Thursday, November 26, 2009

The 'no coaching' philosophy is flawed

The latest mantra being peddled by coach educators in Australia is that the secret to coaching is ‘no coaching’.

This is particularly so at the community and junior levels of coaching.

It’s bad enough at those levels, so I hope this flawed concept does not take hold at youth or senior levels because it spells disaster for our game and its players.

Tasmanian football seems to be embracing this concept and I fear where it will take us.

It may be worthwhile for some of those who are chanting this mantra to re-read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

As a teacher, I recall a similar move in education many years ago.

It went along the lines of teachers not needing to teach any more. Just immerse the kids in the right environment, we were told, and they will become independent learners.

The teacher was to be seen as a ‘facilitator of learning’ rather than as a fount of knowledge.

This approach led to ‘the baby being thrown out with the bath water’ and left many kids seriously lacking in reading, writing and mathematical skills.

A manifestation of this new philosophy was the ‘look and say’ method of teaching reading.

It replaced the ‘phonics’ method, which, most sensibly, drilled ‘word attack’ skills in children so that they could become independent readers and easily read new words when they encountered them.

Many of those taught under the ‘look and say’ method were stumped as soon as they tried to read a more difficult text.

Without a teacher or a good reader close at hand, they often could not read words they encountered for the first time.

The same applies to football.

The only time a ‘no coaching’ philosophy is appropriate is in a situation where you have someone who knows nothing about coaching placed in charge of a team.

They can probably do more harm than good by trying to regiment their kids and ‘coach’ them.

That’s where the maxim ‘just let them play’ is appropriate.

Usually, this situation arises when a parent or teacher has been put in charge of a school or club team and, despite knowing little about the game, they agree to take on the responsibilities because no-one else will do it.

In such cases, the best thing to do is to give the kids a ball and let them play and learn for themselves.

By varying the activities and size of the pitch, the best kids will, of course, show some development, but many of them will not.

It’s better than nothing. But, it has its limitations.

‘Over coaching’ can be just as bad as ‘no coaching’ because kids can be stifled and restricted by overbearing coaches.

But, there is no substitute for good coaching, which seeks to introduce just the right amount of intervention by the coach and which adds to kids’ understanding of the game and develops their skills without suffocating them and arresting their development.

A good coach knows how much guidance and how much intervention is required.

A good coach knows the importance of the so-called ‘three Rs’: routine, repetition and realism.

Kids need to have poor technique corrected at times, or bad habits acquired at a young age will persist and lead to problems later.

It has been said that if one were to give each of a dozen monkeys a typewriter (or a word processor), in a million years they would produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

Giving a group of novice players (that is, kids) a ball and letting them play within certain bounds and without ever intervening to correct things or to demonstrate a skill such as dribbling is a good analogy to the above.

You can, of course, alter the pitch or the number of players in the hope of improving things, but will it work?

It may, under an experienced mentor or coach, but not under a novice.

In a million years, the kids might actually become a team composed of individuals possessing all the required skills to play the game at a competent level.

But, the kids haven’t got a million years.

Of course, some will learn more quickly than others, particularly from their mistakes, but many of them won’t develop at all in a ‘no coaching’ regimen.

Coaching, except for those who know nothing about coaching, is not about ‘no coaching’.

It is about knowledge, and the application of that knowledge, at an appropriate time and in an appropriate manner so that learning takes place.

Enjoyment of the game will be a welcome by-product of such thoughtful coaching.

There is a place for a ‘no coaching’ philosophy in coaching, as I have outlined above.

But, if at all possible, it shouldn’t replace good coaching.


Richard Bennett said...

I agree totally Walter I am baffled that this "natural learning" method is sufficient if you want to turn out quality players at a younger age.

Surely passing on knowledge and honing technique is best learned from those who have sound teaching/coaching skills.

I am unaware of any abusive yelling style coaches anyway.

I certainly don't want my children coached by this robotic mindset. it's surely a passing phase. or maybe a way for those who can't coach to find a comfort zone.

soccertragic said...

Hear hear Walter.

Anonymous said...

you dont need coaches at the ages 6-8, this has been proven in other more succesfull countries.

just let them have a kick aroudn for fun at this age

Anonymous said...

