Montessori and Me

I first became interested in Montessori in the late 1950s. I started reading about Nancy Rambush, and saw her speak about the Montessori Method when I was a beginning teacher. Rambush was head of the Whitby School in Connecticut. I went to visit the school and was so attracted to the whole environment that I returned frequently with some of my teachers, then spent summers in various Montessori workshops and seminars.

The Montessori Method is structured on a controlled learning environment that is mostly free of error. There is also an established routine with many repetitions of exercises.

I became friendly with one teacher in particular. She told me an interesting story.

One winter she was unable to drive to school due to ice on the roads. Telephone lines were down, so she could not call to tell the school that she could not be there. Most of the students and teachers made it to school. During the morning, the headmaster dropped into her class. All appeared normal. The children were all working on various projects and all were busy and occupied. When the headmaster asked for the teacher, the students realized that none had seen her. The day had begun, as usual, with attendance being taken and carried to the general office. Lunch count was taken, and delivered to the lunchroom. The students knew what to do and started on their routine tasks. Some new work had been placed on the board the day before, and there were repetitious exercises that had been introduced previously.

Most of the tasks were routines that were most familiar to the students. The teacher laughed when she told me the story.

"I could have been gone for a couple of days and nobody would have noticed," she said.

She explained that the Montessori Method thrived on routine and repetition. Children do well in an environment where there is routine and orderliness. They grow in such an environment. They develop confidence and can master the tasks that they are given. They grow and learn.

I believe this. The same is true on the soccer field.

Training in soccer should become a routine for the players. There should be almost endless repetitions. But what do we find on a typical soccer training field? Chaos.

The players sit around waiting for the coach to tell them what to do. They sit on the ground and wait. Some shoot at the goal. They hit dead balls, which is not part of the game. The boys watch the girls; the girls strut.

Then the coach arrives. The ball bag is finally opened and balls are passed out. Perhaps cones and corner flags are placed on the field. Then the coach tells the players what to do.

No routine! What a waste of time! Sitting, waiting and watching.

Players should get right to the task. Why wait for the coach? Do it!

There is no need to take attendance or lunch count, so things can start right away.

My practice begins with a warm-up. The players all know it. Why wait for me to begin. Do it. Why wait for me? Just like the teacher in the storm, the players should be capable of beginning their routine without my presence. After things are underway, the coach can stop and explain the specifics of the practice (my teacher friend had put that on the board the day before).

The other item to be stressed is repetition. I am translating a Dutch training manual. An early exercise has participants play small-sided games for a few minutes, followed by a short rest. Then the instructions state, "repeat 10 times" Wow! Think of that. Repeat 10 times!

If we are willing to train kids in soccer, we should make the most of the time available. This means creating a routine that includes many repetitions. You may want to use the "9-Step Practice Routine" taught in the CYSA Coaching Courses because "IT WORKS!"

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