With Andrew Lockyer, Former West Coast Eagles Player and Current Coach of the East Fremantle Colts
SUMMARY: When you become a junior coach, you also become a custodian of the great game of Australian rules football. For it is your job to pass the skills and knowledge on to the next generation of players for them to carry on through their football lives, and to pass on to the next generation after them.
Understanding this responsibility, we spoke to WAFL Colts Coach Andrew Lockyer for some tips. Here’s what he had to say… includes Lockyer’s 3 key areas for juniors and how he develops them at WAFL Colts training.
Working in the area of junior development gives most coaches a great sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. One such coach giving back to the game and getting his fair share of satisfaction is East Fremantle Colts coach Andrew Lockyer.
Lockyer forged an impressive playing career in the WAFL and the AFL, compiling 146 senior games for his beloved Sharks, as well as 78 for the West Coast Eagles. He also represented Western Australia on 4 occasions in the State of Origin.
Upon retiring, ‘Barge’ as he is affectionately known, moved into coaching, firstly at the West Perth Football Club at both Colts and Senior level, before returning to East Fremantle. Lockyer is currently in his 3rd season in charge of the East Fremantle Sharks Colts team.
The following article aims to pass the knowledge of coaching juniors that Lockyer has accumulated as both an AFL player and WAFL coach.
3 Key Areas for Developing Juniors
According to Lockyer, there are 3 key areas that coaches need to focus on developing in juniors:
- Game Sense
- Running Ability
Which of these 3 areas are most important?
Well according to Lockyer, it’s skills.
“Players need to possess good skills first and foremost, followed by good game sense and then strong running ability, which encompasses fitness and agility,” explains Lockyer.
“Skills are very important. If a player can’t kick or mark, he generally won’t make it at the elite level. But if a player possesses adequate skills, then generally their game sense will also be suitable”.
Lockyer is also a strong believer that the 3rd pre-requisite of running ability, fitness and agility can be built into a player.
How Lockyer Implements These Key Areas into Training
So how do you implement these key areas into your training sessions?
Well each coach has their own opinion, but this is how Lockyer does it with his East Fremantle Colts players in the WAFL.
Monday Night Training
Monday nights generally start with a video review and player feedback session for the previous game. Video footage greatly improves a player’s ability to understand what he has done well and shows him what he needs to improve as well. Players tend to have a greater level of interest in their actions when they see them on the screen, and it also allows them to gain a greater understanding of what the coaches tell them about different game situations.
Note – We have found this to be a common theme at the higher level… we have even known some AFL teams to record game based training sessions to further increase player game sense learning.
After the video review, players will undertake a training session that is primarily skills orientated to allow their bodies to still recover from the weekend’s game.
Tuesday Night Training
The week’s main training session then follows on Tuesday night, and Lockyer runs it as follows.
40% of the main training session is skills orientated.
Game Sense Session
30% of the training session is dedicated to game sense drills, performed while players are under pressure to simulate game day conditions.
According to Lockyer, “The game based drills are basically drills done under pressure and involve different scenarios of 18 v 18, 6 v 5, 5 v 4 or 3 v 2, where players learn to work the ball down the ground, playing stoppage situations, creating space and ‘defending the undefendable’.”
The rest of the session is dedicated to fitness work, including the warm up and cool down.
Thursday Night Training
The players then return to the club on a Thursday night for the final session of the week. This session is skills focused and is primarily the night to work on match play scenarios.
The match day scenarios that Lockyer will generally work on are:
- game day structures
- the opposition for the next game
Lockyer’s Advice to Junior Coaches
It is important for coaches to develop the whole player, and not just focus on his kicking and marking skills, when working with young players. This is vital in the age groups of 13 years to 17 years.
Lockyer spends time working with the junior coaches in the East Fremantle district to ensure both the coaches and the players are developing adequately.
When asked for the best advice that can be given to junior coaches in a development role, Lockyer was firm and sure in his response.
“Keep ensuring that the kids practice their skills constantly, and especially under pressure.” He adds, “As well as skills, it is important to practice non-possession time, such as creating space for the player or a team mate, where to run, and how to turn situations into an opportunity to attack.”
Skills, game sense and running ability are certainly 3 areas that junior players could benefit from at training. And while many junior coaches only train 2 nights a week, the lessons learnt from Lockyer are still easy to implement and develop within their own teams.
After all, if it is good enough for our next batch of WAFL and AFL stars, then other young players should also be given the same opportunities as well… Something that Lockyer was keen to impress to us!
Title photo by Mike Hauser via: freeforcommercialuse.org.