The key to any football session is the engagement of those participating in it. I’ve taken part as a player and coach in thousands of sessions over the years and I of course remember many of them both good and bad. The good ones are those where I was fully engaged and enjoying myself, the bad ones were when I would be stood about for ages listening to the coach giving loads of instruction.
Obviously this was necessary at times in professional football when preparing for games and going through tactical detail for an upcoming fixture, I wouldn’t say it was always fun but understood how necessary it was and the importance of being focussed throughout to be fully understanding of your roles and responsibilities within the team.
Quite surprisingly while I was at Manchester United we didn’t work a huge amount on tactics on the training pitch, it was loads of possession games and small sided matches, and the tactics would be more detailed in team meetings leading up to the games. Obviously it helped that the team was so good and had individuals that were capable of scoring or creating a goal in the blink of an eye. But it was all about the players being sharp and ready for the games with loads of ball rolling time and match realistic practices.
It also meant the players were fully engaged, they were playing the game they loved in an intense, competitive environment and knew on a daily basis what they would be doing and it would be realistic to a game. When I left the club and went on to play for a number of other teams throughout the leagues it was very different, the emphasis would be alot more tactical and working on how we would stop the opposition playing and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. This would mean a lot more stopping and standing still throughout the sessions for the manager and coaches to get their point across to the squad.
When I began my coaching journey at a professional club working with young players I was always of the opinion that the game was the greatest teacher and would run many similar sessions that I was involved in at Manchester United. I found this would engage the players more and they found it more enjoyable, but then I started questioning myself, was I doing enough to help these young players improve and found myself going in a different direction. Constantly stopping the sessions desperate to get my coaching points across to both individuals and the whole group.
It became more about me and my eagerness to share my knowledge in exactly what everyone should be doing and although I thought I was doing a good job, there certainly was the same level of enjoyment and when enjoyment stops so does engagement and when you lose that engagement you don’t see much development. Again I had to change my approach to find a balance of imparting coaching points but more importantly the players doing what they were there for, playing football!
In the end I made the decision that working within professional football wasn’t for me, there were parts of my role I really enjoyed but parts that I really didn’t agree with. Probably the biggest reason was at the time there weren’t enough smiles and that included me and when the coach isn’t full of life and enthusiasm those they are coaching aren’t either!
This is when I came onboard with the Football Fun Factory an orginisation that is based on smiles with the main responsibility of the coach to see every child enjoying themselves and finishing the session with a massive smile on their face. This of course can only be achieved with engagement and that is why we deliver our sessions the way we do.
If you were to go to any of our Football Fun and Development sessions whether that be in Exeter or Scotland you will see it being delivered the same way, with the aim of engaging children from the first minute to the last. The way we structure our sessions is always arrival matches, then a fun based session, then more matches, then a development based session, before finishing off with some more matches. It’s fast paced and the hour goes in a blink of an eye and most importantly it’s fun and the kids love it!
We have a huge number of children attend our programmes, some have played a lot of football and for some it may be the first time they’ve ever kicked a ball but that doesn’t matter at all as our superstar Head Coaches are fantastic at managing difference and make sure regardless of current ability levels every child has a brilliant experience. And that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, every child deserves the opportunity to play the game and that’s exactly what we want to provide, a fun, enjoyable session that will inspire children to fall in love with the game and want to carry on playing!
You can only achieve this when they are engaged and enjoying what they’re doing!