09 December, 2014

Personal Development - It's all down to you

This post comes in direct response to two different things, both of which might be able to be answered through one ramble. The first is in response to several questions raised at our National Coaching Conference and something I hear fairly regularly - "I have a sports science degree from University of x, why can't I get a job in a professional club Academy?" The second is the question I get asked reasonably often too - "what was my career pathway to end up in the role I have?"

Hopefully by sharing some of my story (note: it's MY story, not anyone else's) it might help some of the people that ask the first question a lot. There is a generation of young people now that come out of university and expect the world on a plate, that they will walk straight into a top paying job at a top establishment. There was an article in the Daily Telegraph a few years back about 'Graduate Divas', the young people born in the late-1980's as part of Generation Y that think the world owes them a living and they expect everything without hard work. 

Of course, and this goes without saying, not all young people fall into that category. I know lots of tremendously hard working individuals that have gone way over and above the expected to develop themselves. They have given themselves a broad range of experiences and skills, beyond their piece of university paper, and sought these out. They rightly deserve opportunities later down the line. It's the ones that just expect it that are the issue. 

My Journey:
As I mentioned above, this is my journey. It's unique to me. I have worked in sports development my whole (proper) working life but different parts have played their role and shaped me as a person.

School
I started coaching when I was still at school, helping the PE teachers run inter-form activities for younger year groups in football and other sports. The lesson for me was clear - I need to do something that I am passionate about and working with young people in sport was certainly that.

University
I did a Sport and Leisure Management Degree at university, had an interesting time for three years. Whilst I wouldn't say the degree helps me in the job, it was more the learning about myself in those years that made the biggest difference. To be honest, my course was about 9 - 12 hours of lectures a week and the rest of the time I just spent playing football with mates! However, I also did a few coaching badges during the time that started me further on this road. 

Coaching
During the summer holidays between my second and third year I came home and coached all summer with a guy that has remained a good friend to this day. He is sooo old skool it is frightening! He knows it, I tell him this and we debate this often! At that time however I didn't know any different. He was an experienced coach, had his UEFA B' and therefore was the role model I aspired to be. Surely he was right, wasn't he? So I tried to copy him. For acceptance? Maybe. 

After university I went and did three months coaching in the US. When I say 'coaching' it probably wasn't but it was a hugely valuable experience and a very enjoyable time. Three months travelling round California, Nevada and bit of Utah was fascinating. I coached all sorts of players, from 5 and 6 year old children where I ran around singing 'Old MacDonald' to working with high quality girls team's that could truly play the game. It gave me a real varied insight into working with different groups, how I had to change my coaching style, what worked and what didn't. 

Work
I came home from the US and needed a job. I went to an interview for a job in Milton Keynes. I had to deliver a session as part of the interview in a sport I wasn't qualified in - I did a netball session that was basically a football game with hands. It was my relationship with the kids that made a big difference - I enjoyed working with them, they had fun and gave me a glowing report. 

So I moved 100 miles from home for my first job out of uni that paid £15,000 per year. The next two years saw me teach football to primary and secondary age children, boccia to children with disabilities, develop all sports within the school and gain a great insight into a whole host of things. If the table tennis coach didn't turn up I would deliver. If the basketball coach was running late I would take the session. I was also doing outreach sessions in the local community, offering sessions for old people to keep them active and for those out of work. 

I did a variety of coaching qualifications along the way too, including Level 1's in cricket, basketball, hockey, netball and badminton.

Whilst all this was going on I was shaping my coaching philosophy and influenced by lots of people around me. I started running a girls U12 team at a Centre of Excellence and had some great times there. I made lots of mistakes, got lots of feedback from the players and learnt some valuable lessons. 

County FA
After three years I changed jobs to focus solely on football development. Again, this started to have a big impact. I was fortunate to start working for some great people at this time including Les Howie and Donna McIvor; colleagues of today. Working at the CFA allowed me to really get out there and understand how grassroots sport worked. I was working with coaches and volunteers every night of the week, from running club development workshops to child protection training. 

This taught me about the importance of relationships - internally and externally. It frustrates me hugely now hearing about development staff that aren't allowed to leave the office. Development work is about people and relationships between them and you don't develop these through email. I knew everyone in clubs and most of the Heads of PE and the schools and colleges too - we never had coaching courses cancelled because we could always fill them through our networks. 

