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What do you do to make your sessions fun and engaging? Sharing is Caring...! | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

What do you do to make your sessions fun and engaging? Sharing is Caring...!

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  • JonWoodward74

    Hi All - I've been trying to catch up on some of the excellent posts on here and one that caught my eye was The importance of making your sessions fun and engaging for 5–12 year olds article by Blake RIchardson (along with several other threads on ConnectedCoaches) and I thought it would be useful if we could start a mini community of practice, sharing any fun games or sessions that we run in our coaching. The further challenge could be to feedback and share how you have taken those sessions and adapted into your sport and session....

    Please feel free to share any diagrams and outlines of the sessions, by uploading them through the attach files option below!

    My starter for 10...

    I've been trawling through old sessions and ideas from years gone by and whilst there is some poor ideas (through 20+ years of coaching we have all learnt from our bad sessions!), there are some things I used to use a lot and have started to revisit them.

    A simple warm up/initial engagement game involves a simple process of laying out balls, cones, bibs and any other equipment you may have, and getting the players to move around them. When I shout cone, they grab a cone and place it somwhere. When I shout bib, they grab a bib and out it on. When I shout it ball, they get a ball and start to dribble/move with the ball.

    Adding different pieces of equipment (different balls, hoops, targets or whatever you can find) starts to develop the players into being creative and creating their own games, tasks and concepts, and don't forget to mix the order up, and be creative yourself. (top tip: players soon figure out if there are only 2 sets of coloured bibs to form their 'teams' with the same colout bibs - so have more colours than just 2) Key to ask why they are placing cones (or whatever equipment) in the areas they. Great way of developing understanding of how and why we play and practice....

    I am holding out on the baton....who is going to take it and share next.....



  • saranicolehilton

    Great post Jon! Brilliant idea to allow coaches to share session ideas etc. 

    In terms of grassroots football the fun element has got to be there. Just like you have showed in your session example. I rarely coach grassroots these days but it's one aspect of coaching that I really miss!! 

    For me, the biggest difference in coaching grassroots to coaching youth football is the terminology. 

    One example is a very generic warm up in a 20x20 box whereby each player has a ball each. Now this warm up can be used with any age, it's all about getting the players comfortable on the ball and focus on their ball manipulation. 

    For grassroots..

    The name of this game is called 'Walking the Dog'. The ball being the dog, the player's let being the lead and the area is the 'park'. I then begin to tell the players that in this particular 'park' dogs aren't allowed off the lead - if the dog is seen off the lead then they are asked to leave. 

    You can then ask the players so where has the dog got to stay? To which they will (hopefully) answer 'On the lead'. You as the coach act as the policeman/park ranger. 

    This simple game gets the places to start learning about their touch on the ball, keeping it close but completely subconsciously! 

    This can be changed/adapted in many ways to suite the coach and/or players. 

    For me it's the semantics and terminology that is important. Turn everything into games! Don't bombard the players with key points, technical and tactical information. Just get them on the ball and having fun! 

  • JonWoodward74

    Thanks Sara! Love the idea to introduce close control and awareness...

    First of many replies (I hope!)

  • garyfowler

    Great idea and love Sara's response

    I guess my current favorite is more of a concept than a particular game or session. I'm constantly thinking of ways to make things easier for kids to grasp. 

    Jon, I'm sure you'll appreciate this as the inspiration came from Mowgli and The Jungle Book as I recently saw there's a new version coming out.

    With our little ones (3-6), we use size 1 mini footballs to help them learn to manipulate the ball better. I've never been a huge fan of the traditional labelling of the parts of the foot for dribbling as I think it causes cofnsuion and loved the first time I heard the term  "big toe / little toe". Futsal then introduced me to the concept of using the sole of the foot but often I saw kids alost standing on their ball and it getting stuck under their feet and this is where Mowgli popped into my head. I started using the term "monkey toes" rather than sole so they could visualize almost grabbing the ball with the underside of their toes the way a moneky grabs a brach, rather than the centre part of the sole.  This has further developed into the different toe parts that seem to make it easier for them to grasp the surfaces. We have big toe / little toe (as opposed to inside outside) which they do by finding the respective fingers on their hands first. Then 'monkey toes' rather than sole, 'toe knuckles' rather than laces and the toe tip too.  

    Hope other coaches of the little people find this useful too!

  • JonWoodward74

    Love this Gary - great concept around the use of body parts - and even parts of the body parts!!

    could this be used with hands for sports such as basketball, handball, netball.....?

  • pippaglen

    Hi Jon,  excellent post,  it's a really pitty we can't get coaches together at a venue and have a weekend of sharing Ideas,  although it's down on paper not all will always get the concept me being one of those coaches. 

    I really love sharing ideas especially with other, I also like to get others views and Ideas,  keep it fun, easy and inclusive.  

