The FA Coaching Strategy specifically identifies the need to develop coaching programmes which improve the creativity of players. Anyone who watches the game will be able to see creativity in players and identify moments of creative flair. However, in order to help foster creativity in players, we need to understand what it is and how it is affected.
Why do we need focus on producing creative players?
Creativity has been described as the process of developing original ideas that have value.
In many walks of life, there is now a distinct movement towards the development of creativity. The reason for this is pretty simple. In our rapidly developing world we need people that can respond to the changing environment. We need people who can find elegant and effective solutions to completely unpredictable events. We don’t know what’s just around the corner. All we actually know about the future is that we know nothing. That’s why so many people in business and commerce are focussed on the need to nurture creativity.
The same is true in football. Creative players are those who produce an original skill to meet a completely unpredictable situation in a game. Often in football a moment of skill is not planned, it just ‘appears’ when it is needed. In fact, in football creativity is a double edged sword. As well as helping players provide solutions to unpredictable situations, it also helps them present unique and unpredictable challenges to the opposition.
So, why is it that some players are incredibly creative and others are much less creative? Is creativity something people are born with or is it a product of the environment? Can coaching have an effect on a player’s creativity?
The weight of opinion amongst experts in this field is that creativity is something people are born with, it is not taught. So does that mean we cannot coach it?
Let’s clarify this. Creativity is something we are born with. In fact, creativity is something that everyone is born with. As human beings we are inherently creative. Creativity and imagination are built into every one of us from birth. It doesn’t need to be taught.
Picasso said that we are all born artists…the challenge is to remain an artist as we grow up
Therefore, in order to nurture creativity we don’t have to find a way of ‘developing’, ‘teaching’ or ‘producing it’. As coaches, our job is simply to allow it to naturally live and grow. We simply have to take away any barriers that might stop it from flourishing. Unfortunately, much of what is done in coaching and educational environments actually has the effect of stifling creativity.
“In the first 2 years of life, a child learns to walk and talk….then they are sent to school and told to sit down and shut up”.
In society we are schooled not to make mistakes. Our system of education and coaching often reflects this. How many soccer coaches have you heard instructing children not to make mistakes? In fact, many coaches would probably say that their job is to identify and correct mistakes so that players don’t make them.
To be creative we need to take risks. We need to try new things. We need to experiment and discover. We need to push the boundaries and explore uncharted territory. These principals have been at the heart of all human endeavours. Thomas Eddison made over 10,000 unsuccessful attempts when inventing the light bulb. By definition he made thousands of ‘mistakes’ on his way to creating something absolutely unique. Experimentation is a process of trial and error. Learning is a process of trial and error. Many would argue that mistakes are absolutely necessary!
We need to recognise that everyone has a creative genius
A coaching environment that nurtures creativity is one which allows players the freedom to experiment, discover and make mistakes. When players are allowed to do this, they will start to push the boundaries and explore uncharted territory. When experimenting, they will produce unique movements they have never produced before. In doing so, they will develop new neural pathways in their brains and nervous systems. The more pathways and connections we have, the more possibilities we have when producing movements. If we have more possible movements in our arsenal, we have a greater potential to produce a unique skill that solves an unpredictable problem on the field. Players that have mastered their bodies will tend to produce a more elegant skill, which is likely to be more effective.
Remember – More networks, connections and links in our brain equals more intelligence. This is as true with ‘movement intelligence’ as it is for intellect. With more neural connections and more intelligence, we and our brains are able to adapt to novel situations more effectively.
The coaching and learning environment in Street Soccer is deliberately constructed to encourage players to experiment and try new things. Players are encouraged to find their own way of producing a skill. The environment is focussed on promoting play and enjoyment. The coaching system promotes chaos and is deliberately set up to create unpredictable situations for players. This requires players to become creative and try something new. It also enhances the possibility that players will take risks and make mistakes.
The coaching philosophy of Street Soccer celebrates mistakes and recognises their value. Far from trying to eliminate mistakes, Street Soccer allows players to feel comfortable making mistakes. The judgement-free environment allows players to drop their self-consciousness and fear of looking daft in front of the coach and the other players. On its own, the inner ‘interference’ that comes with fear of failure, or fear of looking stupid, is a massive block in a player’s progress.
“Street Soccer is for everyone who refuses to let their individuality, creativity and imagination, die” Darren Laver, Founder of the International Street Soccer Association.