Developing my Coaching in School Environments & Using this Experience at THA

By Nick Firth (5-7 Age Year Group Lead Coach) find out more here…

While studying for my sports coaching degree at Leeds Beckett University, I had worked part time in a number of roles within football and sporting environments to build my level of coaching experience with children and coaching children in football.  Following my successful Graduation from the course, I accepted a role as a PE team leader within primary schools.   This gave me an opportunity to discover how I could utilise and transfer my current skill set whilst at the same time taking the new experiences working with different children and a different level of focus.  This, I felt, would give me an opportunity to gain valuable experience to add to my coaching skills bank.

The transition was not as easy as I had first thought and I am sure many people starting out in a new area of work, particularly sports coaching, would say the same.  What I discovered, is that there are some key differences in the style and delivery of the sessions between a School and a Football Academy setting.

As we are working in a  School environment, there is much more emphasis on behaviour management for children at this age.  This is to ensure that all the children are showing the correct attitudes towards the lessons.  This then gives them a base line to not only understand, but also a platform to work from.  This allows both themselves and other children to be able play and develop safely during the lessons.  In essence, they can fully commit their attention to the session and take the full benefit of the learning experience.

In terms of teaching scenarios, there is a substantial emphasis on the amount of time children are physically active during the session. This follows and links well with behaviour management. Having set the standards expected of the child’s behaviour level, it is equally important to ensure that the physical side of the education lesson is put into focus.  

Physical activity for children has many health benefits, as well as improvements to their overall health, it can also help improve their mental health and cognitive development.

Identified key benefits of physical activity are as follows:

  • An improvement in a child’s social interaction with others and improved confidence.
  • Children can learn new skills from the subject sport they are involved in but also life skills.
  • Anatomically, it allows the child to strengthen both muscle groups and bones.
  • Improvements can be made in a child’s coordination.
  • Learning can be improved along with levels of concentration leading to an increase in  productivity and success.
  • Children feel better for physical activity and can improve their mood.
  • Positive attitudes are developed along with tolerance for others.
  • Stress levels can be reduced and a harmonising of mental and emotional wellbeing.
  • Sleep patterns become more settled along with energy levels.
  • Reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality from chronic non-communicable diseases
  • Overall health and fitness is improved which helps maintain a healthy weight to prevent child obesity.

By having a focus on the physical element of a teaching session, means that we ensure that the children are always active.  As an example, for a 60-minute teaching session, we aim that the children are moving around and are actually being active for at least 55 minutes of that session.

As part of my own personal development, this meant I had to re-evaluate my approach and in particular I had to develop the way I deliver instructions to the children.  I adopted an approach where my instructions had to be more concise and to the point and at a level of their understanding.  This, then allowed the children more time to spend in activity engagement during the session. Physical activity time is massively important for children, particularly those at a young age.  It allows them to learn more quickly by giving them the opportunity to actually play and discover.  This is something I have definitely adopted and have translated to my approach to the football coaching of children in my sessions at THA Leeds.

Working within a School environment has allowed me to experience and be involved with the management of SEND (special education needs and disabilities) students.

This was completely new to me as I had always coached football in academy settings.  This meant that I had to adapt to new, specific needs and this was extremely challenging but also extremely rewarding. This was a completely different scenario for me personally, but I am now fully aware of the needs of the SEND students.  I have adapted my coaching and teaching style, so I am now able to involve and develop them in sporting fluency.

Once again, a development strategy for myself and my own development was the way I communicated to the children in these groups.  I have analysed the way I give instructions.  My approach now is to give specific and clear instructions which also caters to the individual needs of each student.

Through my studies at University, we are encouraged to seek out new areas of coaching practice. So with this in mind, I am also developing my ability to manipulate the environment in which we teach thes SEND students.  By providing an environment where they feel comfortable , this allows SEND students to thrive and develop their physical approach and enjoyment of the sessions.

While delivering  curriculum PE lessons and being the Lead Coach of the 5-7 age group at THA,  I also oversee numerous other sessions for children which include after school clubs, lunch clubs, and specialist sports clubs to prepare for inter-school tournaments. All this experience is contributing towards my own personal and professional development, and I look forward to improving and growing even more as I progress through my career.

Nick Firth is the Lead Coach of the 5-7 Age Group at THA Leeds Centre based at Horsforth School every Saturday mornings 9.00am to 10am you can book your class here:

To further his educational learning and support his continual professional development, THA Football Centres are sponsoring Nick with an ADHD Awareness Course, learning about the different types of ADHD and how to recognise some key signs and symptoms along with some practical advice for supporting children with the condition.  You can learn more about the course here

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