Competition-review series: Gaps 3 and 4
Football Canada unveiled a series of recommendations to fill and improve upon eight gaps uncovered during a review of the competitive structure of football in Canada. The current step in the process is for the football community to review the recommendations and provide feedback.
We caught up with Football Canada technical coordinator, Aaron Geisler, a member of the competition review committee, to learn more about the proposed strategies. Over the coming weeks, we’ll break down each of the eight gaps. Today’s series focuses on gaps three and four—practice plans and calendars.
This series of gaps revolves around the need to refocus on skill development for the under-12 age group instead of competition and strategy.
Gap three’s strategy aims to help coaches by mandating that they follow practice/competition calendars developed for each age group.
“The idea behind this strategy is to implement standardized practice/competition calendars for specific age groups based on the principles outlined in the LTAD,” explained Geisler.
“We want to get coaches from leagues and teams across the country helping to provide the best opportunity for their players to excel and enjoy the sport of football. There’s a ton of great work being done across the country. We want to continue to build on that by providing our coaches with a framework and tools that follow our LTAD model.”
The calendars would guide coaches and league administrators when determining the appropriate number of games in a season that players of a certain age should play. It would also specify the number of practices that should occur between games as well as the ratio of contact to non-contact practices that should take place.
One of the critical features of the calendars are the introduction of a mandatory Safe Contact week at the very start of every team in Canada’s pre-season. This week is devoted to helping players practice Safe Contact tackling and blocking techniques.
“This [Safe Contact] week would allow player’s to learn the fundamentals of tackling and blocking in a safe and fun environment. By enabling helmet only practices, it allows players to become comfortable developing the skills associated with contact as well as addressing any hesitance associated with those skills.”
“It’s critical to get the word out that contact skills can be taught without full-contact drills. When teaching Safe Contact, we begin teaching the progression with on air (non-contact) drills and then progress to pad work, followed by drills against an opponent with gradual increases in speed and intensity. This progression is not only safer but helps to build player’s confidence and muscle memory.”
The length and number of practices outlined in the calendars hopes to better align football with its LTAD plan.
“We want coaches to create an environment that optimizes the development of their athletes which includes practice.”
“For example, practices limited to an hour or less (for players under the age of 10) helps foster an environment that matches their physical abilities and development. Children, especially at younger ages, should be constantly engaged and moving as they are full of energy and have shorter attention spans – the practice environment that coaches create should best reflect and cater to those developmental needs.”
“As players age, the length of practice and complexity introduced at practice and in games can increase.”
Gap four builds on gap three as it focuses on providing a complete guide for coaches to utilize during practices that matches the developmental opportunities and guiding principles stressed in the LTAD plan.
“The idea is for our content experts to develop practice plans which help guide coaches by detailing a series of warm-ups, drills as well as coaching points,” said Geisler. “These plans would be specifically tailored to the developmental age of players and help reinforce skill development.”
“Attracting and supporting additional volunteer coaches is critical to the growth and sustainability of our sport. The creation of standardized practice plans would not only support skill development but also eliminate barriers for potential coaches like time and experience.”
If paired together, practice calendars and practice plans would give football additional resources to promote skill development and participation by fostering the optimal competitive environment based on the developmental age of its players thus enhancing the sport.
We welcome your feedback
We invite your participation in the competition review process. For more information about how to leave feedback as well as a full list of identified gaps and strategies, click here. Comments regarding this gap can also be made below.
3-A. Coaches resources
- Football Canada develop coach training plans for each age group up to U14 .
- Educate coaches on rule modifications .
4-A. Safe Contact week
Mandate: Introduce a mandatory Safe Contact week at the beginning of each training camp .
- The exception: In rare cases where weather/scheduling/field availability cannot accommodate a Safe Contact week, teams must incorporate three hours of Safe Contact training (helmets only) within the first 14 days of their season. This training makes up for what would have taken place during Safe Contact week.
4.B: Practice calendar
Mandate: Implement a practice calendar for each level to follow [2021-22].
Recommendation: Coaches submit yearly training plans to their respective league at the U16 and the U18 levels .
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