Coaching the Match

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Many youth soccer coaches attend some initial coaching training such as G, F, or E licensing courses.  For all their value, none of these courses offers the coach a practical model for effective coaching behavior on game day, but instead demonstrate how to organize effective training.

Game day coaching behavior is left to the coach's imagination, and coaches make up their own style without regard to whether it is effective or not.  Coaches who start out with screamers often become screamers, and those who start with micro managers become micro managers.

Dare You Ask?

If you have not yet thought about how you are doing on game day, you might want to have your players complete an anonymous survey about your behavior and how you are or are not helping them in the game.  Be prepared for a shock, the results may not be as positive as you might expect.

Common Failures

  • Screaming at players, discouraging creative play.
  • Arguing continually with the referee, distracting the players.
  • Trying to micro manage players on the field, discouraging innovative play and learning - Play the ball down the line, cut it in, pass to Jenny....
  • Asking rhetorical questions and whining - Where are my defenders?    When are we going to learn to keep our shots down?  The players are wondering at this point what specifically they should do, and the parents are wondering why the coach has not already taught the players how to keep their shots down.
  • Being the center of attention - demanding the focus of spectators, players, and the referee
  • Paying no attention to the game - ordering a pizza with a cell phone from the lawn chair, listening to headphones, talking with other coaches.  Parents expect the coach to observe, make some corrections, not tune out.

Be Effective

  • Observe First
    The undisciplined coach who allows temper or frustration to enter the thought process is loss.  Panic, anger, frustration, and fear are mind killers.  The players are depending on the coach to be the coolest and most perceptive head on the field.
  • Use a Checklist
    As the coach, you should be able to explain to someone on a telephone, within 5 minutes of the start of the game, all the technical and tactical details of play.  This includes knowing what system of play the other team is using, where free players from the other team are coming from, which of your players is not marking tightly, which of your players is getting beaten, which of your players are stronger than their opponent, whether the opposing sweeper is deep or flat, whether the opposing goalkeeper has a decent punt or goal-kick, and all other relevant details needed to make tactical decisions about how to play in the match.
  • Limit Coaching
    There is nothing more destructive than an unceasing commentary and instructions from the coach.  Younger players can absorb all the information an adult coach can spew out and still play effectively.  Don't try to be a play by play director, let the kids play so that they can learn.  Trying to micro manage the game will drag the team down in the long run.
  • Find the Moment
    Players going shoulder to shoulder or fighting in a crowd of players aren't ready to listen to the coach, so shut up.  There is nothing that shows lack of coaching ability more than hearing a coach try to keep up a continuing stream of instructions to players fighting for a ball or making rapid one and two touch passes across the field.   There is no way that the information the coach is sending can be received, processed, and used, and the coach becomes an anchor on the team.  Wait for a ball out of play or another quiet moment to give simple and specific instructions.
  • Applaud and Recognize Good Play
    You don't have to wait to say Nice pass, well done, good shot, like what you did, excellent.  Don't criticize your players, be the first to encourage good play.  This is not restricted by the third commandment Limit Coaching.
  • Give Positive Instructions
    Don't ask rhetorical questions like why can't we clear the ball or where are my defenders?   The kids don't have any idea what you want them to do so they ignore this as spurious input.  Instead, give positive instructions like mark up closer, play closer to the touch-line,  sprint out to the half-way line faster after we clear the ball.
  • Speak Clearly
    Realize that the kids on the field, at times, may not be able to hear you.  Wind, crowd noise, and distance limit communication.  Use short clear words at the right moment, don't mumble or whine, show a positive and confident demeanor.
  • Use Simple and Specific Instructions
    Don't start up a theoretical conversation with tired and confused young players.   If you need to make a correction, use simple, friendly words that are clear and unambiguous.