FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
Updated: Aug 19
Ever since I first thought about starting a football coaching group (see my first blog post for the story of why I founded the group), I always felt that I, strangely, had an edge when it comes to understanding what it’s like to start learning how to play football as an adult beginner. First of all, I was an adult beginner myself only a few years ago. I can therefore put myself in the shoes of those who have managed to avoid playing the most popular sport in the world for most of their lives. I know what it feels like to play amongst experienced players and try to ‘fake it till you make it’, I also understand what it feels like to take the credit for a “perfect” pass, hoping nobody would know it was actually...a misplaced shot! Finally, I’ve come to discover that this is a perspective that many players, and even coaches, lack. It’s now a joy when I’m chatting with them to know that deep inside they have NO IDEA of what it is to learn the basics of how to play football.
I have been a teacher for many years, which also contributes to my coaching. I’m used to planning lessons with a starter to get my students engaged and a plenary at the end of a lesson to test how well they’ve taken things in. I also have to think about differentiating my lessons to make them as inclusive as possible. Hence it does not come as a surprise that I thoroughly enjoy planning my football coaching sessions, as seen in the training plan displayed above. Each session is broken down into three parts e.g.. dribbling, passing and skills. Like my lessons, every single drill has differentiated objectives to account for the different range of abilities. I help my attendees improve by going over ‘what went well’ and ‘even better if’. My experience as a teacher also means I know the importance of ensuring that everyone is fully aware of the instructions before we start an activity. Finally, I always encourage new members attending a session to ask questions and give me feedback since I truly believe that feedback is a gift.
I also run a 5-a-side league for advanced players, which brings together guys with a wide range of talents from all over the world. My beginner sessions always has at least one of the advanced players helping out with the coaching. These guys have spent many years in clubs and their varied experiences mean they all bring along a slightly different coaching style to the session. I’ve learnt a lot from them about my drills and they’ve given me feedback about how to get the most out of the players on the day. And we all agree that it’s most important to concentrate on the fundamental skills i.e. dribbling and passing. The activities within the sessions are tailored to give beginners or less experienced players the opportunity to develop skills in ways that they won’t get from just playing games. I know it’s easy to slip into panic mode when faced with defenders in a real game so one of the drills that I like to use involves attacking against a passive defence who aren’t allowed to kick the ball. As a beginner, this chance to practice in a slower, lower pressure environment can really help build your confidence and develop your skills.
I also apply Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in my coaching. NLP is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the United States in the 1970s. Put simply, it states that there is a connection between neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioural patterns learned through experience (programming). One key aspect of NLP is to make learning as effective as possible, for instance by understanding the concept of the 4 stages of learning a new skill (incompetent unaware, incompetent aware, competent aware, and competent unaware) or developing a flexible mindset (harnessing the power of failure to achieve success). Another important aspect of NLP is understanding the reasons why people want to learn a new skill, there are two:
1. They are motivated by the outcome of learning, e.g. being able to play football
Before starting to learn a new skill, it is important to be aware of what your expectations are and how you can monitor your progress. I know that my coachees' motivations are to get a new hobby in their life, enjoy playing football, and meeting like-minded people. They are looking to learn a few basic skills to enjoy a kick in the park or a game with their colleagues after work, not to become professional footballers. I therefore tailor my coaching so they can do these things, and in ways that they can understand how they are progressing.
2. They are motivated by the process of learning, i.e. having fun while learning how to play football
I want to make sure my coachees enjoy learning/progressing without worrying about making mistakes or letting down their teammates. They are coming to my sessions to improve in a safe and friendly environment, no matter how long it takes!
Finally, I would like to stress that what I am offering is coaching not teaching. Teaching is focused on learning, and the ownership of change lies predominantly with the teacher. However, coaching is focused on development and it gives the ownership of change to the individual being coached. This is why I also organise games for all my coachees so they can practise the skills we work on in the coaching sessions. Moreover, in the future, I hope to give even more autonomy to those who attend my sessions . One project I have in the pipeline is a YouTube channel for people to train anywhere anytime, which could eventually evolve into an app.
So that is how I have come to my style of coaching. After all, I truly believe that there are thousands of people who would like to learn how to play football in London, and hundreds of thousands of people who would like to improve their game (perhaps they are not aware of it but their teammates know...). I am therefore on a mission to convince all these people that there is a solution out there, and that solution is taking place every Sunday at 1pm at the Powerleague Shoreditch center.
I will see you there ;)