The Coaching Philosophy at the Hawks

Ages 3-5

At this age children are still learning to interact with others so sessions need to be planned and delivered to create an exciting environment. Sessions must be based on maximum participation with every child having a football at their feet.

Playing football  in a fun stimulating environment helps children learn through games and their imagination this is most important. At U5 each child develops in a variety of ways, the main principle is to improve a child’s basic motor skills whilst also developing the Childs physical, physiological and social development.

When coaching U5’s we try and adapt sessions to something that relates to their age group, for example we use characters from movies or every day things that children observe and integrate them into the training sessions. Games such as “Traffic Lights” where the call of Red, Yellow, or Green mean a different footballing action such as run with the ball, stop and control the ball etc. make the drill fun.

We have a game we call “Crocodile” where players each with a ball at their feet are encouraged to freely run with ball but as soon as the coach calls out Crocodile the players must quickly run their ball into the centre circle before the coach steals their ball from them.

By instructing and demonstrating techniques such as the use of the inside of the foot to pass the ball and creating an environment of fun where children use their imagination the emphasis is on fun and players are learning without realizing they are using correct techniques.

Our coaches are encouraged to keep players in a small grid so the children can easily identify a playing boundary – this also helps them to focus. Our coaches are encouraged to put as much energy and enthusiasm into the session as possible by ensuring an involved role. The teaching of skills need to be very animated and imaginative.

Having fun is the most important aspect at this age as we are trying to build confidence in each of the players. It is vital that each child has a positive experience whilst at the Hawks.

Ages 6-9

Working with ages 6-9 is all about maintaining the enjoyment and fun of football whilst teaching the correct techniques at the early stage of learning.

In this age group we ask our coaches to concentrate on getting players to become comfortable on the ball. We introduce juggling and other exercises to encourage youngsters to relax their touch on the ball.

No matter what level players are at our program is set to implement basic technical skills and a continued love for the game in a fun filled environment.  Our sessions are based on maximum participation, every child with their own ball, high repetitions and once again, a fun environment. Gradually we introduce new areas of the game with a main emphasis of the FUNdamentals with the four core skills that are 1 vs 1; Striking the ball; First touch and Running with the ball dribbling being the core focus.

At this age group we aim to develop technique and basic tactical understanding. As players near the u8-u10 stages their capacity to solve problems increase significantly. This is why our players begin working on basic and dynamic tactical scenarios.

Players develop at different rates and our coaches recognise that some will have excelled quicker than others. In an effort to ensure that players are continually challenged our coaches are armed with training techniques to ensure that players of varying skill levels are kept motivated.

Foot skills and ball familiarity is of high importance. Players in this age group will be able to follow 2 or 3 step instructions and are starting to have a good understanding about what it means to play a “game”. They are also starting to cooperate more with their teammates. In fact, they now will recognize that they even have teammates by the fact that they occasionally will pass the ball to a teammate.

Ages 10 – 12

In this age group teams are really starting to be formed at a competitive level. E.g. the SAP; Komodo and Goanna levels. Our coaches still need to make sure that all of their technical skills are developed, and passing, dribbling, shooting and defending are established within a player. Our sessions now start to focus on the tactical side of football. We now start working on positioning, individual player tasks, and team collective tasks and roles and encouraging players to make decisions for themselves. This is why as Technical Director I get angry at those parents who coach from the sidelines.

Our coaches start to have much better organised training sessions starting

off with a warm up, followed by:

an unopposed exercise so that the players learn and practice a particular skill without any pressure. This is followed by:

an opposed practice to practice the skills under pressure and then finishing off with a conditioned game where the players can now use these skills in a game situation.

Our goal is to develop players in a fun, engaging environment. Winning has its place but must be balanced with the other goals of teaching them to play properly. Some decisions will need to be made that might not necessarily lead to wins (ie: having players play different positions, or asking players to try to play the ball “out of from the back” This phase of learning can often result in heavy defeats which does not always sit well with parents but is unfortunately a necessary evil which everyone must accept if they want young players to become accomplished players as they approach youth and senior football.

Our Training programs and cycles ensure that the coaches have specific topics to focus on and ensure that every player in the age group is following a curriculum and is being challenged to become the very best that he/she can be.  Players are encouraged to be creative and try new skills at training. Lets face it if a player does not try things during training how are they expected to demonstrate a skill during a game.

At this age group they are ready to have a preferred position, but, it is essential for their development that occasionally they play out of their preferred spot, in training, as well as during games. I also feel that smaller, less skilled players need to be encouraged to play in positions with more responsibility, despite it being tempting for coaches to  play to “win” by playing only the bigger more skilful players in key positions. This is another pressure that coaches feel from the sideline. The need to get results! Take directly from me that my coaches are under strict instruction to follow the program regardless of any pressure from parents regarding results.

The constant substitutions during games is another situation that MUST stop this does not help team cohesion and equal playing time needs to be seen by parents as equal time over a season not game by game. This is especially so in SAP level more so than at a more social level.

Ages 13-15

Players at this age should now have a good understanding of the game. Players should always be working towards technical proficiency and improved tactical decisions in a game environment. Technical abilities should still be highly emphasised at this age. Their skills must be perfected and performed under pressure of an opponent under restrictions of time and space. Tactical training should involve the continued use of individual and small group tactics to help players increase their decision making ability.

Our coaches exercise patience when developing players and understand that they must allow players to learn by doing. It is through mistakes that players learn. Players in this age group tend to have greater mental toughness and self confidence yet can be very self critical at times, and can struggle with their desire to be competitive.

Coaches at the Hawks are instructed to encourage players to focus on communication and giving each other information. When coaching movement of the attackers or defenders our coaches are instructed to show the players what is being asked of them – this is beneficial for their learning and development.

Coaches at the Hawks must adhere to:

  • Get the attention of players before speaking
  • Keep it simple
  • Be positive at all times
  • Focus on the most important aspects
  • Give clear instructions to players
  • Always finish with a positive
  • Don’t forget they are just kids not professional players

Ages 16-18

When coaching this age group our coaches understand that most of the players have developed their technical side of the game, such as dribbling passing and shooting. So now our coaches start to focus on the tactical side of the game much more in depth. Can the grouo of players now play as a unit, denying and restricting space for the opposing team? When attacking can they be creative, change positions and start thinking intelligently on the field. Players must be more aware on the field and will need to react to different situations on the field, another huge part of this age group is decision making, as it can influence a players development.

Coaches Are instructed to keep their session’s high in intensity, always keep players focused and encourage communication between the team. Coaches know that As players start making more decisions on the field they need to be responsible for what decision they make. Coaches are urged to explain the session and then let players play without too many stoppages. Players are now given the freedom to figure out what the coach wants from them. We want players to start working things out for themselves.

In this age group sessions at the Hawks start with a warm up that gets players loose and moving freely (this will help prevent injuries), followed by Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ) drills – these are essential and can help the players improve their footwork, balance and mobility as well as focus the players for the session. The content of the session is determined by the training program and any football problems identified during games.