Learning is done most effectively in a social, interactive way
It shouldn’t be a one-way street. Involving the players in their development and learning can be very rewarding and coaches should aim to work this way in the Foundation Phase and, in fact, with players of any age.
Try to make your team’s learning interactive, experiential (let the players explore and experiment rather than just tell them) and shared with others in a meaningful context (it should be connected to the game of football where possible). This will help to create an effective learning environment.
Learning is great when facilitated by adults and when initiated by the players. The phrase ‘let the game be the teacher’ is often misinterpreted as ‘throw a ball in, walk away and the players will develop on their own’. This is rarely true, but it does raise two important points.
The first point is that coaches should allow time for play with little or no adult involvement. These player-led, informal and unstructured games can provide rich learning opportunities. If your players do a lot of ‘street football’ or futsal during their own time, fitting this into your sessions may not be a priority. If they don’t do any, you might want to provide at least some opportunities to play this kind of game. Such activities provide good opportunity for social development, e.g. players having to enforce the rules and deal with disagreements between themselves.
The second point is that player-led activities should be balanced with sessions and games where the coach observes. During these periods, it’s your job to look for opportunities to extend the learning for individual players.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries establishes the framework from which relationships can be formed and learning can take place. If you want to read further, the theoretical model behind this is called ‘social constructivism’, which is underpinned by ‘attachment theory’.
Applying this model to coaching is relatively new, but if you work in the social corner you’re trying to develop children who are effective and life-long learners, socially skilled and able to form positive relationships with a variety of people.
To learn more about how to do this, take a look at work by Burr, Gergen, Vygotsky, Bowlby, Ainsworth and Hughes (amongst others).
To learn more about Foundation Phase DNA, click here.