Sebastian Giraldo: The Often Overlooked Role of the Trainer as Teacher, Part II

Effective, Successful teachers

Our knowledge of teaching is pretty expansive and every day we have highly intelligent individuals who continue to add to this literature. I have had the pleasure to not only work with several throughout my education but I was lucky enough to have one in my household. My father, Jose Giraldo, is a PhD in mathematics and is a true innovator in teaching methodology. He has dedicated his life to improving teaching in math and soccer and is one of the driving forces behind GEF’s pedagogical success. I picture him in my mind when I delve into the research about successful, effective teachers. To properly frame this conversation, it is important to note that at GEF we consider ourselves teachers and educators rather than trainers. We do much more than just train. And to be successful in soccer development, this is a necessary mindset for a trainer.

So what does an effective, successful teacher (trainer) look like? When parents ask me this question, I usually answer with “we know things.” It is true, we know a lot about what makes a successful teacher as we have spent significant resources researching this subject area. Most of this information is just not commonly applied or practiced in the soccer training world. Here are some prerequisites that we know are necessary for the foundation of a successful teacher:

1. Teacher preparation is key. Successful teachers have short term and long term plans, curriculum, and goals. Every chance to teach is planned. To maximize development, trainers should never go into a session without planning first. The most successful teachers and trainers, have specific long-term and short-term plans. This is an extremely time consuming process but one that causes the effectiveness of teaching to go through the roof.

On top of actually having a game plan for teaching, it is imperative that we train people to be teachers. The most successful teachers are ones that were appropriately trained in their profession and continue to be trained (i.e., content and pedagogical knowledge). Clubs and leagues are doing a better job of ensuring that trainers are licensed which is the beginning step in preparing our trainers. But in the information technology age that we live in, this duty should primarily fall on the individual. At GEF, trainers are expected to constantly be studying the sport and examining different training methods. (my  emphasis)   We have created a culture where learning is of the utmost importance. As we tell people, even our head trainers are learning on a daily basis. This is a change for soccer programs that can immediately impact the effectiveness of teaching and increase player knowledge retention. Be prepared and study your content. The on-field training is only a small glimpse into the responsibilities of a trainer.

2. Successful teachers are able to control and manage the learning environment. I will not go into much detail here as one of my past blogs was partly devoted to the importance of environment in development. But people that have been trained in specific methods and techniques for managing learning environments are better teachers than people that have not. This again seems obvious but how often do we try to stick a former professional soccer player into a training role and then act surprised when the results are less than stellar (we are looking at you right now AC Milan). It happens a lot and one of the reasons for failure is that these individuals haven’t been taught how to manage a learning environment. Until a few years ago, U.S. soccer used to let former professional players bypass a majority of their coaching certifications. The certification process probably went something like this:

Coach: Bollocks!!!

Licensing official:  Are you English sir?

Coach: Indeed bloke.

Licensing official: : Congratulations. Here is your ______ license.

Coach: Cheers!

In the near future we will look back at some of these practices and laugh about why the U.S. was not producing top soccer talent.

 3. Curriculum and assessment should be closely aligned. Both the curriculum and assessment techniques of a soccer program should be designed together with specific, complementary goals and objectives. It is mind boggling to me that in this day in age there are still soccer programs that exist without set curriculums and assessment methods. It is much more common than we realize. It is a little scary to admit that the majority of clubs and programs in my area do not have a set curriculum and have no semblance of an assessment program. Simply, we do not know if players are actually improving unless we track them along a specific plan and have learning outcomes identified. There would be a revolution if you were sending your child to a school that had no curriculum or assessment methods. This is happening in soccer and it needs to change now.

4. High verbal ability is a common characteristic of successful teachers. In the end, if we do not communicate properly as teachers, the task of student learning becomes much more complicated. While we have had difficulty linking teacher’s intellectual aptitude to student success, we have discovered that students taught by teachers with high verbal ability learn more than those taught by teachers with lower verbal ability. Higher verbal skills lead to ideas being conveyed effectively and communication being clear and compelling. Soccer is a unique, international context where trainers stem from all over the globe and it’s difficult to spend time on a training ground without hearing an accent of some sort (I personally enjoy the multicultural nature of the sport). Is it possible to be an amazing trainer in the U.S. without dominating the English language? Absolutely. But we know that high verbal ability can increase learning. In effect, students can learn faster and more effectively when their teacher has a high verbal ability. Our trainer development programs should target increasing verbal and communication skills as major learning objectives.

The final part will be released on Friday of this week.  Great work Sebastian. To contact Sebastian, here is his information:

Sebastian Giraldo

Co-Owner Giraldo Elite Futbol



Twitter: @GEFSebastian


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