Coaching Guide for Parents

Coaching guide for parents.

Here at Woodley Saints Football Club we are always looking to improve the fun, experience and education of all the boys and girls registered with the club.

All of the coaches at Woodley Saints have been on FA coaching courses and have been assessed.

Part of the courses that our coaches have attended is about the psychology of the education of children.

The basics of what the coaches have learned are that- children learn in many ways however, there is a hierarchy of the best ways. The best way that children learn is by doing.This is totally different from being told what to do.

A child that learns by completing an activity or a movement in football and being praised for what he/she has done, will have learned in a concrete way.

A child that is shown what to do and then repeats the activity will also learn. It is rare that a child will learn well by being told what to do in football.

It is important for parents and coaches to remember that yelling instructions from the side of the pitch will rarely be heard except as a criticism by the child. Praising good behaviour will however be heard and accepted as congratulations for something done well.

The FA considers the teaching of football to not only be about learning the game but also learning of life skills, teamwork and how to have fun.

The drills and mini games that our coaches have devised are based on the four corners model of teaching that the FA promotes.

The four corners approach to learning considers the physical, social, technical and psychological aspects of each drill and learning outcome.

It may sometimes seem abject chaos during a training session. Sometimes during practice matches or drills the coaches may just stand and watch. This is to allow the children to make mistakes and learn the game of football by themselves. !

One of the buzz phrases used by the FA is ‘let the game be the teacher.’

By correcting children too quickly we are taking away the ability of them to learn for themselves.

Some Psychology:

We have all heard the phrase of ‘crossing the white line’ used by professional footballers. It is used to demarcate going from preparing for a match to playing, thus going from the sidelines onto the field.

What we are looking for when our children cross the white line is for them to feel confident in their game, not to be thinking about mistakes, or expecting complaints moans or groans from the sideline.

When children are asked what they want from their football, it is to have fun, to play with their mates, to enjoy themselves, to make their parents happy, sometimes to win and unexpectedly- to get good exercise.

Children will often look to the sideline for reassurance from their coach or their parent when they have done something exceptionally well and when they feel they have made a mistake. What they should see is encouragement and smiles. What they should hear is ‘well done, excellent job, brilliant etc…’

On crossing the white line, whether in training or in a match situation a child should be thinking:

• What can I do to influence the game?

• What do I do next?

• What do I want to do?

• How do I want to play?

• What do I want my Dad/ Mum/coach to see?

• How can I help other players on the pitch?

It is our job as parents and coaches to give them the equipment/skills to be answering these questions that they are asking as they enter the field of play and play the game.

• It is not our job to answer those questions for them.

• It is not our job to tell them the answers from the sideline.

• It is not our job to take away their chance to learn

This is not just for older children but it is for all ages from mini-saints to the adult game.


When a young footballer makes a mistake it is important for us to think about what the child was going through when the mistake happened. We must not project the question would Messi have made that mistake or oh! He’s playing like (insert name of your least favourite player.)

By trying to get inside the child’s head, or, far more easily, asking him/her what was happening at the time of the incident- we will learn, as will the child.

When to help

A break in the play may be an appropriate time to have a short discussion with a child about a passage of play or issue a brief instruction that will help; it cannot be done whilst the ball is at the child’s feet.

Let’s face it, only a few years ago they could not walk and talk, let alone perform a Ronaldo and a swivel shot into the top corner, especially when being screamed at to ‘pass the ball.’

Most of us were ‘trained’ by being yelled at by a red-faced coach that matched his Manchester United coloured jacket. This is wrong; however children are not stupid and saying ‘well played’ after an 11-0 drubbing is also wrong, but positive constructive and true comments are appropriate.

We’re not European

It is a fallacy that the European players are more technically gifted than the UK based players. Just watch the children’s feet during training, especially when having a kick about where there is no pressure.

The difference between them seems to be in their confidence in their ability to use the skills without fear.

Our England team has consistently clammed up in the face of the press and the expectations of the supporters heaping pressure up on them.

Most of us watch football and see what happens to our team when fans are unhappy with what is happening on the pitch.

We should remember that these players are professional; so think of what our children will feel if they hear criticism when we’re watching them.

We hope this gives a little insight into the psychology behind modern football and


Simon Ruffle

“Everywhere I go there are coaches, schoolmasters telling young boys not to do this

and that and generally scaring the life out of the poor little devils. Junior clubs

playing with sweepers and one and half men up front, no wingers, four across the

middle. They are frightened to death of losing, even at their tender age, and it

makes me cry.”

– Alex Stock, former Luton, Fulham & QPR manager