FA
I moved to a national role at the FA in Jan 2004, to manage our young leadership programme and club links work. The grounding of working in education and football development made a big difference. 

Young leadership is awesome. I loved watching the young people in the programme grow right in front of you, developing into fantastic young adults with a real skill set that could change the world. The work of Harry Shier and Roger Hart was a big influence at this stage - give young people a voice and choice on matters that affect them. It's not about me, it's about them. 

My next role was to set up the FA Skills Programme, working with Tesco as the sponsor. Fascinating times and really powerful for my development. I was now in and around coaches that I would truly class as 'experts' every day - John Allpress, Pete Sturgess, Paul Holder - and if you can't learn from them then you may as well change careers! We also did a piece of work with Brunel University, a guy called Richard Blair who really challenged thinking and professionalised what our coaches were doing. And I sat in these sessions, taking notes, listening and learning. 

Playing and Refereeing
Has being a player helped my understanding? 100% yes. Whilst I was never a top professional, I played 400+ games in the non-league and Futsal at international level. I worked with some great coaches that have also shaped my views on coaching and learning. Some good, some not so good but you learn from them all. 

I also thought it would be good to see things from a refereeing perspective so did that for a season too. I refereed adult park football in my county, proper Division 10 stuff and really enjoyed that. It's very easy to moan at the person wearing black but I can empathise now having experienced this, and speak from a position of credibility on the matter.

Reading
Throughout this time I was doing a lot of reading. A lot! My bookcase expanded tremendously and it has made a massive difference in my career. I wouldn't say I was widely read but I have made the effort to try and read things - whether academic articles or coaching/learning books. Less 'football' ones too. For example, Lynn Kidman, Raener Martens and Guy Claxton all gave a tremendous insight into what really is 'coaching' and player development.

Courses
Doing qualifications is important, of course, but is a tiny part of what shapes your philosophy and understanding. Estimates from elite coaches are they affect your development 10-15%. 

The FA Youth Coaches Course in 2005 was superb, gave a totally different view of the coaching world than the experience I had through the traditional pathway and was the pre-cursor to the FA Youth Awards. I've gone on to complete the FA Advanced Youth Award but Module 1 is still my favourite course!

More Coaching
Whilst at the FA I have ran a grassroots U8's team to mentoring coaches in the U14 teams. Running the kids team was great, the reality of never knowing who or how many were going to turn up to training each week. We were a poor team, lost every week, but the one game we won that season will stick with me for a whole host of reasons forever. 

Since then I have done six years in an Academy, working with talented boys. This was five years at U10 and one at U11. Some coaches have aspirations to get through the age groups to older ones as quick as possible, fuelled by a variety of different motives, but I wanted to be the best U10 coach I could be. 

Additional Parts
If there was an opportunity to get involved in something that would help my learning and development I would do it! I would travel a few hours to see a coach work if he/she was an expert and someone I could learn from. 

I'm coming towards the end of a Masters degree and halfway through a Level 4 course in Talent Identification. I was asked to be on the Board at a schools Academy Trust and without knowing what it was about, threw myself into it! I am well out my depth at times when I look round the other Board members but learn something every time we meet and invariably I can translate to my coaching or job. 

Summary
In no way was this ramble set out to be a 'look at me, aren't I great' piece like a few I read. I'm still learning every day, know I have so much to do in order to be a better person and a better dad. However, hopefully it can give a sense of the breadth of different activities I have been involved in along my journey so far. 

Nothing comes easy, you have to go out of your way to work hard and the world owes you nothing. You cannot sit back and wait for your break to happen, thinking you deserve it. 

When I worked at the Academy and got requests from coaches to come in and observe sessions, brilliant, they are the guys I want on my team all day long. 

30 October, 2014

Helping Players Learn: The "WHY" of Coaching Styles

On my travels I hear lots of different comments about coaching styles; what is good, what is bad and how if anyone says "stop stand still" they should immediately be deported to Jurassic Park. However, It isn't quite as simple as that. 

