbers it can’t be any worse than what is already in place.

Footblogball: Our starting point should be to embrace diversity and awaken a passion for sport in the kids – As many as possible, as long as possible in the best environment possible.

State of Play: Child & Youth Development in Sport- Views from around the world

Sam basket

I recently wrote an article for the Irish Times about the role of the youth coach being more challenging than ever. I am very grateful for how the article has been received and thankful for the many messages of support I have been sent from various parts of the world. You can read it here

The biggest challenge that I feel we have ahead of us in child-youth sport can be summed up in the following sentence. As many as possible as long as possible in the best environment possible. Kids are being selected early in to environments that often demand early specialisation in one sport. Elite status is being hung around the necks of 7 year olds, clubs, coaches are promoting it and parents are buying in to it. The societal expectation that is today attached to youth sport is screwing up the learning process. Young bodies and minds are being turned away by and from the sport at a ridiculously early age. Our starting point should be to embrace diversity and awaken a passion for sport in the kids

In Canada at the Ontario Soccer Summit Jason de Vos Director of Development at Canada Soccer delivered a powerful and stirring keynote speech on exactly this and more!

 

In Scotland Andy Kirkland (twitter), a sports scientist from the Scottish Institute of Sport and a lecturer in sports coaching at the University of Stirling asks the question “can we make Scottish football great again?” Andy is an outsider looking in. His journey takes him deep into the traditional heart of Scottish player development and then heads to Island to see if there are lessons to be learnt from there. Read it here.

In Scotland, he finds that there are many enthusiastic coaches who are eager to learn but who ultimately feel that they are just another brick in the wall of what is at best a flawed system.

“However, I do question whether it is possible for players to experience joy and fun in a club academy structure in which 9-year olds experience pressure to progress to the next level. This is a false economy because those who have fun and develop a love of the game will invariably perform at a higher level as they mature”.

Andy also examines the socio-economical and sociocultural constraints that are emerging because of modern academy structures.

“This system disadvantages players from the previous working-class hotbeds of football, because their families may not have the access to a car to take them to training and they may not have the where-for-all to support a performance lifestyle”.

In Singapore there was a sold out Youth Coaching Conference organised by the National Sports Institute (see here). Themes from the conference included, redefining success in youth sports. One of the markers of success is if the young athletes want to keep coming back to the next session of their own volition and are not forced to come.

There was a lot of focus on the types of relationships coaches have with their athletes.Prof Jean Côté specialises in Sport Psychology at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, where he is also the Coaching Director in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies was one of the main speakers. He is an expert in the areas of youth sport, coaching, and positive youth development.

“Very often we think about the outcomes of sport. (But) what created those outcomes? Setting an environment that is positive for the kids, diversification, and play. The relational aspects of coaching, if we applied it well, it will lead to some very positive outcomes,”  Prof Jean Côté at the Youth Coaching Conference organised by the National Youth Sports Institute(NYSI).

In England head of coaching at Sport England, Stuart Armstrong (twitter) has begun an excellent series of Facebook live “walkabouts” where he discusses the 7 deadly sins of talent development. Check out part one (or sin one).   

 

In Sweden, the districts of Skåne and Halland along with some Swedish researchers and sports psychologists have issued a joint statement on how they will shape and form child-youth sport in the future.

Read the Swedish document here:En åsikt med insikt (1) (1)

English translation of joint statement by Skåne and Hallands Football Association read here: An opinion with insigh Skane and Halland Statement

The statement is called “An opinion with insight”. In line with trying to offer a sporting environment with a focus on happiness and well-being  Hallands and Skåne Football Association (HFF and SKFF) have taken the decision to fundamentally change how things work with children and youth in their respective districts.

Here are some of the main points

  1. During the last few years the following points have been debated in Swedish child-youth sports.
  • Early selection process
  • Permanent ability groupings
  • Loading teams with those who can perform best now at the expense of others
  • Publishing league tables
  1. Far to common use of anecdotes as proof for an argument (“I know a player that….”), adult based common sense (“it worked for me therefore it will work for everyone”).
  2. We believe that child-youth sport should be grounded in research and the best available evidence in combination with the child’s own views.
  3. If we want our children and young people to be active in sports then one of our main tasks is to create environments that promote happiness and well-being. specialisation.
  4. Team selection at the expense of others, permanent ability groupings (only the best can play with the best), early selection process. For us, these concepts/practices are not developing Swedish football and they certainly don’t care about a child’s development. Research clearly shows that children’s sports activities carried out under the influence of these concepts segregates children and young people and leads to large drop out. We wonder how it is morally and ethically possible to defend practices that advocate this?
  5. Naturally, early selection and exclusion are not the cause of all negative aspects in child and youth sport (there are many other things that also create problems)
  6. Trying to predict future top players goes against the best available evidence from research. Believing in this means that you are not only fooling yourself and your organisation but you are also fooling the children and their parents.
  7. We suspect that there is widespread silence behind much of the structured talent work carried out in Sweden today, where the elite camps at an early age is a central framework.
  8. We need to put more time and resources in to training our leaders and further develop the environments in which our players are active everyday i.e our clubs. The focus should be on giving our leaders the tools needed to create a sustainable motivational climate where all children and young people feel welcome while they develop as footballers and people. This is not the whole solution to the problems that exist, but we hope and believe that it may take us a big step forward.

