The current crisis we find ourselves in is one that has created a great deal of apprehension and concern to people and communities across the globe, as well as leading to a significant halt to football like we’ve not seen before. Through following the Government’s advice of Stay at home i’ve been fortunate enough during this period to be able to use this time to reflect and consolidate some of my learning. So, this blog is going to explore how to make the most out of this situation and how to best use your time.

For coaches…

Personal Development:
Firstly, for all coaches I would recommend individually mapping out how you wish to use this time for yourself and think about your own personal development time. A great starting point for this is to map out your long, medium and short term goals that you wish to achieve within your career. With so much resource now available at the click of a button, it’s important that you prioritise your time with reading and studying content that is going to help you work towards these goals. Football DNA is a great place to start if you’re looking to develop as a coach, with a number of guest speakers, coaching content as well as insightful blogs that will provoke thought and hopefully give you an opportunity to interpret and consider how you will apply it to your own coaching. In addition, there are a number of excellent courses that you can look into that will also help you to develop as an individual as well, The Open University is a great starting point which offers a number of free courses: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue
Staying Connected: 
In order to help you with your own personal development, staying connected with other people in sport as well as in positions that you aspire to work towards could be a great way of building relationships to help you to work towards what you want to achieve. For example, Football DNA will be providing a number of webinars which will be a great way for you to hear from guest speakers as well as network and share ideas with others that have got similar ideas. Continuing to connect with others is a great way of sharing ideas as well as finding ways to work on yourself as well as support any staff or players that you’re working with. Most recently, I have connected with someone that has an extensive background in football, who I approached whether they could act as a mentor to help support me in achieving my goals. Through this process, it will enable me to share my own development plan and speak regularly with that person to seek advice and guidance to help me along my journey. For anyone looking to find a suitable mentor, I would recommend looking to people you’re close too, or have regular contact with already within your field of work. The relationship with that person is crucial and the better they know you; the more willing they will be to invest their time in helping.
Consolidate…
This period has also proven to be a great way to consolidate some of my learning from courses and books and articles that I have read previously. I would recommend to all coaches to go back through your coaching packs from your coaching courses as well as any previous notes that you have made and have a read through. Not only will this be a great way to look at how/whether you’ve applied some of the key messages from these courses to your own coaching but also will help you to identify some areas that you may wish to focus on when you return back to coaching. Recently, I had a look back through my FA Advanced Youth Award coursework and looked at my personal development plan that I created during this course and the areas that I wanted to focus on when coaching and whilst I have been working towards some of these, it’s certainly given me more clarity on what I need to hone in on when I return to coaching the players again.
If you’re working with other coaches within your workplace, or likewise managing them, the above could be a great framework for you to follow alongside regular informal/formal calls/video conferences along the way!

So how do I engage with players during this period? 

Parents…
Work with your parents. It’s so important. For all the ideas that you create, the parents will be the ones that will need to be fully immersed in what you’re setting for the players for them to want to share and support the children during this time. They’re the gatekeeper, they will be the ones that will be receiving your emails and messages with all your challenges and content, therefore, you need to keep them engaged in helping you help the players. A great starting point would be to contact your parents and find out how they’re finding this time of juggling work and home schooling their children but also if they need any ideas or support to help keep the children engaged? The feedback you get from your parents will enable you to be creative and deliver something bespoke to their needs and what they feel will support them best in a time of much uncertainty. This is been fantastic for myself during this time and has really helped me in finding/creating new resources that can help the players but also get the full backing of parents. There has been no better opportunity to show unity and work in co-collaboration with parents of your players and could be a great chance to form/continue build strong relationships with them which will only be beneficial for when we return to normal.
Skills…
A great way of engaging players through these period is to provide them with regular skills challenges that that they can practice within their own home. A great way of doing this is by utilising the Football DNA website’s recently launched the ‘Individual Skills Programme’ which provides a series of beginner, intermediate and advanced Ball Mastery and 1v1 skills and challenges for players to practise in their own time. This website has a series of different skills of all challenges that you can share with your players and challenge them to complete whilst they are at home. To capture what players have been up to within their own environment, why not ask them to video and share them practising and a make a daily/weekly movie to show highlights of what they’ve been doing. Another great way of doing this is creating interactive sessions for them to follow through video call apps like Zoom or Houseparty, that can be downloaded and offer a great service to stream a live video for people to connect with. This could be a great way for you to live stream your delivering these challenges for the players and for them to feel part of your programme still. For more information on the ‘Individual Skills Programme’ and how your players can log in, visit: https://footballdna.co.uk/isp/
Analysis… 
Another great way of keeping the children engaged in football, will be to challenge them to analyse individual and team performances. For example, you may get them to look at a player they feel they’re most like and create clips or write up a comparison of what they’re best at and why, but also what makes them like that individual player? Another great way is using the Football DNA website to get the children watching the analysis videos which provide a brilliant overview of different formations and ways of playing, but also good examples of how players may watch games and analyze them themselves. Visit: https://footballdna.co.uk/feature_type/analysis-masterclasses/ for more information!
Well-being & Nutrition…
In the football season, finding time to look after yourself as a coach can be a challenge due to the working hours and the time spent travelling around the country for fixtures. Therefore, not only is this an important time for you to focus on your own well-being by keeping physically active, as well as eating the right type of meals, it also is a great window to help educate parents and players on this too. The Well-being and Nutrition section on the Football DNA website, which can be found at: https://footballdna.co.uk/wellbeingandnutrition/ covers a wide range of different tutorials for cooking different meals as well as advice on nutrition to help them in their development and performance as a young athlete.
I hope the above will give you some ideas of ways to focus on yourself during this period, as well as how you can best support others as well. If you have any other ideas on how Football DNA could help support players or coaches during this time please get in touch with info@footballdna.co.uk