Whilst we might not have a clue what learning has taken place in the immediate term (whether they actually directed their focus towards the learning objective plus some learning will be implicit) the only thing we can control is what comes out of our mouth's as coaches. Therefore, I would strongly advocate a couple of things:

1. Understand WHY you are going to use a specific coaching style
2. Plan this as part of your session preparation before you start

There are a variety of different frameworks to help understand this further and the wonders of Google Scholar will help with more reading. The one I like specifically is that of Mosston and Ashworth (2002) which puts forward a continuum of styles from Command (Style A) at one end to Self-Teaching (Style K) at the other end. This doesn't state that any one style is better or worse than another, just that they help facilitate different outcomes. The key to this is knowing why you are using a specific method to help the players. 



Here are a few on the spectrum with a little bit about them:

Command Style: All the decisions are made by the coach and the players are told what to do and how to do it.
What's it good for: Short-term development of technique (unopposed practices).
Risk: Limited long-term ability to take this into games or retention of information.

Guided Discovery: Coach decides where the learners are going to go and leads them towards the answer.
What’s it Good For: Developing thinking skills and technical ability.
Risk: Lack of knowledge by the coach in understanding what questions to ask and when.

Divergent Discovery: Coach presents a problem and learners find their own solution.
What’s it Good For: Enhance game understanding and technical ability plus social and emotional development.
Risk: Lack of knowledge by the coach in understanding how to organise and structure this.

Individual Programme: Coach decides content and learners plan and design the programme. 
What’s it Good For: Enhance game understanding and technical ability plus personal development.
Risk: Willingness of coach to let go of the power and trust the players and players ability to do it. 

Therefore, if you are doing a game where you are looking to develop the decision-making and problem solving skills of the players, using command style is not going to be anywhere near as effective as another style further down the spectrum. Equally, if you are looking to develop creativity in a specific part of the practice, you will be better served using Divergent Discovery, where the players can head towards no specific solution but the teaching can allow them to find their own solutions to the problem posed. 

In summary, it really helps to plan your coaching styles at different times, but equally knowing your players is really important here too. I used to coach one lad that had autism and ADHD and he needed small chunks of information that were very clear and explicit. Asking loads of questions to him was just not going to work.

All I will say in closing this entry is just beware, you stepping in to stop a practice to give a player the answer might just take away from the moment when they were just about to work it out for themselves! Not easy, this coaching lark....
















04 September, 2014

The Science of Play – why adults structuring ‘unstructured learning’ is essential

We’ve all been there… the last five seconds and you need to score a header or a volley to keep the same goalkeeper in, or do you make the decision not to touch the ball in case you miss and have to go in goal yourself… the excitement of street games are endless and timeless. Well, I say they are timeless but are they?

Adults of a certain age, probably 25 upwards, almost had a rite of passage whereby playing Three and In, Headers and Volleys or 60 Seconds was a daily playground or after-school ritual. This bred a huge amount of different skills that were transferable to life and to football including;
-          Self-regulation of games
-          Ownership of rules
-          Conflict resolution
-          Volleying and crossing techniques
-          Reactive saves from short distance

However, the change in society, less informal play and the structure of youth sports being adult-centric with young people relying on parents to take them to sporting activities has seen a decline in street games. I spoke to two U10’s at the Club I coach whilst they were playing some street games at training to ask them where they learnt about these games. One player said he had learnt them from a coach that used to do them at coaching sessions when he was younger and the other said he had never played them until he came to the Club at U9 and learnt them from other players.

I’m therefore going to put forward the case that coaches should actively plan time for informal play within their coaching sessions, actually allocate time for the children to organise their own mini-games without the adults intervention. Simply for the reason that these are games children enjoy playing!

It is well documented in literature that ‘play’ has a huge amount of benefits. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavours (Gray, 2008).

By definition ‘Play’ has the following characteristics and it is worth exploring how you can plan in your coaching for this development to occur:
(1) Play is self-chosen and self-directed; it is something they want to do, not made to do and they have the freedom to manage their own actions during play. Natural leaders emerge through the children’s choice, not because an adult allocate roles. If you try and lead it, this is no longer play!

(2) Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends; the joy for children involved in play comes through the process, not the outcome. Does anyone remember the score of a game up the park involving mates?! I asked some children in our village that I saw playing football who won in yesterday’s game. They said they had no idea and it didn’t matter in the slightest – they were just playing (and learning!).

(3) Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players; watching a pick-up game developed by children you can observe them change the rules, move players about to make the teams fairer or make one goal smaller (agreed between the players) because that makes the game better, for them.