Sort of agree with anonymous there. I think overseas coaches are blessed with players who learn their tricks on the street or in the park, our kids are overcoached and don't get enough freedom to express themselves. You can almost guarantee that players like Ronalo learned a lot of his chops playing liberated 6 a sides, or maybe futsal. Though I don't think it is appropriate to leave players to their own devices all the time.

Brian Roberts said...

A little discipline doesn't go astray .

Reduces the drop out factor when life gets tough.

Or am I a dinosaur who still stands up for the gentle sex on crowded buses.

observer said...

I agree with much of what you say Walter.
FFA,FFT,new coaching metohods,no coaching philosophy etc etc etc.
It is just like politics or the running of large corporate companies. The CEO or managing director believes the organisation should do , for example "A".This philosophy is adopted throughout the organisation and all branches are converted or restructured to follow this philosophy. After 5 years ,this CEO leaves. The new one comes in and says , 'What's this sh...t ?" No. Now we are going to adopt "B". The opposite to what we were doing .That was incorrect. It seems that FFA jump backwards and forwards from one philosophy to another. What should happen if Mr Berger left tomorrow ? Will we adopt the principles of a coach from another country who believes what has been done is incorrect ? We do not seem to stick to a plan ,method or system for very long at all.
As an example , for years many players never stretched before during or after a game. Then we all stretched before we warmed up. Then it was only after your muscles were warm that you should stretch. Now it appears that there is no static stretching at all.
What the ???? What has changed ? Our muscles are still our muscles. They still do the same thing.
Is it a case of just playing the game ,so to speak and going along with what is said ,in order to be seen to be in agreeance ? .Is that what is happening ? I dont know. It appears too many things are changing very quickly and I dont know if it is for change sake or for the better. I suppose time will tell. I will make a prediction now, and say that in 18 months time ,much of what is being changed here in Tasmania , will be changed again. Either back or to something different again.

ynwa said...

Thank you Walter for being bold enough to declare the emperor naked. Last time I looked Tasmania did not have 180 million odd people and only one major code of football. In fact other than motor racing and volleyball I can't think of any other sports in which Brazil excells, they certainly don't rank up there in the medals in the olympics and certainly not in the winter olympics. Compare that to Australia's success across so many sports - we spread ourselves very thinly by comparison. Our kids do not kick a round ball in the street at every opportunity. Of course our kids (and adults) should have fun when playing the beautiful game but we need to realise Australia is not Brazil. We cannot make ourselves something we are not just by dictating it.

jerrie kruijver said...

geez,if a coach of kids enjoys what he is doing the kids will enjoy it too,even doing a few basic drills can be a lot of fun for both the coach and the kids,they soon pick things up and ask you to show them more.

jerrie kruijver said...

anonymus a good coach makes sure his team is having fun and makes sure every kid gets involved and gets encouragement,even the ones with two left feet.the coaches first instruction would be that you should kick the ball and not freddies kneecaps

Richard Bennett said...

coaches coach, it's an individual role as much based on feel and instinct not a pre described position description, players play just the same way. the key is the balance between instruction and guidance and freedom to express.

I don't think the FFT or the FFA can reinvent the wheel. I shuder to think what sort of coaches will be slinking around the periphery of the pitch in 5 years time after this experiment.

Richard Bladel said...

Yes Walter, you're right and well said. Because football is a technique based sport (come to think of it is any sport not??) learning technique as early as 8 - 10 years is great. It's how you teach it, surely that matters. Make it fun. Game based exercises. A comp between 2 teams knocking over 6 skittles from 10 yards the fastest - providing the "why" - why kick a ball with the side of your foot to knock over the skittle? Cos it's more accurate & you knock over more that way. If it doesn't work, then why bother? This is the philosophy that makes sense, and has been proven to engage young kids in the best way. You can see when kids get bored. You change the exercise, keep challenging them to learn. They like playing better when they get better at playing.

Richard Bladel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Bennett said...

under this regime the administrators would't have accepted some of the great coaches of the past because they would be too demanding or driven. what would brian clough think about this new coaching development? I could hazard a very good guess but what would he know..........he had a knack of giving the suits a few pearls of wisdom and friendly advice.

Richard Bennett said...

looking forward to hearing from "someone that cares" on the issue of coaching.