The statement is signed by the following people:

Johan Johqvist     Chairman Hallands Football Association

Claes Ohlsson Chairman Skånes Football Association

Andreas Ivarsson Fil. Dr in psychology (sport, movement, health), Högskolan i Halmstad

Johan Fallby Sports psychologist (FC Copenhagen) and advisor

Magnus Lindwall Lecturer in psychology (health), Göteborgs Universitet

Youth participation in sport is a human activity with all its baggage. At the heart of its structure must be a commitment to learning, a commitment to creating high quality learning environments. This places great demands on coaches, leaders and those responsible for educating them.

Children who throw themselves heart and soul into sport deserve responsible and knowledgeable leaders. So as the race to the bottom gathers pace I feel that there are two areas we must place a larger focus on if we are to develop a more informed opinion around what has already become a highly polarised debate.

  • Education of coach educators (see here)
  • Parent education on the child in sport

Our starting point should be to embrace diversity and awaken a passion for sport in the kids. Develop feelings of autonomy, competence and relatedness. After which we should be aiming to work with as many young players as possible for as long as possible in the best environment possible

 

Stephen Rollnick-Bringing People Together. A Restorative Approach and Sport

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After a recent blog post The Race to the Bottom, I was very thankful that Stephen Rollnick got in touch with the aim of initiating further discussions. Stephen is an  Honorary Professor at Cardiff University. Alongside William R Miller he developed many of the founding principles of motivational interviewing..

The conversations I have had so far with Stephen Rollnick zoomed in on our approach to coaching and the necessity of creating a learning space that builds relationships and gives young people the opportunity to develop a sense of self. Stephen has been highlighting for me a collaborative, goal-orientated style of communication with attention to the language of change. Something that I have repeated many times during my workshops is that if you want to change and develop a culture, then you must change and develop the language. These conversations have encouraged me to reflect again on the importance of creating a culture of trust. One that focuses on the development of the whole child by strengthening the quality of relationships with, in and around the child.

Digging deeper in to my blog archives I see that much of what Stephen and I have discussed is what the International Olympic Committee want us to address as reported in their Consensus statement on youth development. (See here)

The Culture of youth sports in general, has become disproportionally both adult and media centered. There is a need to address interactions between athletes, coaching styles and practices. The effects on youth athletes from parental expectations and the view of youth athletes as commodities, which is often intrusive with a fine line between objectivity and sensationalism (IOC Consensus statement on youth development)

In preparing this piece on the restorative approach and sport Stephen was very keen to acknowledge the work of Andy Williams, Deputy Head, Monmouth Comprehensive School, Monmouth, Wales. So perhaps we should allow the words of Andy Williams taken from his excellent article “Restorative Practice in Schools” to set the scene.

Restorative practice can help to inform our approach to leadership, learning, curriculum design and behaviour modelling. Decisions are made with reference to five core restorative beliefs:

  • Everyone has a unique perspective.
  • Our thoughts and feelings influence our behaviours. 
  • Our actions have a ripple effect. 
  • We have needs that connect us to people and purpose. 
  • The people best placed to find solutions are the people themselves.

 RESTORATIVE APPROACH AND SPORT

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The restorative approach has its roots in restorative justice, a strategy developed in the field of criminal justice to bring offenders and victims together with the aim to restore a sense of justice. Many schools worldwide have adopted this approach. This excellent video with Andy Williams Deputy Head, Monmouth Comprehensive School, Monmouth, Wales is an inspiring example of this. http://www.transformingconflict.org/content/monmouth-comprehensive-school-restorative-approaches-and-transforming-conflict-0

A “RESTORATIVE APPROACH”

Many of the conversations I have had with Stephen have swayed towards a much wider application of these ideas in sport, especially in the culture of youth sport. Essential skills are needed by the coach to help young learners navigate through the complexities of youth development.

As a student put it to his teacher: “Why is it that you only ask me how I think and feel when I have done something wrong?”

If we look at how the “Restorative Approach” is successfully applied in schools Stephen points out some strategies that are promoted strongly by leadership.

  • All students are encouraged to say how they think and feel.
  • Struggles with behavior are seen as no different to struggles with academic performance
  • Systems of reward and punishments, using merits and demerits, are often abandoned, on the grounds these are extrinsic motivators unlikely to be as effective as internal ones.
  • Relationship-building and a focus on peoples’ strengths hold the key to wellbeing, better performance and improving the culture of the setting. Self-determination theory Is often used as a guide, with its focus on student needs.