(4) Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life; you often hear young players say “I’m Ronaldo today” and by that they are going to take themselves into a fantasy world where they pretend they are. They know they aren’t really Ronaldo but for that time during play, they are.

(5) Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind; evidence suggests this “flow” state is great for learning, where children can get absorbed in the process not the outcome without narrowing their views of the world.

Research about learning shows that strong pressure to perform well (which induces a non-playful state) improves performance on tasks that are mentally easy or habitual for the person, but worsens performance on tasks that require creativity, or conscious decision making, or the learning of new skills (Gray, 2008). The game of football is clearly the latter.

In contrast, anything that is done to reduce the person’s concern with outcome and to increase the person’s enjoyment of the task for its own sake—that is, anything that increases playfulness—has the opposite effect and will be more beneficial for player development.

Deliberate play situations allow children the freedom to experiment with different movements and tactics and the opportunity to learn to innovate, improvise and respond strategically (Cote, Baker & Abernethy, 2007). Organising games along the lines of things the children want from their football experience can be hugely beneficial for learning and development, and this isn’t exclusive to younger players either, teenage players need a sense of freedom, ownership and playfulness too. Give it a try!

Cote, J., Baker, J. & Abernethy, B. (2007). Practice and play in the development of sport expertise. In R. Eklund & G. Tenenbaum (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology, pp.184-202. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Gray, P. (2008). Freedom to learn. The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning. Psychology Today.


24 July, 2014

The Value of Play; Money in the Player Development Bank

Play is not just child's business, it's serious learning!

We've all been there… the last five seconds and you need to score a header or a volley to keep the same goalkeeper in, or do you make the decision not to touch the ball in case you miss and have to go in goal yourself… the excitement of street games are endless and timeless. Well, I say they are timeless but are they?

Adults of a certain age, probably 25 upwards, almost had a rite of passage whereby playing Three and In, Headers and Volleys or 60 Seconds was a daily playground or after-school ritual. This bred a huge amount of different skills that were transferable to life and to football including;

-          Self-regulation of games
-          Ownership of rules
-          Conflict resolution
-          Volleying and crossing techniques
-          Reactive saves from short distance

However, the change in society, less informal play and the structure of youth sports being adult-centric with young people relying on parents to take them to sporting activities has seen a decline in street games. I spoke to two U10’s at the Club I coach whilst they were playing some street games at training to ask them where they learnt about these games. One player said he had learnt them from a coach that used to do them at coaching sessions when he was younger and the other said he had never played them until he came to the Club at U9 and learnt them from other players.

I’m therefore going to put forward the case that coaches should actively plan time for informal play within their coaching sessions, actually allocate time for the children to organise their own mini-games without the adults intervention. Simply for the reason that these are games children enjoy playing!

It is well documented in literature that ‘play’ has a huge amount of benefits. It is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavours (Gray, 2008).

By definition ‘Play’ has the following characteristics and it is worth exploring how you can plan in your coaching for this development to occur:

 (1) Play is self-chosen and self-directed; it is something they want to do, not made to do and they have the freedom to manage their own actions during play. Natural leaders emerge through the children’s choice, not because an adult allocate roles. If you try and lead it, this is no longer play!

(2) Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends; the joy for children involved in play comes through the process, not the outcome. Does anyone remember the score of a game up the park involving mates?! I asked some children in our village that I saw playing football who won in yesterday’s game. They said they had no idea and it didn't matter in the slightest – they were just playing (and learning!).

(3) Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players; watching a pick-up game developed by children you can observe them change the rules, move players about to make the teams fairer or make one goal smaller (agreed between the players) because that makes the game better, for them.

(4) Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life; you often hear young players say “I’m Ronaldo today” and by that they are going to take themselves into a fantasy world where they pretend they are. They know they aren't really Ronaldo but for that time during play, they are.

(5) Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind; evidence suggests this “flow” state is great for learning, where children can get absorbed in the process not the outcome without narrowing their views of the world.

Research about learning shows that strong pressure to perform well (which induces a non-playful state) improves performance on tasks that are mentally easy or habitual for the person, but worsens performance on tasks that require creativity, or conscious decision making, or the learning of new skills (Gray, 2008). The game of football is clearly the latter.

In contrast, anything that is done to reduce the person’s concern with outcome and to increase the person’s enjoyment of the task for its own sake—that is, anything that increases playfulness—has the opposite effect and will be more beneficial for player development.

