To not do something for someone who can and should do it for themselves is an act of love. - John Wooden
Among the many negative side effects from overbearing coaches is the arrested development of player creativity. Yet it is not just the stereotypical loudmouth who inhibits creativity by attempting to orchestrate play. Nearly all youth coaches (present company included) are guilty in some way of making decisions for our players that they can and should make for themselves. Coaches who dictate play by directing the player in possession ensure that players never get to think for themselves and therefore never develop the skill so elemental to our sport; decision making.
The problem is exacerbated by soccers juxtaposition to other American sports. Volunteer coaches with backgrounds in basketball and American football are conditioned to coach in that style. They attempt to control the flow of play despite the absence of time-outs or their players ability to slow the game down to await instructions. They erupt in frustration and pile misery on a game meant to be fun.
Perhaps more troubling, however, are the professional youth coaches stalking the sideline and demonstratively coaching in the style of football or basketball in an attempt to impress the unenlightened parents who pay their salaries.
We do a tremendous disservice to our players if we dont allow them to make the most critical decisions in the game; the decisions made when in possession. The fluid nature of our game ensures that attempts to choreograph sequences of play are usually futile and frustrating for player and coach. There are, however, useful things a coach can do in the run of play. I have therefore listed below ten reasons to avoid coaching the player in possession and offered some suggestions of things we can do instead.
1. Young players cant multi-task
Most young children are cognitively incapable of processing external instructions and acting on them while performing a complex physical task. Players in Piagets Pre-Operational and early Concrete Operational* stages of cognitive development have very limited ability to tend to more than one task at a time and little or no capacity for complex tactical decision making. Typically, players under the age of ten have no chance of simultaneously performing complex motor skills, reacting to the demands of the game, processing your instructions and acting on them. You are wasting your breath.
2. They wont talk to each other if you do all the talking
It is axiomatic of team discipline that players should not talk when the coach is talking.
Yet we often hear coaches narrate a game and wonder aloud (often at full volume) why the players are not communicating with each other. If you overwhelm the game with narration, your players have no chance of communicating with each other.
3. The moment is gone
The game moves so quickly that the sequence you are trying to orchestrate evaporates before the players can process what you have said. So dont bother. Andyou make matters worse if you try to teach while the game is happening. If there is a teaching point to be made, make it to the players on the bench. The players in the game have already moved on.
4. You rob them of a chance to make a decision. They dont discover solutions and are therefore less likely to remember them:
Every possession is an opportunity to experiment and learnbut not if the coach dictates play. When players achieve success in a sequence of play through their own cleverness, they are far more likely to remember why it worked. This opportunity for Guided Discovery is lost if you provide all the answers. Good decisions come from experienceexperience comes from bad decisions. You have to hold your tongue in the run of play and then help them learn from their successes and failures by addressing those decisions during your half-time talk or at some future training session.
5. You miss a chance to analyze the game
Leave the screaming to the fans. You need to watch and analyze the game. What formation is the opposition playing? Who are their dangerous players? How can you adjust to deal with their strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses? How can you maximize your strengths and hide your weaknesses? These decisions cant be made if you follow the ball and try to orchestrate play.
Todays post is by Roy Dunshee, Maryland State Technical Coordinator for the NSCAA and President of United Soccer Coaching, LLC.