By John Cartwright
The playing of a small-sided game at the end of a training session is popular at all levels. Following on from sessions of a physical type or of tactical or skill practises, the small-sided game can offer an enjoyable and constructive conclusion to a training period. However, the use of the small-sided game merely as a ‘treat’ or ‘sweetener’ to players, as is often the case, should be carefully considered.
In my opinion, each training session should be a continuation of sessions previously carried out and all practice should be a stage in a planned route towards a designated playing vision. Too often coaching sessions follow no pre-determined direction with little or no coordination between them. Using the small-sided game to simply inject ‘a bit of fun’ as a ‘fill in’ at the final part of a session is not the best use of coaching time. The final stage of a session offers the coach an opportunity to bring his/her work to a ‘rounded’ conclusion. The small-sided game at this time allows the ‘threads’ of the session to be neatly pulled together; it provides a completeness to both actions and understanding for the players in a competitive situation; and it gives the coach an opportunity to assess his/her players and see whether or not the session’s objective(s) has been achieved.
No, I’m not suggesting that training sessions should be gloomy or glum affairs. It is the responsibility of a coach to inspire and stimulate his/her players by providing sessions that are enjoyable, understandable, achievable and progressively organized. Even physical sessions can be less off-putting and more enjoyable for players if the work is presented in subtle ways! To have real fun when involved in a sporting context, the participant needs to have acquired a high playing standard. To superimpose fun just to stimulate involvement in youngsters is fine but there has to be a genuine objective to activities that allows fun and learning to blend. The saying states, ‘all work and no fun makes Jack a sad boy’; but it can also be reversed to state. ‘all fun and no work makes Jack a slacker’!.
The use of the word – FUNdamentals with the emphasis on the first syllable, is a clever way to draw attention in combining basic learning with enjoyment. However, the use of any words in an exaggerated form is no remedy for faulty practice methods; inappropriate practice carried out with the ‘broadest of smiles’ will not produce the talented sports’ person! The most obvious way to have fun is to do something you enjoy doing. If playing football is your passion, it seems only logical that you will enjoy practising football if practice bears a close resemblance to the actual game.
Even in the ‘autumn’ of life, many like to take part in some form of kick-about. Playing the game still has an inviting and empowering hold over those who have enjoyed the ‘rough and tumble’ the camaraderie, the ups and downs of victory and defeat, the travel etc. all are important in the love for the game, but it’s playing that, despite age and infirmity, we all would love to be able to do. Yes, its playing that puts a smile on your face and a determination in your heart to play it better at every opportunity. Playing football is what kids did in the street, debris and school playgrounds and whilst they were playing they were practising without realizing it, they didn’t need words or even coaching, all they needed was a small flat area; any type of something to kick and enough players for a game – and they enjoyed it, HOUR AFTER HOUR — they had FUN!
PREMIER SKILLS is all about putting that REAL FUN back into football. PRACTICE – PLAY is the FUNdamental ingredient of their coaching methodology. Realism to the actual game has been carefully constructed to provide appropriate practices for each age-related level.
Give our youngsters the chance to experience of Practising whilst Playing and……………… LET THE REAL FUN BEGIN!!