Seven Surefire Ways to Make Sure Young Soccer Players Flourish

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Good coaching requires a lot of different skills, but these seven approaches ensure that your players develop well. When you put these fundamental practices into your coaching system, you’ll see faster development and get the best out of your players.

By looking at your players’ growth from their perspective, you’ll be able to see what they need in order to master the game. When you address their key issues, you’ll be better equipped to motivate them so that they can learn and improve as soccer players. Try these techniques for coaching, and before you know it, you’ll be on a winning streak.
#1 You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make her drink

Some players just aren’t interested. If one of your players demonstrates general apathy toward their development and little to no interest in the game itself, your choices are to motivate her or cut her loose. Otherwise, there’s a good chance she’ll bring the overall skill level of your team down. Try talking to the player and find out why she’s on the team in the first place. Maybe she wants to play, but is distracted by something, or maybe a parent forced her to join a sport she wasn’t that passionate about. Try to motivate her if you can, but if you can’t garner some interest, it could be best for you and your team to cut an indifferent player loose.

#2 Is there a sparkle in training?

Eager players usually show enthusiasm for learning and developing their skill. Even below-average players will work hard to reach their best level of performance, and this means you have something to work with. But if a player lacks that enthusiasm, your best course is to explore why she’s participating in the first place. Watch out especially for players who look for ways to get out of practice or games. Often these complaints are expressions of physical discomforts – a stitch, a sore tooth, leg pain – if there’s a new problem at every session, talk to the player, and if necessary, a parent, and find out why she’s really there. Once you know whether there’s a true interest in the game, you’ll be better able to move forward, with or without the player.

#3 Tell me and  I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand!

Most people, and especially young people, learn best by seeing and doing, so it’s good practice for them to watch games either live or on television. When developing players see what happens on the pitch, and this comes with some guidance and explanation of how the game works, their understanding and comprehension of soccer will increase dramatically. If you take your players to live games, you can discuss the plays with them during or afterward. Watching recorded games allows you to pause and insert comments, elaborating on what the announcer is saying.

Observation will also help young players set standards, which can be good or bad. When they see senior or professional players diving, cheating, fouling, and using abusive language to remonstrate with officials, they could start bringing these types of actions into their own game play. Be sure you set behavioral expectations and let your players know that just because they heard cursing on the pitch in a professional game does not mean you’ll tolerate any such thing on your own team.

#4 Give players plenty of quality playing time

Since players learn by watching and then doing, one great method for training is having your players watch great players, and then letting them practice the same maneuvers on their own. It’s helpful for them to see what “good” looks like through effective demonstrations. Make sure all practice sessions include time for players with conditions to have ample opportunities to touch the ball.

#5 All knowledge is good, whether through positive or negative learning

Developing players need motivation to maintain training. Quality learning involves both positive and negative experiences. When players are encouraged and understand that learning is beneficial to their growth as a soccer player, they will stay motivated and continue to learn with enthusiasm. When players are equipped with deeper knowledge, they can make better informed decisions and assessments of game situations.

#6 Always progress drills and condition games in order to continually challenge players

One way to make sure your players don’t’ develop is through too much repetition. If training sessions, drills, and even games become rote, players will become bored and learning will come to a dead halt. Set milestones and targets for development, continually pushing players to expend more effort or achieve higher standards. By constantly challenging them, you can keep them interested and encourage them to prove themselves. Young players will always try to reach the next level of their development, as long as it’s within reach. So, you have to be careful that you don’t make the stretch between milestones so great that they become detached and hopeless.

#7 Be inspiring

Your best course of leadership is to lead by example, instilling within your players hope and belief – hope that they can win as a team, and belief that they can improve as individual players. Even the weakest players can achieve great things. For example, Roger Bannister ran a sub four minute mile, a feat that was previously established as impossible. Inspire your players to surpass limitations so they can become the best team possible.