How Do Children Learn?

Everyone is different and everyone therefore learns in a different way. I remember banging my head against a brick wall trying to get a point across to a particular child once. I tried explaining it, drawing diagrams, showing him on the pitch, all with very minor results. It was only when I searched up a YouTube video of one of his favourite players in action doing the exact thing I was asking him to try, that he got it. Immediately.

There are a number of "learning styles" that different people will find they respond to, to varying degrees depending on the individual. Within these, different techniques and approaches will yield different results for individuals. Knowing your players and what they respond to is going to be the most important thing with regard to what approach to teaching them you use.

Different Learning Styles

Visual Learning (Seeing)

Some people are predominantly visual learners. Things that might work for them...

  • Set the players up on the pitch in position and walk through something
  • Tactics board diagrams
  • Cones on the floor to demonstrate where particular players may go
  • Pictures drawn on a sheet of paper
  • Videos of famous players
  • Video footage of your own training sessions (remember to get parental permission if you want to do this and to not upload it / share it outside the coaching team)
  • Ask a player to step and "be the coach" watching the game, with a particular point in mind. Stand with them and talk through what's happening on the pitch in relation to the point you want to make.

Kinesthetic Learning (Doing)

Many people need to actually do the thing themselves a number of times before their brains cement the learning in place. You can step in and show them initially, but rather than lots of talking, explaining and so on, actually get the players out there trying a certain thing, making mistakes, learning from them. You can step in and correct them as they work and help them review their progress during breaks / after the session.

Auditory Learning (Listening)

This is the one the majority of coaches start off using way too much. I know I did (and still fall into this trap). Standing and talking. Children's attention span for an adult's voice is minimal. This can still be a very useful way of getting a point across, but try and keep the words focused, relevant and to a minimum.

Have a look at our article on "Language Matters" to see how you phrase things and what you say can make a huge difference to your players.

Read-Write Learning

Less used in football coaching, but can be useful. I remember a coach once I saw, who had a sheet of paper with the basic roles and duties of the 7 positions in his 7 a side formation (just 2 or 3 points per position so as not to overload the players). Whichever child was subbed off at that moment was expected to look at the sheet in the knowledge that they would be coming on in a specific position, so they could familiarise themself with what they were expected to try to do in possession, out of possession and in transition. Perhaps combining that with diagrams and telling the sub to watch the player in their position and see what they think they're doing well / could improve on would have also been useful but it worked quite well and gave the sub something to focus on.

Be Creative

We've included some information on ways in which you can enhance learning through being creative in your training sessions and giving the players better problem solving skills and ownership of their own learning.