Coaches Corner

The Albion Foundation is uniquely recognised for the quality delivery of sport and education

Coaches Corner

Each month, a member of the Sports Development team will discuss a specific topic from within the beautiful game and their thoughts on the subject. Each thought will be supplemented with relevant media and evidence to showcase their points. 

November – Adapting Sessions to Suit the Needs of Individuals – James Long

“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation”
Max McKeown, English writer.

Sports Coaches are an integral part of sport and help people participating in sport to work towards achieving their full potential, by working with them closely to improve their performance. Sports Coaches identify the needs of the individuals, plan and implement suitable training sessions all with the aim of improving ability and performance. Planning is crucial to the success of your session, however if you were to plan one session, would it be suitable for all ages, abilities, disabilities and learners?

Increasing the size of the ball can impact success and performance. Increasing the size could make it easier to control, decreasing it could make it harder offering a bigger challenge.

Increasing the size of the ball can impact success and performance. Increasing the size could make it easier to control, decreasing it could make it harder offering a bigger challenge.

Adaptability. This word is often used by coaches and teachers particularly when working with children. Meeting the individual needs of everyone is a challenge for all coaches and is something that must be incorporated and considered when planning a PE or Sports session. As part of your session plan you should take steps to ensure everyone can carry out the skill whether that be low level players, gifted and talented and even players that cannot participate physically.

For example, if a child is unable to pass a football to a partner over 10 yards, do we consider this a failure? Does the child deem this as an impossible task? potentially becoming discouraged and/or may lose confidence. As a coach, how could we facilitate this child’s learning and improve their performance – an example would be that we could simply decrease the distance to their partner and/or we could increase the width of the passing channel to improve the child’s chances of success.

At the opposite end of scale, we could have a gifted and talented individual in the same session who can complete this skill with

Incorporating a ramp for a disabled child to pass a ball to a partner.

Incorporating a ramp for a disabled child to pass a ball to a partner.

ease. Do we leave them to carry on, potentially becoming de-motivated and unchallenged? Or could we apply the same method but instead of decreasing for lower ability, we could now increase the distance, lower the number of touches the child may have (1 touch to control, 1 to pass), or adding a defender to apply pressure.

What if we also had a child who was injured or didn’t have their kit in the same session. Do they just sit at the side and watch? Can they be included in the lesson? Children that are unable to participate whether it be from injury, lack of kit, etc. could be included by setting them individual or group challenges – for example can you challenge them to write down the learning outcomes of the session, can they analyse a team mate and make notes, can they provide feedback to pupils during debriefs.

When planning your sessions, can you consider –

  • Keeping your coaching points clear and simple
  • Match ability to ensure individuals are supported and challenged
  • Structure the practise so that everyone achieves success and gains satisfaction through seeing their own improvement
  • Ensure there are sufficient activities to allow for changes in the children’s needs 
  • Reward effort and ability equally

Vincent Lombardi (Former Green Bay Packers Head Coach) discussed how “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible”. Put simply, by adapting a session to meet the needs of the children not only can we help improve performance, we can also have a positive impact an individual’s perception, motivation and confidence which is all integral when you are helping an individual fulfil their potential.

October – Developing the Creative Player – Dave Lawrence

Steve Jobs described creativity as simply putting two things together.  Take chocolate covered raisins for example- chocolate and raisins.  Children love chocolate yet gain extra benefits from eating fruit.  Brilliant.  Now, imagine a player who is able to put two things together to create a skill. 


We see young players trying Rainbow flicks, flick-flacks and all other crazy movements. But can creativity also come in the form of a dribble which ends in a cross??  Does the thought process a child goes through to reach this decision show creativity?  So, how do we enhance a culture of creativity in players during our training sessions? 

Use terms such as ‘try’ or ‘explore’ or ‘is there another way you can’ during coaching sessions.  Autocratic coaching style is banned should you wish to enhance creative thought.  Allow a ‘Free Swim’ section to your hour with the players to allow them to go off in small groups and come up with their own skill.  You may be surprised what they can come up with. 

Encourage players to show skill in a creative way, and when it doesn’t come off or the skill is not a success, encourage the idea, yet reinforce the need for the player to assess how/when/where.  Imagine if an autocratic coach was in charge of Lionel Messi’s under 8 age group……….creativity would have not been as high on the agenda.  Would he have won 5 Ballon D’Ors??

To highlight what Dave means behind the term “Creative Player”, he has suggested watching the goal from Morgan Amalfitano against Manchester United:

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