Creating a Positive Environment.4 min read
The environment you create has a significant impact on your team. Get it right, and you can help players develop. Get it wrong, and you can hinder their enjoyment and chance to be skilful.
It might feel a bit daunting. But creating a good environment doesn’t need to be complicated. To help, we’ve broken it down into four key areas:
1. Create a positive atmosphere
The moment players arrive is so important. It’s a chance to build relationships and settle them into your environment. How you handle this time can set the tone for the session. So, greet everyone with a smile and make them feel welcome.
Arrival activities are great to use, too. They get players active and help you connect before the session begins. As you explain the game, ask how your team are and find out what’s important to them. Remembering the names of their pets and who they support may sound like little things. But it shows them you care.
This is about supporting your players. To thrive, they need to feel safe and happy.
Remember that, as a coach, you’re a role model. Having an open, ‘can do’ attitude sets a great example – for both your team and their parents.
2. Promote unstructured play
This type of football is player-led. It allows your team to make their own decisions, like what activity to try or what rules to use. This freedom is fun – and it encourages players to develop their skills. This can be centred around 1v1 arrival games or larger 3v3 arrivals games. Where the children are given nothing more than an area to play in and a bib and ball.
3. Include competition
Kids love the competitive element of football. By mixing up the opposition’s ability, you can provide fantastic learning opportunities. Reward and praise hard work and determination, celebrate small gains and praise goo decision making.
4. Vary your setting
Experiencing a mix of physical environments can help your players to hone their skills. So, when planning training and matches, include some variation. Try playing on different surfaces and in different weather. And switch up your equipment too.
Linked to our four key areas, here are some practical ways to create a good learning environment.
Working with parents often generates lively debate amongst coaches. But by including them, you can tap into an excellent source of support.
Start by communicating your learning objectives. Try outlining what a successful session might look like – or get your players to do it for you. This helps keep everyone on the same page.
If players return for your next session – or season – that’s a success. It indicates you’ve motivated them, and they’ve enjoyed and engaged with your coaching.
To achieve this, it’s important to connect with your team. Find out what they need and how they like to work. Then, use this information to inform your interactions. For instance, you may discover some players prefer a demonstration of an activity before trying it. Or you could find out how and when they like to be challenged. This type of knowledge will help you think about how you can structure your sessions and apply the STEP framework more effectively.
Remember, it isn’t easy to cater for everyone in every session. But, as long as you’re planning ahead, you can balance your team’s needs and wants over a longer period.
Give your players ownership
Take a step back and let your team take charge.
We all remember ‘Wembley doubles’ and ‘headers and volleys’. Let your players bring games like these to training. Or, let them play large-numbered matches, where they select sides and lay down the rules – just like in the playground.
By handing over ownership, you create the freedom of a real game. This gives your players the confidence to develop and try new skills.
A tournament is a great opportunity for players to experience competitive football.
It’s a whole season’s worth of football crammed into one day. Plus, you get to play against various levels of opposition – a perfect learning opportunity.
During tournaments, it’s easy for emotions to take over. So, before the day starts, work together to define what success looks like. And stick to it, once again involve the parents.
Mix up your surface
Imagine a ball zipping across a 4G, bouncing through a sports hall or bobbling across the grass. Three very different textures – and three very different opportunities for players to put their skills to the test.
Varying the hardness of your surface offers interesting returns too. For example, when your team play on a solid pitch (like concrete or sand-based AstroTurf), they’ll be keen to stay on their feet. So, compared to playing on grass, you’ll probably see more interceptions and standing tackles.
By adding variety, you’ll teach your team how to adapt their skills to different in-game problems.