Communication is a key component to effective coaching and management. Our ability to effectively communicate will often dictate the levels of success or failure a team will achieve and our effectiveness and enjoyment as coaches. As a rule, it is often best to keep your in-game comments to a minimum. Specific, quick, positive in-game instruction will benefit your players most. At halftime, make no more than 3-4 general comments to the team; then talk to players individually with very specific alterations or suggestions. Use the sandwich approach: positive - negative-positive.
During training, use the freeze, recreate, live format (all part of the 9 step program). Develop themes for training. Have your sessions flow with little downtime. Keep your active practice instructions to 30sec. to 1 minute max - get in and out. Negative comments should be given in a way that is constructive and non-threatening, and best done on an individual basis. Berating players in front of their teammates (or parents or fans) destroys confidence rather than build it and can tear teams apart. Confidence is key for players to succeed and perform well. Once again, confidence and mental approach are KEY!
Different age groups will dictate the types of coaching one will engage in. There are numerous books on child development which give guidelines on the needs of different age groups. Always study, learn, listen, and grow as a coach and a person. In practice, use the Socratic method. Ask leading questions of your players to have them discover the answers for themselves. In this way the learning will take a deeper hold and will become more personal.
There are two common types of coaching communication - the running dialogue and the mute. We often see over-coaching in the form of constant talk/dialogue. This not only irritates the players, but also fellow coaches and parents. In short, let the players play. If coaches tell players how to make every move in a game, players will never be able to solve on-field problems for themselves and will not develop. In practice we give players a format/blueprint to follow in games. The beauty of soccer is that it is a players game. With no timeouts, players must view their minds as soccer computers - taking in as much data as they can and making decisions based upon prior experience and practice. This is why it is key to develop good technique and positive habits. When players get fatigued, angry, unfocused, etc...they will fall back on habit. If these habits are good, often times so will their performances under duress.
The other common type of communication is the mute; the coach who sits back and says nothing at all. Players need some feedback, but only at appropriate times (During halftime, a stoppage in play, an injury, and/or if the player is close to you on the field).
The goal of effective coaching communication is to balance when to speak and when not. Always think first and then speak. Find a middle ground.
One of the keys to modern coaching is to adopt a humanist, democratic
approach. Focus on process goals rather than outcome goals - i.e. - the way we play rather than the results - the journey there not the outcome. Involve players in decisions that affect the team, but with the knowledge that you as coach make the final decision which must be respected.
It has been argued in numerous kinesiology studies that "old school"
discipline-first, autocratic coaching does not fit the modern athlete and can have numerous deleterious health effects on coaches themselves (greater risk for heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, depression, personal relationship breakdowns, etc.). that is not to say one cannot be effective with this style, but it comes at a price. The ideal situation is one in which the players take ownership of the team and discipline - a sense of collective responsibility.
It is important to note that there are few constants in coaching. What works well for some coaches might not work well for others. Be true to your personality. Adopt the best of other coaches philosophies, styles, and practices and merge them into your own...forging your own identity as a coach. Additionally, the level of the team in terms of fitness, psychology, technical, and tactical (and personal commitments to soccer or the team) will dictate the types and intensity of coaching one will engage in, and what will work best for each group and individual.
Here are some coaching rules of thumb that might prove beneficial:
- Develop a sense of team spirit and common goals
- Develop a team or club code of ethics
- Be specific about players roles on the team
- Be dedicated to the cause
- Be open to suggestions
- Treat all players equally as much as possible
- Understand that all players will not react to the same stimuli the same way
- Be honest with your players and yourself
- Understand that winning is not the goal, playing well is however you define what well means
- Understand it is a game meant for physical and emotional enjoyment
- At the higher levels we find joy in the work, camaraderie, and competition
- Care about your players lives outside the game
- Balance your love of the game with your familial and personal responsibilities