I spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday at a high school in Hamilton at a soccer coaching clinic. It was not what I’d expected, which is to say, it was really fun! I’d steeled myself for a must-do task, and instead spent half the time playing. A major component of the clinic was to design and lead practice sessions, which meant those of us not leading the session got to be participants, which meant — playing soccer, playing games related to soccer, practicing skills, etc. All classes should be like this.
The clinic’s focus was “games-based learning.” I’m a big proponent of keeping things fun for the kids, and the clinic gave me more tools for organizing and running practices based around play. Which is what soccer is: just a great big game. I came out of the clinic feeling affirmed in my philosophical approach, but also having a better understanding of how to apply my ideas. In a strange way, coaching is like writing a novel: keep it simple! Work with a few broad themes over a season. Develop on themes in practices, building on the work that’s come before. Repetition is fine, but be creative, rework how it’s being presented, or layer on challenges and complexity — that’s what makes it interesting, for both the coaches and the players. Finally, build every practice around a theme, no matter how small, (i.e. improving foot skills), and keep that practice flowing from beginning to end.
How? By keeping it simple. Rules are simple. Instructions are simple. Start with a bare-bones structure and add on layers as needed. Modify on the fly. Recognize when your plan isn’t working and be flexible and humble enough to know that it’s your job to fix it — not the kids’.
I’m organized and like planning ahead, and I’m creative, flexible, and enjoy the challenge of improvising in the flow. Those are my coaching strengths. My coaching weaknesses include less of an intrinsic understanding of the game, which I’ve essentially learned as an adult and only minimally as a participant; I lack some technical and mechanical knowledge. (That’s where Kevin comes in! Plus he loves discussing all of this stuff, so it’s a happy point of connection for us.) My other weakness, I think, is that I can be too flexible and get caught up in the moment, allowing an activity to go in a different direction than I’d originally intended, even losing track of what my original direction was. I need to be more disciplined and clear with my own goals each and every practice.
Which reminds me. I was planning to tell you about my whole weekend, not just the soccer coaching clinic, but here we are. I’m out of time. I hope you had some time to play this weekend too!