In football, an early start is a key to professional success. Grassroots football is mainly focused on introducing the game to children at a very young age. Small children have high energy levels and short attention spans and it can sometimes be a challenge to make them sit down and concentrate on anything in particular. For this reason, an instructive approach to teaching sports (which is how we traditionally believe sports should be taught) will yield minimal results. Imagine you are 6 years old who has come to the class to have fun and score a couple of goals and the coach says we will be doing only passing drills today and goes on to explain the details of passing. Urgh! How boring!
We have learnt from experience that the best way to learn is through self-discovery. Self-discovery is a way of learning when you learn a particular skill on your own without being told specifically what to do. It can only happen in an environment where children are allowed to experiment and make mistakes. If young players are pressurized to perform, they will prioritize winning and will never venture outside their comfort zone and learn new skills. As a result, they never end up learning anything new. In fact, we have seen kids when under a lot of pressure to perform, tend to drop out of football coaching as it is no longer a fun activity for them but a stressful one.
Learning football should be an enjoyable activity, where a young player can take on opponents, make mistakes, learn from it, fall down, brush herself up and get on with the game. This is where a coach can add value to the learning. Instead of telling children what to do, her job is to create a fun-filled learning environment where losing is a part of the game, but not punishable. The coach has to make sure that all players are enjoying the drill and at the same time making their own decisions while on the pitch. In my opinion, the best way to coach children is to replicate the social environment of street football in training and provide inputs while they are having fun. The game is the teacher. A coach is only a facilitator.
The best coach is one who inspires his students to be better than who they were yesterday!
About the author:
Manager – JSW Bengaluru FC
Melbin Thomas Jose is the Head of Soccer schools- Bengaluru Football Club , he has been actively involved in the development of AIFF D License Manual which is being used to educate entry level coaches in India . He Developed the strategic and operational plan for All India Football federation with strategic milestones for the next 4 years. He is also the Development manager for Delhi Dynamos FC grassroots initiative- Junior Dynamos.