Deliberate play situations allow children the freedom to experiment with different movements and tactics and the opportunity to learn to innovate, improvise and respond strategically (Cote, Baker & Abernethy, 2007). Organising games along the lines of things the children want from their football experience can be hugely beneficial for learning and development, and this isn’t exclusive to younger players either, teenage players need a sense of freedom, ownership and playfulness too. Give it a try!


Cote, J., Baker, J. & Abernethy, B. (2007). Practice and play in the development of sport expertise. In R. Eklund & G. Tenenbaum (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology, pp.184-202. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Gray, P. (2008). Freedom to learn. The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning. Psychology Today.

23 July, 2014

Managing Mistakes: a few considerations...

Mistakes? or Opportunities?

It is pretty much accepted that making mistakes is an essential part of learning yet we sometimes then take the easy route to shortcut their learning - by giving players the answer. Clearing out some old files I stumbled across the below from 2008 and whilst this may be six years old, I think many of the principles are still current and worth consideration.

Strategies for managing mistakes to the players’ advantage

·         Allow for self correction and monitor progress – if the challenge is right and the learning outcome clear given the time and opportunity players may well put mistakes right themselves without the need for the coach to intervene.

·         In an all action activity which is interesting and challenging the group may not readily notice the coach speaking quietly to individuals. But beware – players will talk later and if you only ever speak to individuals about their mistakes the group will soon know what your strategy is; so mix it up with praise for good play.

·         Ask a question. ‘What were you thinking when you tried that?’ It gives players a chance to explain their actions and what they saw. After all you may well be quite a distance from the action and not really see what they did and more importantly why they did it.

·         Get into a positive mind set. Look for success rather than failure, after all most mistakes are 90% right. So work on the positive side. ‘I like what you did here and here, did you see this possibility?’


·         Talk to the group as well as individuals. Remind and re-enforce the key elements that get success and get players to show positive examples via quality demonstrations.




15 May, 2014

Coaching Young Children - It's an investment for the future

Coaching Younger Children

A shorter but hopefully helpful blog post today and it's about coaching young children in a specific way.

By using facets of 'play' for children, allowing them to be creative, exploratory and imaginative is essential. 

By using a games-based approach to learning sport, ensuring the experience is as close to the 'real thing' as possible, authentic and realistic is essential. 

By allowing young people to have a voice and choice in what and how they learn things, gently creating opportunities for ownership, leadership and responsibility is essential. 

By fostering a sense of self-worth, ensuring they feel valued as part of the learning process and being an individual yet also part of a team is essential.  

The returns from using activities that foster these skills are essential for long term development but be very clear, the returns on using an approach like this isn't about the returns you will get immediately. If we allow all the above parts to happen we are going to be in a better place in the future. 

You see, I would liken this to what you do with your money. By doing all of the above things you are essentially setting up a five-year ISA; a saving's plan that you can't draw the money out of for a long period of time but will reap higher returns later down the line. This process doesn't create an ATM/Cash Machine that you can draw out the money straight away!

Coaching in this way isn't about instant returns to help you win a league or championship or anything short-term. It's about equipping young players with the skills that will be of huge help in the future, whether they become a footballer or a fireman. It is very timely when working with younger children to develop these skills as some may be harder to develop later down the line.

I would quite happily be the coach of a group of U14's that have been exposed to this previously, to all of these coaching methods in the younger ages and be able to reap the returns. However, if they haven't, don't expect what you draw out the cash machine in five years to be anywhere near what you can get from the saving's plan!



23 April, 2014

Developing Creative Players...first you need to understand creative people!


One of the most common phrases I hear up and down the country is the distinct lack of creative players in the English game, currently possessing an English passport. Whilst we talk lots about wanting to develop this, the real question is, what do they look like and how do we foster these traits on the grass? I’m going to start by sharing some findings from a research study to help our understanding of just what it is we should be looking for within our children and I’ll attempt to add the football architecture to the plot.

1.   Associative orientation: The people with creative talents may well be more imaginative, playful and have a wealth of different ideas. They have an ability to be committed yet slide transitions between fact and fiction.

