Too much instruction from the coach on the sidelines is unfortunately not going to develop vision and judgement. However, it’s a common occurrence in youth games. Why is this? It may be because it’s how we were coached when we were playing junior soccer – the coach shouted instructions from the sidelines and we attempted to carry out his orders on the pitch. Today’s footballers have more than enough to cope with however, so below are some tips for encouraging your players to think for themselves and reduce their dependence on you.
During coaching sessions, it’s important to focus on exercises and small 5 a-side matches that create situations the players are likely to be confronted with in league games. However, don’t give directions on how they should play, for example pass to John, dribble, run at defenders, switch ball, etc. Your players have enough factors to take into consideration as it is, such as the speed of the ball, it’s flight, weather conditions, state of the pitch, what’s happening around them, their position on the field, their team mates position – they don’t need information overload from the coach on the sidelines as well.
Ponder for a moment how you handle things yourself when you’re trying to deal with several inputs at once. Take for instance, if you’re watching a match on television, talking with a mate on the phone and then your partner enters the room to ask a question – you can’t concentrate on all three at once! We can only cope with a certain amount of information at any one time and it’s no different when coaching soccer players.
Obeying instructions will improve a player’s performance. However, he will come to rely on this and will not reach his full potential. Instruction is important in coaching soccer but it should be only when appropriate. During training sessions, allow the players to take control of situations and try things out for themselves as this encourages confidence in their own abilities.
You can train your players to keep one move ahead of play by frequently reminding them to always think ahead and know precisely what they will do once they have the ball, rather than taking delivery of it and then deliberate over what to do. This is an important skill for young soccer players. A football game is swift with little enough time on the ball as it is, so wanting a few extra seconds to think what to do with the ball is an indulgence they don’t have.
When coaching soccer players in vision and judgement, require that they know and carry out what action to take with the ball immediately they receive it. Once they have performed the skill, assess the positives and negatives of their choice. Using this method allows players freedom to both think and act. A picture should be formed in their mind about the progress of play.
To increase the speed of vision and making decisions you may want to add some conditions on your players. For instance indecisive players frequently kill the ball when they make their initial contact or spend time weighing up options once they receive the ball. To prevent this happening, introduce a simple restriction that the ball cannot stand still unless it rolls. This makes the players think about where there is space so they can control the ball towards it, keep it rolling and then look around for movement before determining whether to pass or dribble.
As a final coaching point, remember to ask lots of questions to improve your players’ vision and decision-making. Rather than spoon feeding your team with instructions, encourage them to think and comprehend things for themselves. With this method of training, you are performing a role of organiser; rather than giving players the answers, direct them using questions to answer themselves.
Your questions should steer the players to correct answers. The more right answers they give, the more their confidence will develop, enabling them to deal better with more match situations.
One last thing – although it may prove difficult at times, attempt to limit the feedback players receive from fans or parents on the sidelines. It’s a difficult enough task for players striving to take in information on the match and listening to instructions from you without having to deal with contributions from the sidelines as well. The more you prevent this type of participation, the better it is for your players.