In his previous blog post, FA Skills Coach Dom Edwards introduced us to the Cognitive Acceleration (CA) model he is using to help young players develop their thinking and playing skills. In this article Dom gives you a brilliant session plan to start incorporating CA into your training sessions. This is applied sport psychology in action:

In the second of my posts surrounding ‘Cognitive Acceleration’ theory I will attempt to explain a session I have recently delivered with an explanation of why I used the techniques while striving relate them to CA theory.

I used the technique to develop the understanding the children have around attacking play in football. The process described below encouraged players to use abstract thinking through the problems set and challenges given.

If we think about the stages of learning related to:

Collecting new information

Challenging learnt information and

Confirming information

….then the CA approach is capable of working in all 3 and therefore can be used to differentiate large groups as different tasks can be set within the group.

The following session hopes to challenge any preconceived ideas surrounding attacking in football (which in young children there are many) but also to provide new information to some.

The group I used were a group of 30 Year 5 pupils at a Primary School. They have mixed ability and a varied interest in sport in general. I chose this group to work with to show that this approach can be used with any group you have access too.

It is important that the learning outcome is shared with the learners, in this case the learning outcome was;

We Are Learning To: Explore the different ways to attack in football.

This Is Because: ? (I used a question mark here as I wanted to straight away generate discussion around how many ways there might be to attack)

The session is split into 3 parts to explain the process of the approach….

The session was setup in a similar manner to a science lesson – a problem was set and then the group were given the opportunity to ‘experiment’ by playing to solve this problem/meet the challenge. One of the key principles in science is to challenge ideas and to develop the learners’ understanding of a topic and this is exactly what we are trying to do here.

As written in my previous post it is important to not always simply ask a question and expect an answer but to generate discussion within the group. This will lead to the child being given an opportunity to explain their ideas.

Certain sessions may also begin by introducing an element of dual cognition: Pass in hands and count the number of passes you can make without a tagger intercepting. Or when you pass move between two other players ready to receive. This is a method to develop the players’ cognitive skills through play.

The CA approach has been shown to develop abstract thinkers as it gives the children the chance to experiment with ideas in a safe environment. Abstract thinking helps the child solve the problem in creative ways which is a very important skill in football, therefore underpinning the potential importance of this approach.

The group work here provides a potential cognitive challenge because the child may have to support their own ideas but will also have to listen to others and may even refute these ideas. As a coach we should want to provide a cognitive challenge as it not only means that the child is engaged in the learning but encourages them to use abstract thinking (abstract thinking is a little talked about but vital part of football psychology).

One of the most important parts here is the ‘bridging’ phase. Where the children are encouraged to practice what has been taught in a small sided game; so to bridge the learning from the previous practice into something that resembles what they are learning to do.

The last question I asked the group was ‘Has anybody’s thinking changed throughout the lesson?’ this was a deliberate question to bring the group back to the idea that our views and ideas can change. Aiming to develop their understanding of learning.

In Conclusion

Hopefully by reading this post it has generated your thinking around how you develop your players psychologically, particularly their understanding of potentially complex tasks. The session is, broadly speaking, very similar to a science lesson and I believe this is a real positive as there are large amounts that can/should be learnt from teaching, but there is also a large amount that coaches can share with teachers when it comes to learning and development.

I hope these posts have generated discussion and made you reflect on your own coaching with your players. Although I believe the CA approach to be an extremely efficient way of challenging learnt information I think it should be used alongside other methods of coaching. Similar to any educational or teaching style variety is key and therefore a cognitive acceleration approach may be best used interspersed with more traditional coaching styles.

I would be very interested to know whether anybody has tried this approach so for any questions/comments: @domiedwards