In this blog we are going to explore some of your feedback on some of the common challenges for grassroots coaches. We will use this blog to explore what these challenges are and provide some advice that may help you when working with your grassroots team. We will be making references to some of our previous blogs and advice given in our Podcasts that have come from some of our experts working across a wide range of different sports and levels. Before we begin, it’s important that we acknowledge the importance of grassroots coaches and the role and impact they can have on children’s lives as well as their community.
Grassroots coaches can often be great plate spinners juggling lots of different responsibilities from safeguarding, coaching, match day official, kit man, grounds man, events coordinator just to name a few… no-one can question the difficulty of being a grassroots coach. Whether you’ve inherited a team as your child is involved or you’ve been involved in your local club for a number of years this blog I am sure will acknowledge some challenges you’ve faced along the way and we hope it can be useful in supporting you.
Some of the feedback we have received is the challenges that parents can provide coaches both on and off the pitch. Grassroots coaches can become inundated with messages after games about results, training and because of an issues that has arisen. Coaches have also provided feedback on the pressure that parents can often place upon young children when playing football and it’s widely acknowledge that behaviours on match days in particular can be detrimental to the enjoyment and fun that children have playing with their friends. Before we begin it’s important to acknowledge the importance of the parent, player and coach relationship.
In our previous blog, we explored the importance that ‘PLAYERS’ come first and everything that you do as a coach must be of the best interest of each child that you are working with: https://footballdna.co.uk/3-tips-to-develop-player-parents-coach-relationships/ in doing this it will help you to understand that parent education is essential in developing a strong connection between all three parties.
In our Podcast with Richard Shorter, he highlights it’s important that we acknowledge that it’s okay for parents to be emotional watching their child in sport. As coaches, acknowledging this emotion can be a great way of starting to build a connection with your parents as all parents simply want the best for their child. For a deeper insight into the role of parents and ways you can promote good behaviour have a listen to: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1fTZdoCjm3knCnw8kwKMpy
We have spoken with Richard about the importance of developing a code of conduct for your players, parents and coaches. Whilst having some ‘do’s and do nots’ may not be the best phrases for it, it’s important to highlight what the role of the parents are when they are watching their child and what their behaviours should be to create the best possible environment for them to learn, play and have fun when playing football. Richard Shorter, says: “Being a sport’s parent is a wonderful, but at times challenging role. The dos and dont’s here are a great starting point for parents to reflect on how to support their children in getting better outcomes. No parent is ever the perfect sports parent, just like our children and their sport, we need to work at training our parenting. As you read this blog ask yourself how would you score yourself on this do or don’t and what could you do take steps to improve. Not because you are a bad parent, but because we when we work on our parenting, we give our children better changes of success.
Dealing with Mixed Abilities:
Another area that coaches commonly have issues with is dealing with mixed abilities when coaching. As all grassroots coaches will know, you are not in a position to hand pick the best players to play for your team and grassroots should be about creating a inclusive environment which prioritises participation over results. There is lots of benefits from mixed ability learning with children learning to deal with difference, with every child having their own way of playing, interacting and learning through playing football. Therefore, as a coach you should embrace the challenge of creating an environment which is based around difference and find a way of supporting the needs of every individual that you are working with. Here is some advice that you may want to read over when planning coaching sessions for mixed abilities: https://footballdna.co.uk/planning-sessions-for-mixed-abilities/
Whilst mixed ability groups will provide you with some challenges as a coach, in our podcast with Mark Bennett MBE, Mark speaks of the importance of having a ‘needs centred approach’. For any coach working a grassroots level a needs centred approach is a brilliant way of looking upon coaching with your whole approach to how you plan, do and review within your coaching be based around the needs of your players. https://footballdna.co.uk/features/mark-bennett-a-needs-centred-approach/ in this Podcast Mark who acknowledges the differences between an assassin, ninja and sheep which are three different types of players/personalities that you will find within your team. Dealing with challenging players can often stem from children not being challenged or not getting on with their peers and similarly to what you have provided for your parents you should also look to provide for your players too. A code of conduct/non-negotiables is essential in helping to shape the environment for your players to ensure children understand the importance of safety, learning and respect.
As we have acknowledged above we need to ensure that as coaches we create an inclusive environment that promotes equal opportunities particularly at grassroots level. Game time can often be an area that is widely highlighted by coaches when working with their team and how they should provide game time for games across the course of the season. As we know, parents in particular if you’ve set the scene that you will be providing equal opportunities and equal game time throughout the course of the season – you must make sure you don’t deter away from this otherwise you can expect to have to conversations with parents. Coaches can sometimes be left with large squads which lead onto grassroots managers being in a position where they may need to leave players out.
If you have to do this, find a way of keeping a record or planning ahead what players will play in which games and look at the level of the fixtures too to ensure your players are provided with a variety of challenges in games. Categorising your games as ‘stress, level and cope’ games are a great way of planning ahead with your games programme and making sure your players get given a variety of games that allow them to get success, be challenged but also find it very tough too.
Grassroots coaches should also be encouraged to be inventive with their club in finding other ways of developing a fixtures programme that allow for your players to get as much game time as possible. Coaches may find ways of developing an internal games programme at their club, or find external midweek fixtures which replace training to ensure all the players in your squad are given a suitable challenge but also time to play football too. To support you, here is some advice for you that you may want to consider when match day coaching: https://footballdna.co.uk/match-day-coaching/ in this blog we explore how you can utilise substitutes to keep them involved on a match day.
Planning for coaches can be a real challenge with grassroots coaches often having to juggle parenting, work and coaching in a schedule which doesn’t allow much time to do so. We have put together a blog that may help coaches with planning: https://footballdna.co.uk/planning-structuring-coaching-sessions
We have also got some curriculums on our site too that may help coaches with planning their season. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to take a look as they provide a wide range of different practices covering different themes which will certainly help you with planning: https://footballdna.co.uk/sessions