Free Time – Express Yourself

Experimentation – something more coaches should be doing.

Yesterday I decided to experiment with my session and allowed the kids (11 year olds) to do whatever they wanted for the first 10 minutes of the session. I gave no direction and merely pointed to the fact they could use whatever equipment (Balls, Bibs and Cones) they wanted.

The aim of this experiment was to increase my understanding of the players as individuals and as a team. What kind of games would they set up? Who would be leading the discussion? What groups did they separate into? It would also help add something new to the session and re-energise the kids. I think as coaches, we are so eager to follow a set procedure (technique – skill – game related) that we forget that they are human beings and not X’s and O’s on a session planner. One thing I noticed was not once throughout the whole session did one player ask me if they could play a match. And even though we always finish with a 4v4, they would always ask if we would in previous sessions!

What happened:

I didn’t know what to expect when I sent them away for the free 10 minutes. It was as exciting for me as it was for them! What I found was they organised themselves very quickly.

What games did they play I hear you ask? WEMBLEY. The majority of the kids played Wembley (Singles). Another selection of kids decided to practice shooting. One kid decided to do a few kick ups then joined in with the group that were practicing shooting.

What did I find:

In terms of the football side, it wasn’t a surprise to see that the kids love shooting and taking each other on in the Wembley game. And some of the finishes were amazing! It was the other side that taught me something new. The “free time” increased my understanding of the players. Some players naturally take lead and organise and others follow. And the ones that lead aren’t always the “better” players. Some players abilities came to the fore. Some excelled in defending 1v1s and others dribbling. But one of the most important things I found was that it settled the session down. Kids arrive at the session with lots of enthusiasm. So it was good to let them be free and enjoy football without any of the restrictions or instructions that they get in their everyday lives.

Key Lesson: Experiment.

Not just with the games you put on but the structure of the session. Some coaches might not want to do this particular exercise but try something new in your session. If you try the same experiment as I did, let me know how it goes in the comments section or on my Twitter page. 

When I say change the structure, I don’t mean put the technique after the skill. Maybe start with a 4v4 game to see where they are before you teach the topic and then go into technique. Then when you play the game-related at the end of the session, you can spot the improvement in the players.

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2 thoughts on “Free Time – Express Yourself

  1. its a great idea, something I’ll have to try. After all we are not trying to turn out robots. we want our players to be able to think for themselves. Be Creative. NIce article.

    • You’re right Dave. Coaches need to be more innovative and experiment with games that allow kids to fully express themselves.

      Let me know how it goes and I hope you find out more about your team.

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