Captain said...

There is a big difference to holding coaching clinics and also a big differwence to coaching juniors and coaching youth/adults.

It's a bit hard teaching tactics etc without some instruction.

Someone that cares said...

I hear you Richard. These are my thoughts on the issues of coaching juniors.

6-7 year olds - Fun and enjoyment is simply running around like crazy, trying to kick a ball and score a goal. For the majority of children at this age skill development, winning, team focus and spirit are not relevant. There is no problem with children playing the game from a young age, as long as they enjoy the experience. These players can be coached by someone without qualifications, but still understands the game.

8-9 year olds – For this age group fun and enjoyment now includes skill improvement and also an improved game performance. Friendships will start to form and peer recognition is becoming important. The opportunity to try different positions including goal keeping is also an important part of their fun and enjoyment as this age. Whilst these children now understand that they are competing and trying to ‘win’. Winning is still not the main motivation for playing the game and the coach should aim to de-emphasise the significance of the score. A junior license coach should coach these players.

10-11-12 year olds – Just like the younger age groups they also like to have fun and enjoyment. Although now fun includes winning, it is not the most important part of the fun. Whilst winning is becoming more important the players would prefer the coach to focus on the factors that will help them win, such as effective training sessions, rather than having the coach ‘stress’ out over the importance of winning. These players should be coached by a intermediate license coach involving a lot of technical ball skills and game technique.

For all age groups, playing the game is what it is all about, that means the game on the weekend.

Richard Bennett said...

perhaps "someone that cares" you need to run your own coach development courses based on knowledge and experience obtained from working with top quality coaches, clubs and ultimately players.

I suggest always better than just the text book.

I recently ( May 2009) witnessed an under 11 school match where the coach watched his team obviously out of their depth being demoralised by a better team (double figures scoreline) laughing with other parents rather than trying to instruct and encourage the team. A well meaning parent no doubt but a product of the FFT babysitter manager.

I wonder how many of those kids are playing next season.

Interesting story about coaching from a few years ago. I met a person locally who wanted to talk football at a social gathering and he had coached national junior teams in the 80's and at state league level in NSW but was rejected as a coach here for a junior state team. the reason given he didn't have a licence from Tas federation but could pay to do the course. He didn't accept the kind yet patronising offer.

observer said...

Richard Bennett I totally believe your story regarding the coaching course.
I know of a similar person who has played at senior level here for many years ,represented the state at junior and senior level,coached school teams,assisted with club sides and rep sides.He has been trying to commence/complete a course via FFT foe some time and has not been able to due to the utter confusion/inability of FFT to organise courses or assist with alternatives.I am sure that these courses are made up of a theory section and a practical section .I am sure that the theory component could have been completed in the participants own time ,with the practical component being assessed by someone at FFT,for example.There have been some people within FFT who do not/did not seem to wish to assist others become qualified .Maybe they feel threatened personally if other coaches become qualified.Having said that ,at the end of the day, as far as I am concerned ,the fact that someone has a piece of paper to say they have completed a coaching course means jack sh..t .
I have witnessed some coaches who have apparently completed some of these courses ,and to see them at training you would think they have never seen a soccer match , ever.I am not saying that you should not undertake some type of course , but just because you dont have that piece of paper ,does not mean that you cannot or should not be given the opportunity to coach.

Amazed said...


we have been down this discussion path before.

The reality of our current world is that no sensible administration would allow anybody to be in a coaching role without the appropriate qualification - too much liability for the organisation.

The requirements for State squads are understnably high - they need to be CURRENT - as it is current selectors with current thinking that choose national squads - no point in state teams playing 442 when the only system the national coaches want is 433.

So I respectfully disagree - just because you dont have the piece of paper IS a very good reason for you not to get the job.

observer said...

Amazed ,I disagree with your comments. State coaches will work under supervision/guidance of the director of coaching wont they ?
If they are instructed to use 443 formation as you suggest ,and as has been suggested by FFA , then so be it. Just because they do not have a licence doesnt mean they cannot do this , does it? Just becaue they have a licence doesnt mean they will automatically agree with the 443 system either . You were missing my point. I did not state that you shouldnt need the licence to coach state teams. I stated coaching in general. Read comments properly.My comments regarding FFT not assisting those wishing to undertake courses in the immediate past still stand.
What I was also suggesting was that the more coaches that are qualified ,outside of the little inner sanctum of the FFT state coaches of the past,the more competition there may be in the future , for state team positions from these new coaches .

