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As a coach we spend a lot of time engrossed in the session and can get caught up in the ‘now,’ rather than taking a step back and the time to observe the practice and players. Working on observational skills is another way of supporting players

Below are some ways in which I believe observational skills can support player development and help you to see coaching through different lenses.

Understanding Individuals  

When taking the time to observe you begin to gain a deeper understanding into individuals.  

You start to notice things like: 

- Individual's strengths and areas of development  

- How players interact with one another 

- Which players take more of a leadership role  

- Which players gravitate to one another . 

Once you know this information you can begin to tailor sessions to support individuals, you can pair players up based on where they are in their development & dynamics of the group.  
Females love to know you care and being able to understand individuals and tailor sessions to their needs will not only highlight this but develop coach – player relationships.  

Communicating Effectively

How often as a coach do you find yourself correcting players, or giving feedback when it may not be needed?   
I try to take a step back from the session to observe what is happening and try to notice what players may or may not be doing. It also stops me from correcting players and allows me to see if they can correct their own ‘mistake.’ In the time it takes me to walk back into the session I can think about how I will communicate with a player; will I ask a question, demonstrate a skill or simple suggest or tell them the answer.  
Female players love to learn and want to know the why to almost everything so as coach communication skills are really important. Allowing yourself time to observe also gives you valuable thinking time and can help link your feedback to the player's needs.  

Practice Design

 Many times, I have delivered a session and it hasn’t gone to plan, I would get frustrated and wonder what I could change in the moment to reach my outcomes.  
When I find myself in this situation now, I stand away from the session and ask myself some of the following questions: 

- Is the area the right size? 

- Does it look like the ‘game’?

 - Do I need to change the task slightly, or the number of players?  

 Sometimes all it takes is a slight tweak, but we struggle to notice this if we are engrossed in the session.  

How to improve observational skills 

It’s not easy and it takes time and practice!  
It’s something as a coach I am still working on.  
Some things I have done to support me in this area aside from the points above are: 

- Video record your sessions and watch back 
This has been priceless as I am able to notice lots of different things about my practice, players and self. When I’m back on the pitch I can observe these things much easier and again tailor practices to meet the needs of individuals.  
- Keep it simple 
As they say ‘if you look for everything you will see nothing.’  
Focus on 2 or 3 things, be clear what that is and try to link your communication and feedback to these points.  
- Take Notes 
Do not underestimate the power of note taking. This could be done the old school way with a pen and paper; through a voice note, or video recording part of your session on an electronic device. This gives you something to refer to as the season progresses and will support you in providing feedback to players.  
- Communicate with others  
Communicate with other coaches, ask them questions - are they seeing the same things as you?  Check and challenge what you notice with others, this is only going to help the players.  

So, come your next session, take a step back and see what you notice...