In our quest to help the younger soccer players improve we may have started something that is more harmful than helpful. It is natural for adults to shout encouragement and advice to children as they are playing. The want-to-help is prevalent in all of us. As coaches and even parents however, we may want to look at some other more familiar sports and learn from them. Picture the following examples:
A long fly-ball is heading toward left-center field. The left-fielder and center- fielder begin their runs to get underneath to catch the ball. What instructions can the coach yell-out which will result in them making a successful catch?
The quarterback drops back in the pocket to throw a pass. He realizes that his pass protection is breaking down. What instructions can the coach yell out which will result in the quarterback successfully avoiding the sack and completing the pass?
The point-guard is in the lane ready to shoot a lay-up. He realizes that an opponent is coming from his right side to block the shot. What instructions can the coach yell out which will result in the point-guard successfully avoiding the block and scoring two points?
The answer to these questions, of course, is a resounding, "ABSOLUTLY NOTHING!"
Experienced coaches have learned that during the flow of the game one can only hope that instinct, talent, and good basics will bring the player's actions to a successful outcome. Experienced coaches go so far as to teach their players to focus and concentrate on the task at hand, to tune out every extraneous sound, including yelling from the sidelines.
Traditional sport coaches have the comfort of knowing that scheduled times will be given when they can coach. In most instances this occurs during total stoppage of the game when player and coach can concentrate on information exchange, between pitches in baseball, between plays in football, and during time-outs in basketball.
Since soccer is a continuous action game we are not given the luxury of scheduled stoppages when a player and coach can communicate without interfering with the performance. By the time the sound of the coach's voice reaches the ears of the player and the player processes the information and is read to act on it the game situation will have changed completely.
Soccer coaching takes place in realistic practices. Practices must be organized to simulate the action, excitement and decision making situation of an actual game. Experienced coaches follow the motto:
If "IT" could & does happens in the game --Then practice "IT"
However, If "IT" does not happen or could not happen in the game -- Then don't practice "IT!" Some examples of things that don't happen in the game: Waiting in lines, running laps, listening to lectures!
Coaching should take place prior to the start of a game. Experienced coaches give each individual player instructions on what was practiced and how to apply this during the game. The player, in turn, tells the coach what he/she understood the instructions to be. At half-time, the coach points out individual, group and team strengths. The coach indicates weaknesses observed and suggests ways to improve performance in the second half. Experienced coaches use the second half for observation, note taking in preparation for the next practice session.
If a coach feels that individual instruction is needed then the individual should be taken out of the action or even substituted. Coaching in this instance should follow a question and answer sequence rather than a lecture. The player should be asked to explain what actions took place and what corrections to make before being allowed to reenter the game.
After the game absolutely no coaching/evaluation should take place. This is the time to give positive strokes and mentally prepare them for the next practice session. Players should look forward to the next practice regardless of the game's result.
Experienced coaches also help the situation by role modeling sideline behavior for the spectators by doing their job. Their job consists of letting the players play their game while observing/taking notes for adjustments at half-time. After half-time they allow the players to play their game while observing/taking notes which will become the 'theme' for their next practice.
I am Hoping That This Message Does Not Fall on Deaf Ears.