If ever you have taken a football session or lesson at primary level then you’ll know how seriously the children treat a game.
You’ll also know what a nightmare it can be to referee a game.
But primary teachers are normally not just playing the referee, they are also coach, manager, physio and team psychologist.
The psychology of any sport is always overlooked at primary yet this is the time to really make a difference when it comes to coaching, especially when it comes to perceived competence and confidence.
When I watch informal kick-about games in the playground then there is a real intensity to the matches and for that 20 minutes playing the game is all that matters.
It’s also the arena where children show their true colours, especially when someone makes a mistake.
Let’s imagine that this is either a playground match or an organised match with another school.
Imagine that a player misses an open goal. That’s going to cause a hell of a reaction and what happens next is crucial to the rest of the match.
There are three types of response:
1. Against bid
As an observer, look at how the rest of the team reacts to the mistake. It probably won’t be very pretty and there will no doubt be plenty of blame. This is going to crush the confidence of the player who is already feeling rock-bottom. This reaction is called an ‘against bid’ and you’ll probably hear lots of insults flying such as “You stupid idiot, how could you miss that?!”…or words to that effect.
2. Away bid
There are other reactions that could be on show. Players on the team could stay silent and just ignore what happened by not engaging with the mistake-maker. This is called an ‘away from’ bid.
3. Response bid
Then there is something called a ‘response bid’ or ‘turning towards response’ where the rest of the team acknowledge the mistake and reply to it in a positive way. The team don’t attach blame, they recognise it as something that anyone could do and they say things like “Forget it – let’s move on. We know what you’re capable of.”
In the context of a school match or a so-called friendly knock around, how team mates respond makes a huge difference to the outcome of the match. If a team can overlook a mistake and keep a positive vibe then players can give more of themselves and keep trying.
Children need to know this.
They need to know that every player in every top team will make plenty of mistakes in training and on match day but it is how the team support each other that counts. Criticising each other or pointing the finger of blame is the same as scoring own goals.
They need to understand the construction of emotions and the structure of emotions in order to perform at their physical best.
Coaching primary children in the psychology of positive mindsets is no different from teaching them that their ability in maths is not fixed. They also need to be made aware that team selection comes down to picking positive players who work with the team in mind and not individual glory.
Some teachers do coach their children informally when it comes to positive psychology and making appropriate responses but it’s an area of the P.E. curriculum that deserves more attention and proper coaching time devoted to it.
It also gives the irate parents on the touchline something to think about and shows them that their children are actually far more sophisticated in their thinking than they are given credit for.
So whether it is football, netball or hockey, children will certainly benefit from being told about response bids and turning towards their team mates with positive comments to keep the team engine going.