A Positive Voice

Written By Mike Antrobus, FA Skills Coach and reproduced from TheFA.Com

Mike Antrobus, FA Tesco Skills Coach, emphasises the need for positive language when working with young players.

At times coaching children can be extremely difficult and challenging. Some children seem to sense the mood of the coach and push the boundaries as far as possible. Most coaches of young players will have experienced something similar.

Coaches often ask: “Why do they keep doing that?” “Why are they not listening?” and “Why won’t they do what they have been told?” The language used by the coach and how certain children, rather than others, are singled out for attention may be some of the possible reasons for this frustrating behaviour.

If a coach tells the children “do not to go outside of the area”, it is not surprising that some children do so straight away. Why? Some of the children will know it is a way to get your attention, even if the attention is achieved through a negative action. For some children, it seems, any attention is better than no attention at all.

There is a multitude of reasons why this may be the case: children may be used to lots of positive feedback and if they don’t get this straight away, they may look into other avenues to receive this. If children see the coach giving attention to others for misbehaving, they may see this as the only way to gain a response from you.

“If we want our players to change their behaviour then maybe we, as coaches, might have to change as well?”

Consider this at your next coaching session. Try to remain positive: “it would be brilliant if we could all stay inside the area”. It is important this is followed with feedback: “well done James for staying in the area and keeping the ball close”.

Over time the players will recognise that they need to follow your instructions to be noticed and praised.

Using different types of positive and empowering statements will help foster a positive learning environment where players will develop. Looking for opportunities to highlight positive behaviour and positive play can help motivate players to develop and change.

We have to consider what the children understand when we speak to them; they are not mini-adults, they are children, and need help to understand what is acceptable and what is not. The methods we use to guide this process are critical. Pick the positives out.

Continual emphasis on positive behaviour will encourage others to follow suit.

If we want our players to change their behaviour then maybe we, as coaches, might have to change as well? In your next session try to remain positive throughout, do not use negative language or highlight negative play. Re-emphasise the positive.

It may be difficult for you but try to see how the children respond to your coaching, you may be surprised. It is important to note that it will not happen immediately, it may take a few weeks.

Let me know how you get on via twitter: @FASkillsDorset @MikeAntrobus

More of Mike’s blogs on coaching children:

Spaced Out: Do young players know what we mean when we ask them to “find space”.

A Positive Environment: A discussion on the importance of managing mistakes to a young players’ advantage.

Mike Antrobus is an FA Tesco Skills coach in Dorset.

As a young player, Mike played for Crewe Alexandra’s Academy side, before turning to coaching – first with a BTEC in Sports Development and Fitness, and then completing his BSc in Sports Coaching.

After graduating, Michael moved to America where he oversaw the development of children aged 5 to 17 for MLS franchise Red Bull New York. Michael returned to England to join The FA Tesco Skills Programme in 2009.

Michael is a Level 3 qualified coach, and has also completed the FA Youth Award modules 1 and 2. As part of the Dorset FA Tesco Skills team, he works with schools and children in Poole.

This article appears on The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club website. For information about accessing the site and becoming a Licensed Coach please visit: The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club Website

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