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Reflecting on your sessions
Wednesday evening rolls around. You grab your carefully thought-out session plan, pick up your boots and jump in the car.
A couple of hours later, your weekly time with your players at training is over and you get back in the car, before doing it all again the following Wednesday.
But do you ever take a moment to reflect on those sessions? We all spend a lot of time on planning and delivery, but to really improve as coaches and develop players to their full potential, reflection is a vital piece of the jigsaw.
Did I hit the key coaching points my session was targeting? How did players respond to being given more ownership? Why wasn’t my striker engaged in tonight’s practice? These are just a handful of the questions we could be asking ourselves.
We can look at how the session went, how we delivered it, how the players responded, if there were any surprising or unintended outcomes which came about due to the session design, methods of communication or even how players interacted with each other. But when should we do it? And how?
Well, to get a more rounded appreciation of your practice, a good idea is to conduct both a ‘hot review’ and a ‘cold review’.
The former can easily be done on the journey home. Simply set up a voice recording on your phone and discuss your immediate post-practice thoughts out loud while they are fresh in the memory.
A day or two later, once you’ve had time to think about the practice and the immediate emotions have dissipated, a cold review can help you see things in a clearer light, with greater perspective. These can be written on the bottom of your session plan for future reference, or in a separate journal to help organise your thoughts.
Perhaps a player wasn’t engaged because they felt the session wasn’t aimed at them and there was no reward for their actions? Or perhaps using a circular pitch really helped a player grasp the importance of scanning and painting pictures?
Another effective way to reflect on a session is through a peer review. If you work with another coach, ask them for their thoughts – there could be something they picked up on that you missed.
Equally, if there is another coach, either within your club setting or outside it, who is available to watch your session, then ask them. Getting the opinion of someone who doesn’t necessarily know your coaching style or your players could provide a valuable and different insight.
And if you can return the favour by watching another coach in action, and help them review their session, it may challenge any preconceptions of how things can be done or what you’re capable of – and perhaps enable you to be kinder to yourself in your own reflections.
If possible, film your training session to watch back at a later date. It can give you a first-hand view on how you communicate with your players, how they respond, your coaching position and much more. Head or chest cams, in particular, can show where your attention is focused during a session and which players you engage with most.
Of course, feedback can also come from your players. What they learned, how they felt, their levels of enjoyment, things they may have done differently, and even whether they thought you were in a good mood – they often give the most valuable and, let’s face it, honest insight.
After a few reviews, you might find you develop a structure to these self-reflections. Even if it feels quite basic (‘What went well?’ ‘Even better if…’ ‘Changes for next time’), a consistent structure can help capture a range of thoughts and provide a good barometer for development.
Importantly, be sure to revisit your reflections. If you’ve highlighted some actions, and particularly if these are time- bound, this will help keep you accountable and give you the opportunity to see progression, both with your coaching and your players’ development.