Don’t Make This Mistake With Your Soccer Players

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I’m a coach, and this season my team acquired two new players. I wasn’t looking for new players. These two came to us because their parents had seen our team play over the last few seasons. They saw us winning all our games, but even more important was the way in which we won them.

Recently, one of my new players gave me a little insight as to how the previous coach trained them. Apparently, the team would sit around waiting for all the players to show up. Then, they’d set up a couple of cones as goals, the players would be divided up into two groups, and they’d play a game. The coach’s degrees of praise and criticism varied greatly.

This approach to coaching intrigued me, so I asked the player how the previous coach’s and my training regime differed. His response was that the other coach gave vague feedback, often saying things like well done, try harder, or get stuck in. None of his players understood what those comments meant.

My new player told me that the way our team stops during play and talks through various situations is more helpful.

I’m not trying to knock the other coach. We all have our own techniques for training players. However, if any coach truly wants the players to learn and grow, then feedback must be helpful. General comments, such as well done mean nothing to young players. They need specifics, and my team responds well to detailed feedback that includes demonstrations and interjections that ensure that the team, both as individuals and as a group, understand the points that I try to convey.

You don’t have to stop a game every single time you want to provide coaching points. When you want to give feedback to an individual player, you can call the player out while the game or practice continues and have a one-on-one conversation. This allows the rest of the team to remain occupied and focused on the game and prevents having an entire team of players standing around listening to comments that are neither relevant or useful to them.

However, when you’re trying to communicate soccer principles that are relevant to the entire team, it’s perfectly acceptable to stop play and talk to the entire team. Just keep in mind that group feedback should be beneficial to the majority of your players if you’re going to stop a game.

For example, if you are running a small sided game practicing the principles of a retreating defense, then consider the overall balance of positions that the players have taken up. If some players haven’t retreated enough or have left gaping holes on the field, then you will need to stop the play and highlight problem areas. Also, the knock-on effect should be explained in a manner that clarifies how it impacts the team as a whole, not just those individuals that didn’t retreat quickly enough.

What you have to ask yourself is whether or not the points you need to make are relevant to one or relevant to all. This will be the deciding factor in whether you pull one player or stop the game and address the entire team. Don’t lead training sessions that simply involve players kicking a ball around aimlessly, and avoid broad comments that mean nothing to your players.

Instead, make sure that each session has purpose. Organize your drills and small sided games accordingly, and have your coaching points ready to go. If you know what you’re looking for and are able to give valuable and meaningful feedback to your players both as individuals and as a group, your team will be winning every match before you know it.