Amazed said...


Not sure why you would think FFT have kept courses to an 'inner sanctum.

When Abela was here courses were underway regularly. Richard Evans wasnt really here long enough to progreess things, and in the absence of a person on staff qualified to run the courses FFT brought in people from the mainland to do so. So, given the resources available - what more would you expect FFT to have done?

Now that the position is filled again steps have been put in place to run more courses statewide and to get more people qualified to run the courses.

Simply continue to encourage people to attend and complete the courses - they might just be surprised what they learn from the face to face learning environment (from the instructor AND other participants). It is a fact of life that the piece of paper is rerquired - get used to it, get over it, and be positive for a change.

Richard Bennett said...

Amazed I agree with the point there is a system of licencing in place and we live with it because that's what the FFA decreed. no problem.

however previous posts are concerned that the piece of paper is following a coaching dogma laid down and imposed.

the only coaching development officer I have been given positive feedback on from coaches I would listen to was david abela and he was not here for long enough obviously.

while there is a need to formalise and require a coach to be licenced my concern is that when any licencing regime is introduced the quality and relevance of the courses must be sufficient and the licence in any industry recognises prior learning.

I am aware of some people who have demonstrated in some cases experience at very high levels of coaching who are lost to us because of this compulsion to only recognise what a coach is taught in tasmania. we should want to encourage these people and utilise their knowledge.

I think the FFT need to be organising some forums for current and ex coaches to discuss the current plans and to review the ongoing path of coach education in tasmania particularly at the higher levels.

just a thought do the FFT recognise other outside coaching qualifications that come from overseas/interstate and at what level? does the FFT have any discretion here or is it a national dictate?

Amazed said...

My understanding is that Recognition of Prior Learning has limited application and the new terminology is Recognition of Current Competencies. This concept isnt just in Tasmania but Australia wide and across all qualifications - not just Football.

Again, my understanding is that any outside qualification would be considered within the framework laid down by the Australian Sports Commission (Not just FIFA, AFC, FFA).

If you have been reading the weekly notes from Steve Payne on the FFT website it should be relatively clear where it is all heading. And I believe he has already held forums for coaches in each region .

Richard Bennett said...

Amazed thanks for the update on the FFT program. It sounds like a national directive but ASC driven. Maybe funding agreements possibly I wouldn't know. Is that what your saying?

I don't see however that 10,20,30or more years experience is less relevant than current competentcies and the point was do the ex-coaches with high levels of knowledge get engaged in the proccess or left out? I understand the coaches forum was not an open forum or discussion session. It was Steve introducing the directive as it is, no debate. Is that the case?

Surely the game has not changed that much only in the fields of sports science and conditioning etc no doubt. Styles and systems evolve and trends change but the basics remain and good coaches are constant students of the game and have natural people skills. Training courses make people aware of these issues but do not readily make the participants good practitioners.

It just seems to me and obviously others that the system being adopted is narrow and not flexible or discretionary enough to accept external factors that need consideration.

That's 3 questions for anyone to either answer or comment on. If there are any current top level coaches available to give some comment it would be appreciated.

By the way another great article Walter.

Who cares said...

Its getting complicated in its simplicity

If it doesnt look like football dont do it

Every one should be able to juggle a ball 50 times

Games without rules or goal keepers

No instructions from coaches

No stretches

Little old men from overseas with new ideas building cvs taking our $$ and then going away only for the next one to come in and start again

how much better off are we now

Richard Bennett said...

my concern at the moment is for madmcglone.
we haven't heard much from him since the bush turkey incident. or was it the wild turkey incident.
is all ok macca?

the sheppard said...

this might be a case of those who can't play- coach? as well as those who can't take their own medicine but can dish a bunch of ridiculous comments around. yes the philosophy is ridiculous, every player has their own needs and responds to critism ( both positive and neg) in different ways. you can have top players in each team, and as big headed as some coaches may be, they take most of the heat of a teams failure, they must take accountability of their own actions if they are playing by their rules and methods