A few years back I had a coaching colleague send me this image. He said, the guy in the picture represented him as a coach. The three pins represented one each of development, winning and fun. The spring loaded platform represented the parents (the paying customers). It was certainly a good analogy and one, I think, that still holds very true for any of us that are coaching kids.
Here’s the thing…
If you added in one more juggling pin to that picture then you could also extend the analogy to a coach’s ability to juggle the four corners of development. With each of the four pins representing a corner of development (technical-tactical, physical, cognitive and social-emotional) and the spring-loaded platform representing not only parents but the organization’s expectations of the coach. Coaching kids to help them develop holistically is a true balancing AND juggling act. And maybe the guy should also be wearing a blindfold!
Here’s a personal two part example of the challenge of implementing a four-corner development approach from my own coaching experiences.
I’ve talked regularly here about the group of 2002 girls that I am coaching. I haven’t mentioned the 2001 girls that I will be coaching much but I can do so here as part of my two-part example. I’ve had a limited amount of time with this group as they were still in season with their current coach up to the end of November. What I did try to do when I worked with them the few times that I did was to give them a glimpse of the four-corner approach focusing specifically on the cognitive corner and becoming 21st century learners.
I felt getting the kids to recognize the importance of taking an active role in their learning is the most important thing that I could do to try and make a good and lasting first impression. I tried a few different activities to allow the 2001s to experience more control over and therefore a more active role in their learning. In speaking with one of the parents who decided in the end to move from the team to explore other opportunities at the end of the season, there was a definite concern that I wouldn’t be able to deliver such an ambitious plan.
He’s certainly right about that. I still have to try though.
This parent also made reference to one of my sessions where the players didn’t touch a ball for the first 20 minutes (or apparently this is what he heard as he was not actually there). I clarified with him the date of the session that he was referencing. At the beginning of that particular session, I’d divided the group into three teams of about six players each. I then reviewed with them 1) the purpose of a warm-up and 2) what a good warm-up entails. They were then instructed that they would have five minutes with their group to design their own 15 minute warm-up. At the end of the five minute period, each group would simultaneously run their created warm-up while the coaches would judge which one they thought was best. At the end of this warm-up challenge (which I stole from former national youth soccer team coach Ian Bridge) we reviewed with the groups the things that we thought each did well and what we thought was missing and then awarded a winner.
Yes, it is true that during that time two of the three groups started their warm-ups doing generic movement and dynamic exercises without a ball. But for 20 minutes? Absolutely not. I suppose when you consider the five minutes that they spent discussing their warm-ups along with the first five minutes where two of the three groups didn’t use a ball then maybe it felt like 20 minutes to those who were observing but didn’t know what was going on. You have to chuckle at how the truth can get stretched.
The small-sided games we played that night also involved the three groups that we had created playing against each other and having to make decisions about numbers and combinations of players that would play in each game. They made those decisions, not the coaches. And as they made decisions and saw what the end result was of their choices once they played, they had further opportunities to make more changes. It was just a small way for me to try and give them some ownership. Apparently, the parent I mentioned above, asked his daughter about how this particular session went. Her reply, according to him: “It was weird, he made us do our own warm-up.”
When I was getting ready to join the organization that I am currently coaching for, I did make certain that I alerted them to the fact – both in the form of documents and multiple times verbally – that the coaching I do will be “different” than the norm. The response to me was that different was fine as long as it meant “better” or “improved” on what had already been done. However, it shouldn’t be different just for the sake of being different.
Don’t be different just to be different? Hmmm…
That’s exactly why I’m doing what I do! I’m doing what I do because the way we have been doing it for practically three decades now isn’t working. It’s not producing better soccer players. It’s not creating participants that stay involved in soccer longer. And it’s not creating any better individuals who become autonomous and contributing members of society. I do what I do because that’s the whole point of being a heretic coach.
Eventually though I hope that everyone else will jump on board and do something similar. At that point I won’t need to be a heretic coach any longer. That would be nice although I’m sure there will always be a tree that needs to be shaken or an ointment that needs a fly in it in order to positively benefit the development of kids.
Next post Sunday, December 21st.