Kids 10: The Muppet

That awkward kid, the muppet. Fumble fingers. Every club has one. He’s just no good. Slaps the easiest kicks to the ground rather than taking the mark, just slaps it somewhere near the boot when he gets a kick. Whenever there’s a pack, you’ll see him hugging himself out of it, as if someone is dragging him away from danger. You like him, he’s happy, just no good. His inability to mark or kick or even receive a handball without dropping it buggers up nearly every drill. And, no matter how much one-on-one you do with him, he won’t improve. Yet, he is vital to your team, and vital to the development of the rest of your players.

Kids learn.

That’s what’s so good about coaching them. They learn habits that last a lifetime. Good habits and bad. And those habits are your responsibility. The club’s future, its character, is your responsibility.

If he trains two nights, always give the awkward kid at least half a game! Not necessarily the whole half at once, but as the game dictates. Spin him through the pockets and flanks in 5 minutes spurts, giving other kids a rest. Work and reward. If you send a message to better players they don’t have to train to take another kid’s spot, if you tell your bottom six players training counts for nothing, come seniors, your club reaps what it sows. Your top players only train when they want to and never get to be as good as they can, and your bottom six aren’t there.


The same goes for reserves.

I would try to give everybody a go on the bench, not just the same players all the time. Nobody wants to come off. As they approached the bench, I was always, “Mate, you’re doing great/you’ve done nothing wrong, everybody’s getting a spin.” Even to the best. If the best can come of for a few minutes, the mid-range players will too.

There are times in close games you just have to have your best team out there. Especially the first five minutes and the last 10. Your awkward kid should have been on the ground heaps in between. If you’ve left him until the last ten minutes then decided the game it too close, that is your shit coaching, sorry. He should have had runs in the second and third quarters. An even game is no excuse. And in the game that you’re either winning big or losing big, if he’s been training, give him lots of long patches of ground time.

Another thing he is good for, in a team sense, is as a target. If he is in the right slot and a jet burns him, even if your team get a goal, send a message. “Never, ever look for the player, look for the jumper. You, Jet, are a bit bigger, a bit more talented than other kids, but one day soon you’ll be playing against people as strong and fast as you. Learn to make the right decisions, to work to a team plan.”

The awkward kid is a tricky one, but he is also your test as a coach.


  1. Another good one Matt – still taking notes

  2. Malby Dangles says

    This muppet says thanks! I only had one coach who played me a half a game guaranteed, and she was one of only a few who I felt really gave a damn about me. She was totally new to the coaching caper as well. Good on you, Miss D’Andrea!

  3. malby, there is so much in that story. good on miss d’andrea!!!

    on ya, brownie! i was wondering if anyone was out there!

  4. Mark Duffett says

    I’ve been tweeting the goodness, Matt, if that counts for anything

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