    Many of my ideas pupil's have used during break or dinner times as they really enjoy.  

    Love to share some of my Ideas

    I have many favourites however I don't like to keep repeating games as children get used to them and  get bored. 

    This is a great endurance game that you can  use for beginners in running or just to have a little fun.

    Alphabet game

    Mark out 20 meter line of cones,  start off with speed walking, pick a subject, character,  footballer,  names,  song, fruit, vegetables, animals, infact anything, children might be interested in. Pair athletes preferably ability.   

    Pick a subject eg animal's, On GO children have to start at the beginning of the cones and speed walk starting from A picking different animal until the reach the end of the alfabet.  

    Eg First person say A is for ape second person, B is for buffalo ect  whilst speed walking. Make sure athletes speedwalk up oneside and come back down the other side so they aren't bumping into each other. 

    Coach writes each pair down and marks down every time they do 20 meters so there and back will be 40 meters, by the time they have got to the end of the animal alfabet they might have speedwalked,  200 or 300 meters without knowing. Athletes can overtake, if endurance remind them of running techniques, hips to lips or socket to pocket,  I use the balloon technique to help keep there body tall. 

    This can be timed,  so they have to beat it next time or you can give them a time they have to get round by.  Turn it into endurance or sprint,  dribbling a ball, basketball, hockey, football or even passing a rugby ball.  

    I love this as children especially younger athletes don't realise how far they have walked or run until you tell them.  

    Try it is great, some children will be listening out for others ideas, they will even get the wrong letter for the wrong animal. 

  • JonWoodward74

    Thanks Emma -sounds great! I have passed it on to my wife you is a primary teacher to test out with her year 2s!!

    The idea of getting a group together is something I have thought about - the chance to spend a day shatring ideas, looking (and participating!!) in sessions would be useful


    I will have a think to see how it could be developed!



  • pippaglen

    Fantastic,  if she needs more ideas just let me know, Iv lots of warmup games and ways to make PE sessions engaging especially for the years 1 to 3.  If I had time to write a book for primary sports I would do..  

  • mantrobus

    Hi all,


    Great idea to begin sharing ideas on this subject as this has to be on eof the key components when planning game/sessions/practices - fun & engaging that is.


    For me it oftem falls back to one question when I plan; why do they come? to play is often the answer.

    So I often allow them to do this, in my case I let the play football matches (small sided). In an hours session they are in these small games for at least half the time. As this is one main motivators for them to come laong and play!

    The pratices I play in between these games are then as linked to the game as possible, allowing them to solve problems and take ownership.

    Here are a couple of my games:


    Playing 2v2 / 3v3 they have one ball, using their hands one team has to make 3 passes before they can score. If three passes are made a team member creates a hoop using their arms and hands. The player with the ball can then drop the ball into the hoop (1-0). The defending team can only steal the ball when it is travelling (}no grabbing out of hands!).

    The kids love this game - competition!!

    Winner Stays on

    The classic game is one the kids love, as it gives them instant competition and outcome. They can win within 1 minute so it keeps them engaged. I often play this in groups of 3. So they play 1v1 matches, if you score you stay on. I also put 1 minutes time limits on the game, if no one has scored in this time limit the player that has been on the longest comes off.

    Great to promote the social side of the game - respect, playing fairly. But also developing their ball manipulation skills as it is linked to the game, 1v1s happen all the time!

    Rock, Paper, Sicssors

    Another classic game! The kids play this game anyway but I have flipped it into a physicla develoment game. Rather than play with your hands they use their body. Making them balance on one leg they pat their legs three time and then show their weapon! Here is how each one is performed:

    Rock - whilst on one leg they make a tight ball with the rest of their body.

    Paper - On one leg they then make the rest of their body horizontal.

    Sicssors - on one leg, they make an M sign on their head (like the M in YMCA dance!) then with their other leg they move it side to side to and from their standing leg (that was a tough one to explain!).


    Just a few ideas, let me know your thoughts.



  • JonWoodward74

    Hi Mike

    Thanks for the reply and sharing!

    My wife is using the Rock, Paper, Scissors in her Year 2 PE class this week!

    I think competition is a vital part of any session, but should developed accordingly. It is a life skill (life is a competition!!!) and can be linked to working as a team, tactics and developing creativity to achieve.

    Can anyone take these on and adapt, build on for their sport?





  • mikethefootballcoach

    I recently saw something on twitter by an excellent coach educator named Barney Jones (@NFPSoccer), so these aren't my ideas but are ones I have incorporated in my sessions and found to work very well!

    1. Start and finish with a game
    2. Let the play flow
    3. Include goals where you can
    4. Competition
    5. Look after the defenders
    6. Be full of praise and encouragement
    7. Limit breaks
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