December has been a great month socially: we had our Xmas party for the players as well as the parents’ night out which turned into an unexpected fundraiser…
In terms of our football, we continued to work on our theme of Support and Movement before spending time working at two extremes of the practice spectrum – first on technical unopposed drills making much use of both feet – after which we did an entire session of “just matches” (in reality, Whole-Part-Whole). There was only one weekend of league fixtures, where we had two lacklustre draws which gave us the opportunity to review our effort-based team motto. We also played our first 9-a-side friendly in readiness for next year – a great game with Four Oaks which was settled by just one goal to the visitors in an hour-long match. The 9-a-side format helped us appreciate new aspects of the game and we’ll aim to play more 9v9 pretty soon (January 9th – watch this space!).
Our objectives for the season remain the same:
1. Improve our ball mastery, esp. use of both feet;
2. Improve game understanding & ability to play multiple positions.
I mention our objectives as our results in the first half of the season have been pleasing. However, we should not make our results the be-all-and-end-all. They are secondary to our objectives for individual and team improvement. That said, and keeping things firmly in perspective, our season-on-season comparison shows progress:
The statistic which has helped us most though is this one:
That is the number of games we lost last season. The players – and parents – who have persevered have benefitted from adopting a longer-term perspective. “The winner is the loser who evaluates defeat properly“*. By reflecting on what we can improve, the players – who are, let’s not forget, children – are developing their psychological resilience. We have a group of nine and ten-year-olds who are learning to discuss amongst themselves their individual mistakes – while retaining some emotional control. In terms of growth mindsets, our team environment reflects work such as that of Carol Dweck and fits in with the Building Learning Habits work which some of the players are doing at school. In terms of our team ethos, this article captures the essence of it far more eloquently than I ever could.
There is one statistic which I will be looking now. It is the average number of passes after a goalkick. My rationale for this is that it encapsulates what we should be looking for in terms of individual and team ability (again, Doug Lemov’s article covers this well) in one easy-to-measure indicator. That figure, if anything, is the be-all-and-end-all. Not the final result.
Have a great Christmas!
[*Colm O’Connell, Kenyan Athletics coach]