With the United Kingdom entering a third lockdown at the end of 2020, the Sky Blues Academy had to pick up where they had left off earlier in the year with a remote learning schedule.
Despite professional sports allowed to continue, the academy youngsters were forced to halt their learning on the pitch and instead revert back to a different way of development.
Foundation Phase U5-U11 Lead Coach Joel Moody and Academy Coach, Eric Odihambo were left to work around the City youngsters and create a programme which enabled them to get the best out of the academy prospects.
“Adam Bridgeford our Head of Coaching and Dan Bolas, have given us freedom to put together a programme in lockdown which fitted within our syllabus and our beliefs.” Joel Moody said.
“We had the freedom to do what we thought was right for the age groups and one thing I think has worked well is that the players have a routine, because the schools are more prepared, and the boys have better schedules.
“We had to have a schedule we can work alongside because we know that the boys are on zoom calls all day with the schools, so the last thing we wanted to do was have them on zoom every night, so our first protocol was to be cautious of their lives first and foremost and make sure they weren’t spending every day on zoom.”
Eric Odihambo added: “It helped us that the schools were more prepared because when we do our welfare checks with all the parents that was the feedback we were getting better, that his lockdown has been easier because the schools have been more prepared and there’s a lot more routine and we have just tried to supplement that.
“A lot of our planning is based around that, because if they’ve been in front of a screen all day we don’t want them having to do that again so our sessions have been different and at the same time we want to try and get a physical workload from them as well even though it’s difficult when it’s darker on the nights.
“So, we try and get them an analysis session in the week and then do more of the physical stuff on the weekend when its lighter.”
Joel and Eric have had to work together in order to create a programme which engages with the children and helps develop them as players despite being away from the pitch.
The duo have to be prepared for any potential outcome with their programme and ensure they can adapt to different scenarios if and when they occur.
Eric said: “There’s a lot of planning. We have to plan for every eventuality. We get different updates at different times and a lot of sessions we plan do not happen and some change as the sessions going on, but we have a plan for every potential situation.”
“We give out a weekly challenge for the players and it’s something they do in their own time and they video it and upload it to a video system. So far, we’ve done a freestyle challenge, ability challenge and a send us a talent, something away from football.”
One thing the duo have had to maintain is the youngster’s engagement and attention, as their lives have been affected like most during lockdown.
The children have been taken away from their friends and out of school, so to be away from football as well, it has meant that the programme put in place was something they enjoy.
“Although it’s good to get them into a routine, I also think you have to change things up every so often, because sometimes they can switch off when they get used to a certain way of doing things.
“Every Tuesday the 9s, 10s, 11s and 12s for example they have a zoom session and then every Saturday they have a ball mastery and physical session.
“So, they have that consistency, and they know where they stand but at the same time our job as coaches is that we have to keep mixing it up and it is challenging but I think it’s something that we’ve done well.
“Also, I think Eric coming in has helped because if it was just my voice all the time, I think they would have probably got bored!”
Eric also added: “Because there’s been two of us it’s been exciting and I think they’ve been engaged and at the end of the day, we just want to make them better players but without being on the training pitch its difficult, but these sessions are really helping.
“We’ve been really conscious of giving them a voice and responsibility, so we do a lot of challenges with them in getting them to speak up see how their minds are working and I think that’s been very productive.
“A lot of midweek sessions we want to give them time to talk and just enjoy themselves because for a lot of them the social aspect of football is what they do it for and it’s a chance for them to see their friends and have a laugh.
“For some of them it’s difficult it can be hard to get their engagement because they want to play football and play with their friends so working remotely takes them away from them.”