This is probably one of the most relaxing articles I have written…I’m currently sitting on a sunbed in
32c sun trying to reflect on a long season with my U10 boys’ team. Yes, life is feeling tough right
now! A September to mid-July season is beyond what multi-millionaire professionals are expected to
play, let alone 10-year-old boys. That said, the boys turn up week in, week out with a smile on their
faces and full of excitement for the session or match ahead…who are we to stop when the weather
turns so good (although this could be the basis of another blog or even podcast!)?
In addition to relaxing and enjoying the weather, this is a great opportunity to reflect on the season
and start to prepare for the new season. A football coach is rarely afforded the luxury of two
months’ time away from their team with no training or matches. Whilst much needed downtime is
here, it feels like a youth coach’s brain never switches off and is always looking for ways to improve
the experience of their players, and enhance the long-term development process.
Apologies in advance but I’m bringing corporate office practice to the football field. “Stop”, “Start”,
“Continue” is a process by which many leaders in business use to improve their leadership skills and
enhance the performance of their team or company. Business leaders will typically go through this
process once a year or when they start a new job. They may request input from their team or own
the process themselves.
This is also an excellent process for coaches to use when reflecting on the past season and thinking
forward to next season. It provides a structure for reflection and planning without ripping everything
up and starting again.
Put a list together for each category. Just a brain dump. Ask your assistant coach. Perhaps even ask
the players themselves. Once you have a list, whittle it down to a couple per category and start to
detail exactly what it means to “STOP”, “START”, “CONTINUE” each of the identified activities.
If creating or maintaining the right environment in training and matches isn’t part of your “START” or
“CONTINUE” then I would go back and review what you have identified! Creating the right
environment is critical for long term player development, an environment which permits mistakes
and permits player ownership, which engages with the players, which permits fun, rewards hard
work and highlights good outcomes. This is the glue which holds all the other elements together.
I’ve seen and experienced both good and bad environments, the only outcome from a bad
environment is players which are afraid to make mistakes, afraid to try new things and afraid to
communicate with the coach or teammates. This is NOT conducive for long term development! As
coaches we must embrace change next season…lets create the right environment for our young
players. Let’s make it fun for them, but serious fun! Challenging fun! BUT fun it must be!
Share your reflections and plans with the players and parents, engage them in the process. This will
force you to bring them to life. Live and breathe them every week…don’t just create a document
which is never used or followed.
My personal reflections include, “START” to be more positive, really focus on what a player does well
rather than what they didn’t. “STOP” giving so much direction to the players. Let them make their
own mistakes and learn from them. This will create stronger learning outcomes. “CONTINUE” to
create an environment which is conducive to long term player development.
Don’t forget the adage, “if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail”! Don’t miss this one opportunity
to prepare for the season ahead. Even on your sunbed you can start the process!
Have a great summer and be ready for the new season…your players certainly will be!