When coaching, it is essential to challenge the players no matter what their ability is. In a session you may have some players who have been playing football for years and some who may have only just started however being able to challenge both types of players is vital yet challenging. As sessions need to be inclusive, constraints must be added to keep everyone involved interested and challenged at the same time.
So, what actually is constraints led coaching? Well constraints led coaching mainly focuses on the fact that “coaches shape and guide rather than direct” (William & Hughes, 2005). This statement by William and Hughes to me perfectly sums up constraints led coaching as the coach has to stand back as opposed to persistently explaining which can often bore the performers. If players are being directed then they don’t really have much freedom and consequently it will not help with their development. This is where constraints led coaching significantly helps to develop each athlete regardless of their ability. This is because constraints can be applied specifically which can push some players more than others dependent on whether they need it or not. However there are three main types of constraints that can be applied are task, performer and environmental.
So first of all is a task constraints. This type of constraint relates to the activity in terms of the goal, the equipment or even the rules too (Devine, 2015). By doing this the players will have to alter the way that they play in order to follow the rules, score a goal or use the equipment that has been given to them. These type of constraints get the players thinking in terms of succeeding. If they cannot adapt to the task given then they are not going to do well within the drill. An example that could be used as a task constraint would be: Having to receive the ball in a certain area (coned off) in order to score extra points as opposed to simply scoring in a net as usual.
Another type of constraint that can be applied to a drill during a session is an environmental constraint. This type of constraint involves changing the area that is being used to play the game. Putting a constraint on the environment can be as simple as altering the space that is being used. The area can be made bigger in order to make the drill simpler or smaller to make the drill harder. However the only problem with this is that some players may find it too difficult if the area is made too small therefore other constraints can be added for individuals who may be at a better level to push them too. In my opinion this type of constraint is a simple yet effective way of challenging a player because a small alteration can hugely affect the difficulty of the game which could in turn aid with skill development. However on the contrary constraints can play a big part in street football too for example. Kids may only have a small alleyway to play football therefore they have to react to the environment they have. This therefore would work on skills such as control and dribbling at a very young age.
A final type of constraint that could be used is a performer constraint which involves characteristics of the player (Devine, 2015). If a player is very comfortable at dribbling for example then what real benefit is dribbling with their strong foot going to be. This is where a constraint would come in and I would ask them to use their weaker foot which is considerably harder. Thus the player has to think about the way he/she is dribbling a lot more which will aid their physical and psychological development too. A performer constraint means that as a coach you can make certain tasks more difficult if they are finding it too easy as it keeps the whole group included yet challenged too.
One main example that shows the effects of constraints is the Brazilian national football team. Brazil are known for having very skilful and talented players but what is the reason for this? Well, in my personal opinion I believe that playing in the favelas for example has a big part to play. The favelas are known for their small and narrow alleyways therefore this is what the players have to deal with. Consequently players will have to find new ways to beat players in order to score a goal and this is the reason why their players are so skilful. Look at Neymar for example, many of the skills he uses today will have come from when he was a kid and the constraints that he had to deal with!
Therefore to conclude I completely agree with this statement which states that “the best way to learn something is by challenging yourself” (Beckwith, Warner & Wood, 2004). This is because it is a coach’s job to improve players and one major way of doing this is through the use of challenges or in this case constraints. Constraints allow drills to benefit the whole squad and help to challenge everyone involved within the session.
Beckwith, W., Warner, S. and Wood, R. (2004) Light wave 3D 8: 1001 tips and tricks with CD Rom. United States: Jones & Barlett Learning.
Devine, T. (2015) Constraints-led coaching – WHY?!. [Online]. Available at: http://www.tdgolfcoach.com/learning/constraints-led-coaching-why/ (Accessed: 10 January 2016).
Williams, A.M. & Hodges, N.J. (2005). Practice, instruction and skill acquisition: Challenging tradition. Journal of Sport Sciences, 23(6), 637-650.