In the football world, have you come across the player that wants to talk about lots of different ways to approach things? The ones that when you show them a tactics board will move all the counters, proudly saying “...and then he could run here, and she could pass the ball down to him, and he could run into there and cross it here....” – recognise those ones? Try not to miss the conversations these players are starting, as whilst they might not be what you want at that time and a little frustrating, they are sharing a unique insight into the creativity of their mind.

2.   Need for originality: The creative ones will often resists rules and convention; not sticking to what is expected. Some really creative people will have a rebellious attitude because of a need to do things no one else does.

When you are setting up a practice and the focus of learning is on a particular skill, but one player doesn’t want to do that one, they want to make up their own trick and try something different - can you think of many players that do this? I can remember one boy I used to coach that used to drive me barmy doing this, not focusing on the learning I originally thought, but actually this is often where the best and newest ideas come from. The Cruyff turn? Ronaldo’s free kick technique? Ideas developed through play and exploration then honed through practice.

3.   Motivation: Creative people have a need to perform, are incredibly goal oriented and possess an innovative attitude. They often have the staying power and stamina to tackle difficult issues.
Match day comes round, you’ve been working in training during the week on ‘when to pass and when to dribble’ yet all of this seems lost as Mr. Creative decides to try and take on two players in the middle of the pitch, loses the ball and the other team score... I think we have all been there. Our immediate reaction as a rationale adult with a fully developed brain is ‘has he not learnt anything this week’ but for that player, they were just having a go at something new! Rather than worry about the score as the outcome, engage them in a conversation on performance and allow them to start making the links.

4.   Ambition: The people with bundles of creativity have a need to be influential, to attract attention and recognition.

It is very easy as an adult to confuse this with ‘showing off’, the player that likes to be centre of attention. Transfer this across different domains and think about this at school, through the eyes of the music teacher, drama teacher or art teacher. What does a creative child look like there? They may showcase their talents in a very different way and often the very best in those domains are not the showing off types. In a football sense, try and spot the players in your group that like to try different ideas, that aren’t afraid of getting it wrong in front of others. Under the surface their brain may be calculating different ways to make that attempt better.

5.   Flexibility: Creative brains have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optimal solutions.

Coaches have the ability to facilitate learning across a multitude of different levels; helping players get better at football is one way but also helping them become better people is vitally important too. The way you structure your coaching can help promote this. For example, when splitting up the team into small groups to develop tactics and strategies to solving a particular problem you have set them, consider the outcomes closely. There are certainly the specific football parts that will be developed but it’s vital you listen to the process as much as the outcome. Who has a different view to other people? Who offers something that others haven’t considered? Who see’s the problem from a different perspective to other people? They might be your creative talents.

6.   Low emotional stability: Creative people have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state and a failing self-confidence.

There is no denying it, the most talented players of different generations are often the flawed genius, bringing with them challenges in other areas of their life, compensated by wild extremes. Do you recognise this in some of your players? We often associate these traits with different ages and stages of maturation, of which many are, but sometimes there is a knock-on effect to our coaching style also. How do we manage these young people? There is a great saying that coaches need to adjust their style of delivery to the learner, not the learner needing to adjust to them. Some players require an arm round the shoulder at times and if our default style is a little more towards the other end of the spectrum it is important we recognise this.

7.   Low sociability: The most creative have a tendency not to be very considerate, are often obstinate and will find faults and flaws in ideas and people.

The creative ones will view a problem through a different lens to the other players, not in a ‘concrete sequential’ kind of manner, but with more ‘random and abstract’ thinking. If they don’t see their team mates sorting out a challenge in a way they would, when they consider their ideas to be better, they will often demonstrate frustration and criticise the plan. Managing this in terms of developing their people skills is important, helping them understand that listening to different views can be beneficial and it shows good emotional intelligence and empathy towards other people.

As you will notice, some of these traits sound positive, such as the motivation, but others can sound hard work within a team environment. The challenge for you as a coach is to recognise these exist and then manage them, not stifle their creativity. Managing your own frustrations is an important part and understand that by setting the right environment, you have the ability to foster some absolute creative geniuses, maybe not in the professional football sphere, but in their wider life. And that is really important.

Nick Levett
FA National Development Manager (Youth Football)
@nlevett


√ėyvind L. Martinsen. The Creative Personality: A Synthesis and Development of the Creative Person Profile. Creativity Research Journal, 2011; 23 (3): 185.