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Before any coaching session, be that when you’re hosting your World Cup tournament event or not, coaches should ask ‘how are we going to help the players today?’ It’s crucial to think about the type of environment needed to help the players to learn new things and also experience a feeling of success.

A World Cup themed tournament is a terrific way of handing some elements of ownership for the session to the children. Giving the children the opportunity to have their say on how the tournament is run and what they want from it, and letting them have the chance to choose their country and selecting their playing challenges are great ways of engaging young players in the event.

Giving the children ownership will make them feel valued and start to feel like it is their tournament and event, which in turn may have a positive impact on their self-confidence.

During these discussions we may not always get an answer or response that we were expecting from children, but that’s not to say there is always a right or wrong answer. We need to be careful on how we manage these moments. If we don’t praise or acknowledge their response they may not be willing to share their thoughts, or attempt to answer these questions in future.

It’s true of all the discussions we have with the players during tournament play. Say a child has chosen an individual challenge to focus on, in each of his or her games. For example: ‘beating an opponent with a dribble when 1v1’.

During the game we observe the child trying a step-over to get by a defender, however, the defender blocks the attempt to get by, and regains possession. At this point coaches might be able to make the difference between that player giving up on that particular skill or attempting it again a few moments later.

Praise is an underrated tool for a coach. We are quick to apply praise to a situation given a successful outcome, but how often do we give a positive response when something doesn’t perhaps go as planned, like our situation above?

As we look to help players to become expressive on the pitch and take away the fear of being wrong or failing, praise is going to be one of the vital components to achieve that.

Within the tournament try and not only praise the success and outcome but also the effort. By positively acknowledging the effort, they may be more likely to try again, whether that be answering a question in a group discussion, or trying a step-over in their next game.

With multiple games planned within the tournament there are going to be numerous rest periods. Encourage the children to use this time between the games to return to their training base and reflect as individuals and as a group on their performance.

You may come up with different strategies to support their reflection - here is an example to support an individual:

‘I noticed you attempted a step-over in that last game, it was a really good effort. If you get an opportunity to attempt it again in your next game, would you change anything?’

Other strategies may include: • Use a whiteboard to discuss what went well and what didn’t go so well, identify changes or improvements that might be made for next time

• Ask the resting teams to watch an individual player and provide them with feedback after their game – you can make this more specific by asking them to focus on a specific attacking/defensive aspect of their game

• Give the players tasks linked to the games they watch on TV– ‘Portugal are playing tomorrow, watch how Ronaldo beats a defender when 1v1. Next week I want you to try and do some of things he does in a game’.

Team Themes and Player Challenges Using game themes and individual and team challenges are a great way to encourage players to try new things during the games and also to link the world cup matches and world class players they are watching throughout the tournament.

Turn over for team and player challenges...

Giving the children ownership during the tournament will have a positive impact on their experience

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