Promoting creativity in players

A lot is said about getting players to be creative within the modern game, but really what is meant by being creative and how do we get players to be creative?

Defining the word “Creative”

Before we look any further at how and why we try to get players to be creative, we must first understand what it means to be creative and how this is seen in the footballing world.

When you look up the definition of creative, the result you get is “relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.” From this definition, there a few key points to pick out to help us understand further. 

The first is the idea of using their imagination, meaning they need to come up with something off their own backs, something which they have thought about and applies to the situation. The second part of the definition which intrigued me is the point of original ideas, which means they have created something personally.

Now the next step, is to define what is meant by being creative in a footballing situation. For us this is the ability for players to use their skills and techniques, to create solutions to problems within the game, and creating dangerous situations for the opposition.

How do we know a player is creative?

Some players have exceptional skills and techniques, such as skills much more advanced than most or techniques you would think only professional players would have. If this is the case, this must mean a player like this is creative because they are creating new things which others cannot do?

In fact this may not be the case, because it all comes down to how they use these skills and techniques and the application of them into a game situation. For a player to be creative, they need to use this skills and techniques within the game and do so at the right time, with excellent execution of them. 

Therefore this means to be a creative player, not only must they be able to do exceptional things with their feet but they must also be very clever within the mind. They need to think faster, react faster and create more solutions to problems than your average player. These could include, clever passes, exceptional vision, superior first touch and skilful dribbling to name a few things you may see from a creative player.

How do we teach Creativity?

To a certain extent this is a problem which doesn’t actually have a full solution to it, because can you really teach creativity? In our eyes not fully, because this requires the player to process, and be imaginative on their own. There is no set plan or a certain way to be creative, therefore we cannot teach it in our sessions.

What we can do though is supply the tools for a player to the use to be creative. To do this, as coaches we need to work on a players spatial awareness, their dribbling skills, different types of passes and different types of shots to name a few. These things we can teach how to do, and the way to do them beginning to supply the building blocks for a player to be creative.

The next step to helping to “teach” creativity is by exposing the player to as many different situations as possible. By exposing them to different situations, everyone gives them an opportunity to be use the skills and abilities spoke about in the previous paragraph, and they can experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

Lastly, we believe another crucial step in helping players to become creative is by having them in an environment which encourages creativity and players to show off. This needs to be a positive environment, where the player feels comfortable and not afraid to try something different. It needs to be one where they are not punished for mistakes, because mistakes are our greatest learning opportunity. Check out our previous post on building an environment of these sorts:

What do we do at JCR?

The first thing we do is practice lots of ball work from as early an age as possible, which encourages players to manipulate the ball different ways, doing new skills etc. By doing this, it starts to build the repertoire of the players skills. Further to this, we are always looking for ways to challenge the player, giving them new skills and combinations to try and making sure they find it difficult. We do all this from as early as possible, because as people get older they become worried about making mistakes, therefore the earlier you can teach a player to not worry about the mistakes the earlier and arguably the more creative they will be.

In addition to this, once we have seen a player can do something a certain way such as a certain type of pass, we ask the question how can we do this differently? The reason we ask this, is because we want them to figure out a solution to a problem. Now where have we heard that before? In the initial introduction in what it takes for a player to be creative. As part of this, we will not just give away the answer, because we want the player to use their imagination and think about everything.

Another aspect within our training we focus on a lot is the decision making and spatial awareness, because to be be creative they need to be aware of the surroundings and also to be able to make decisions quickly and decisively. By working on this within our sessions, it helps to build these skills which can the be utilised within the match situation.

Finally it is all good asking the players to be creative, but we believe in leading by example. Therefore we ask our coaches to be creative in as many ways as they can be. This may be the way they deliver a coaching point, the way they deliver a session or even learning a new skill themselves. Lead by example and others will follow. 


Final Comments

In a world which is constantly asking for players to be creative, we as coaches need to help and guide our players to be creative as possible. As stated, we cannot actually teach players to be creative, rather provide the platform and building blocks to allow a player to be creative. We believe by following the some of the examples we have mentioned, you can also help your players to become creative.

We would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic.

Thank You

James Redford

JCR Sports Coaching


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