We are delighted to be joined today by Paul Robinson, author of The Soccer Sessions Book: 87 Prepared Practice Sessions for Coaching Youth Players – out today!
Hi Paul – thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations on publication day …
Q So why did you write The Soccer Sessions Book?
I wrote the book because I know the difficulties of designing and gathering training activities into a coherent session. I wanted everything all in one place, so I’ve brought everything together in this book so you can run a session from a single page. I also wanted to include aspects of child psychology and behaviour management that is often overlooked in coach education, which I have been able to do because of my experience in academia outside of sports coaching. The book came about organically from mentoring other coaches. After being asked frequent questions and coming across common areas of development that I felt could be better addressed by writing a book.
Q. What is it about The Soccer Sessions Book that makes this book stand out from the crowd in the way that it does?
There are a number of unique features:
- it includes everything that you need to deliver a productive training experience on one page.
- it offers sample questions and challenges with detailed coaching points to help you know what to look out for to gauge the development of your players.
- it offers guidance on child psychology and ideas on building a relationship with your players, creating an effective learning environment and developing a team spirit.
The book is designed with these unique features to allow the coach to create their own training programme and deliver fun and effective training sessions without the stress.
Q You’re a UEFA B and FA Youth Award qualified coach as well as a coach mentor and have a huge amount of experience of coaching girls and boys football/soccer – are there any differences between coaching girls and boys?
There are innate biological differences between boys and girls, which can affect how they play the game and how they should be coached. A well known adage is girls need to feel good to play well while boys need to play well to feel good. This is a good summary that’s loaded with information, which forms a great guide when training boys or girls. To help make girls feel good, they often need more regular encouragement, praise and affirmation. Girls tend to be more goal oriented while boys are more task oriented. In general, girls respond better if you explain the reasons behind what you’re doing while boys just want to get on with the task. This trait can make girls more likely to be perfectionists. Their desire for perfection often leads them to focus on their mistakes rather than their successes; affecting their self-esteem. Due to this, girls typically need to avoid failure, so they may be reluctant to compete or try new skills. This is why girls tend to be less competitive than boys in sport. With boys generally needing to play well to feel good, they need to achieve. This naturally leads them to compete. Therefore, boys can become increasingly frustrated if they can’t win.
Q. What age range is this book aimed at?
The book is aimed at coaches working with players aged 10 and up.
Q. Are methods very different to coaching adults?
England players in training games throw around a rubber chicken. Even elite level professionals want to have fun and enjoy the training. It’s useful for players of any age to be involved in the training session at all times to keep them engaged. It’s beneficial to interact with the players throughout the session and to make interventions when necessary. It’s also helpful to keep your sessions focused on a specific topic, so the coaching points can be reinforced throughout. This book offers guidance notes on how to adapt the session for between 10 and 16 players to keep everyone involved, guidance on how and when to intervene and sessions categorised by their focus so the sessions are coherent.
However, there are some notable differences. Older players being fully physically developed can cover larger distances easier. Their increased mental capacity allows them to take on more complex instructions and detailed coaching points. They are also much better at filtering and processing the vast quantities of information that occurs in a dynamic sport, so are better able to understand larger game formats. They are more self-reliant, so don’t need as much encouragement from the coach.
Q Have you always been interested in football? What age were you when you started?
I have been interested in football as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of playing football in school in an old bike shed.
Q. What position did you/do you play?
I’ve played in most positions, but mostly at left midfield or right full back. I then started coaching while I was in the United States and realised I enjoyed it.
Q. And how can we not ask – why ‘87’ Sessions?
There’s no real reason behind it. That was all I had at the time of writing. I’ve since designed more session plans, that could form a second book.
Q. If you could provide one piece of advice to junior and youth soccer coaches – what would it be? Other than go out and buy this book of course!
Try to understand the players you are coaching. Not just on an individual basis of getting to know them as a person and how to best interact with them, but understand how the player approaches training and appreciate their ability and limitations for their age and stage of development. Don’t expect too much from young players just because they may look competent and some teenagers can sound quite mature when they talk. Being patient and providing the necessary support to your players is essential throughout the long-term process of developing players.