Now this got me really reflecting!

I was recently updating my UEFA A license with the Swedish FA. One of the guest speakers was Jan Ekstrand. Working out of Linköpping University as lead expert on the Football Research Group, Jan Ekstrand’s research is on the frontline of football injuries and prevention. His work has carried him across Europe to some of the world’s top elite clubs. During his lecture, Jan asked the question “Which are the most important factors to prevent injuries on elite level football?” Three of four of the most important factors revealed in his work are:

  • Leadership styles of coaches
  • Internal communication
  • Well-being of players

I sense that there is a common ground between the work of Jan Ekstrand and the ideas promoted by Stephen Rollnick that needs to be explored, especially within the area of expressing values and improving relationships to improve outcomes.

Essentially it is about bringing people together. A restorative approach empowers leadership with a clear message to convey to others. That message is simple. Relationships matter. Whether we are discussing change, conflict, injury prevention, player or team development, relationships matter. Stephen believes that Motivational interviewing skills can be very helpful. Even more so the skill of affirmation and empathic listening.

“Here’s some advice from Stephen on “bringing people together”which he has taken directly from the work of Andy Williams in a school setting”.

  • Go around the circle one at a time, using a talking “piece”; you can pass if you don’t want to say anything; no interrupting or cross-talk
  • Everyone has a right to be heard
  • Speak for yourself not others
  • Avoid the trap of blaming others (therefore the wording of your questions is essential)

As a practical example:

Review of a game that was lost (same principle for reviewing any game)

Questions might include any of these: What happened in the game? What did you notice that went well? How might we improve next time? What can I do to help others?  What I would like to practice more for next time? Then coach offers his points for improvement in practice (2-3 max), followed by request for suggestions.

How can we support the mental health and well-being of our young learners through the main aim of our  training environment (learning space) – learning. Stephen just like Andy Williams at Monmouth Comprehensive School in Wales. challenges us to diverge from a traditional “top-down” and “doing to” culture and use the restorative approach to develop the emergence of a “doing with” culture.

I will be taking part in a conference curated by Stephen Rollnick in Cardiff on July 14. Entitled “The power of words and better relationships. Motivation, behaviour change & culture change in sport”.

For more information http://www.micardiff.co.uk/

Links

You can see an excellent video with Andy Williams here: http://www.transformingconflict.org/content/monmouth-comprehensive-school-restorative-approaches-and-transforming-conflict-0

There’s an article by Andy Williams here: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/restorative-practice-in-schools

 

Coaching, Learning and the Brain – Richard Bailey Research Survey

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Footblogball is delighted to be able to present and invite coaches to take part in a new exclusive research survey by Richard Bailey (International Council of Sports Science and Physical Education)

This survey is aimed at practicing coaches in the UK and Ireland only.

This survey is concerned with coaches’ knowledge and experience of learning theories, especially those linked in the brain. It asks about experiences of coach education and professional development, and how they presented ideas about how players and athletes learn. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first survey of its kind, so your answers will provide extremely important and useful information. The survey gathers information on a number of topics that are necessary for us to develop a complete picture of coaches’ knowledge and understanding of learning and the brain.

  1. Background information about you and your sports coaching background
  2. About coaching and the brain – about your views and experience of brain – based learning ideas
  3. Ideas about the Brain and Coaching/learning – about your personal understanding of the brain and learning

The survey should take about 30 minutes to complete, and is entirely voluntary. All answer will remain anonymous and confidential. If you have any questions about this survey feel free to contact: Richard Bailey at rbailey@icsspe.org

Thank you in advance for your participation in the survey

Survey Link  https://www.surveymonkey.de/r/coach-brain

About Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey is a former teacher in Primary and Secondary Schools, teacher trainer, coach and coach educator. He has been a full Professor at Canterbury, Roehampton, Birmingham and Liverpool in the UK and has directed studies that have influenced policy and practice both nationally and internationally. In addition to his position as Writer in Residence at the ICSSPE Executive Office he is an author and blogger.

Richard has undertaken funded research in every continent of the world. He has worked with UNESCO as Expert Adviser for Physical Education, the World Health Organization, the European Union, and many similar agencies. He has carried out research on behalf of the English and Scottish governments, numerous educational and sports agencies. He was a contributing consultant for both Nike-led Designed to Move and Active Kids Do Better initiatives, and has directed numerous scientific reviews, including the most comprehensive review ever published on the benefits of physical education and sport (BERA, 2007‐2008), the UK’s independent review of player development in sport (sportscoach, 2008‐2009), and the IOC-funded study of the contribution made by Sport in Education (IOC, 2004).