• Players are in charge of their own development - coaches are consultants
  • People process information more efficiently by teaching others
  • Players learn by doing and experimenting

One of the things often attributed to successful and elite players is the desire to stay late after practice and put in the extra work. While this extra time on the field is obviously valuable, it is the deliberate practice element of it that really strikes a chord with me. Cristiano Ronaldo, currently the Ballon D'Or holder, is renowned for his dedication to practice and is a great example of a player who learned how to learn.

Who's in Charge of your Development?

One common question I put to players is the one above; "Who's in charge of your development?" and it's one that most are now on the same page about. The player is responsible for his/her own development. How they apply themselves to training, if they're practicing at home, are they watching games at the weekend? All of these demonstrate that they are active about their own development.

Players today need to be more deliberate than ever about their practice as there are an increasing number of distractions with technology etc. all around them. Those that are going to develop most are always asking "What do I need to work on?" and "Are there things I don't understand that I need to clarify?" Coaches can be used as a consultant to fill in the gaps and help increase the players knowledge/understanding of a concept.


Coming back to Ronaldo, you always hear the stories of him staying behind after practice and having that motivation to keep practicing. However, it's the deliberate nature of his work with Rene Meulensteen that really caught my attention. He honed in on what he needed to work on to get to the next level and consulted with his coach to clarify the details of what he wanted to achieve. (The Secrets Behind the Development of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo).


Learn by Teaching

Coaches that use Q&A a lot will recognize that having players answer questions on the topic being coached (effectively teaching their peers by answering) end up having a greater understanding of the topic. When Q&A is used regularly, players start to be on their toes a little more mentally when a coach is making a point, knowing that a question may be coming their way that needs answering.

Taking this a step further, players could learn more efficiently by teaching others (or planning to teach others). The way information is processed changes when there is an expectation later that you'll have to teach it to someone else. This is true of studying for tests or making notes on coaching courses.

Having players teach others may help them think through the Who, What, Where, When, Why of a session clearly whilst practicing.

Having players teach others may help them think through the Who, What, Where, When, Why of a session clearly whilst practicing.


One of the challenges I sometimes start or end sessions with is as follows: "If you were going to teach the give and go to your little brother or sister - what would you teach them?" It's amazing to see who took on board which coaching points and to see if there are gaps in their knowledge/understanding that need filling.

Learn by Doing

Players learn in a number of ways and to learn by doing is one of my favourite's. It's very rewarding to show a player a new move or trick and have them try it for themselves, asking to see it again, before having yet another go.

Sometimes, I'll show players tricks and flicks that are irrelevant and unlikely to ever crop up in a game - but the process of learning that players go through to try and figure it out and recreate it is invaluable.

 I stole the graphic above from the article   Build to Learn: Why You Should Make Things No One Will Ever Use   .

 I stole the graphic above from the article Build to Learn: Why You Should Make Things No One Will Ever Use .


The concept behind the graphic above applies to the experimentation and learn by doing attitude mentioned. The player sees the move and has that concrete experience, they reflect on the move, they try it over and over again, tweaking it based on success and may end up changing it or using it abstractly in a scenario of their choosing (creativity). 

And if you need any further proof of learning for the sake of learning - look no further than Luis Suarez's flick over Benatia's head this week:


Do you debrief players after sessions or gauge how much they've learnt? I'd love to hear how other coaches approach it. Leave your comments below or send your tweets to @deanatk