I had a few people reach out to ask questions from yesterday's social media post, so I will provide a little more context, as others may have similar questions.
A few weeks ago, I oversaw a kick-around playtime for my son, nieces, and their friend. This kick-around was not a formal coaching session.
I wanted them to play and enjoy kicking the ball around with each other and at the goal as individuals.
After observing each for a while, I asked them if I could give them a few kicking reference points. The guidance lasted up to a few minutes for each.
The video clip series is of one of my nieces kicking the ball. She has been playing organized soccer for the last few years, and I have never worked with her before this day. In my few minutes of coaching, I asked her what she wanted to improve. She told me she wanted to shoot the ball with more accuracy. The first two videos were filmed before providing her with a few reference points, and we filmed the last three after our short ‘tip’ session. As a soccer coach who has been learning a lot about teaching technique over the past six years, I know there is a big difference between the first two videos and the last three.
However, I have also learned that there is a strong possibility that she would have forgotten many of the instructional techniques I provided her when she returned to her team environment the following week.
Here is why...
From the perspective of our nervous systems, what fires together, wires together. How we have learned to move or think as soccer players get practised and reinforced with each repetition more automatically over the days, months, and years.
So, what needs to happen to wire new higher quality techniques within the athlete?
Repetition over time with the higher quality technique.
A few general steps to do this are the following:
First, the player is likely completely unaware of their current technique. So, it's essential to bring the higher quality change required into their plane of awareness – through seeing and feeling it for themselves. For example, in my niece's case, I asked her to become aware of her planting leg, how she stabilizes herself, how she strikes the ball with her kicking foot, and how she strikes through the ball and finishes the kicking action. It is not just how a player kicks a ball but whether they are aware of their body positioning before and after the kick as it relates to the ‘next’ play on the field. In cases like this, I often strip away many of the elements of the overall technical complex to improve their movement effectiveness first.
Then the athlete must learn to repeat and practise these elements at a higher quality level, from a lower intensity to increasingly faster intensities over time, not just in one day.
As this new technique sinks into another part of their brain, they can utilize it when required on the field without thinking about it.
You can't see it from the perspective of this video series, but the quality of her shots went from errant and ineffective (meaning she wouldn't have likely scored a goal in a game) to effective - in that her shots were consistently lower and accurate, meaning, they went in the far corner of the goal.
For coaches, it is essential to understand that practicing a technique without considering and practicing the associated decision-making elements would hinder the athlete's overall development over the long term.
This is why the coach must understand the end technique and the decision-making process from a higher-quality perspective to create the proper practice environment for the players and the team to practise these qualities.
But here is the caveat: if the coach does not know themselves, how do they teach their athletes to develop and practise higher quality movement and thinking skills?
This is what I meant yesterday by the comment that a coach must first and foremost be a student - to learn more so that we may coach, guide, and lead our athletes in a better way. And this is why I am genuinely inspired to do more work with coaches.
The first module of The Coaching Compass Accelerator Program will be launched in early December.
The Coaching Compass Accelerator Program is a teaching framework incorporating mentorship and coaching approaches through live online, and Q&A teachings, personal reflection, and community. The curriculum aims to help coaches transform and elevate their current technical coaching and leadership levels to create the safest possible environment where their athletes can learn, grow and perform well as people through sport.
Please reach out if you are interested in joining us for this two-session first module offering.
More information can be found on The Coaching Compass Accelerator Program through this LINK and reading The Invitation and The Coaching Compass.
Thank you, please take good care.