by Dave Clarke of bettersoccercoaching.com
Being in control from the touchline is not easy for coaches of young players. But few coaches take as much care during the vital minutes of the match as they do with the pre-match preparation.
ON MATCH DAYS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
1. DO find the right moment.
Information needs to be given when players are most receptive, in other words when they can concentrate on what you are saying. That is not in the middle of the game. Talk to them at the half-time break. Youth teams suffer the most from parents shouting out meaningless parents, confusing the main message you want to deliver. Your team needs to avoid conflicting messages.
2. DON’T micro-manage the game.
Some coaches feel it necessary to talk players through every move. This is potentially destructive because it stifles their instinct for the game and stops them using their skills (which probably exceed the coach’s). Positive encouragement will give players confidence. Psychologists tell us that it is better to say hit the target than don’t miss.
3. DO break the game down into chunks with achievable targets.
No shots on your goal from the opposition for the next ten minutes, keep play in their half of the pitch.
4. DON’T get distracted away from the game.
Talk to spectators and the other coaches afterwards. Your players need your full attention. Create a bubble for you and your team. Make sure at half-time the bubble continues.
5. DO watch first, worry later.
Keep your emotions under control : panic, anger, frustration and fear are all mind killers. Players depend on the coach to be the coolest head on the pitch. Observing from as many different watching angles as possible will enhance your perspective on the game.
6. DON’T argue with the referee.
It distracts the players and draws attention to the possible shortcomings of one person rather than the game in hand. It is also unlikely to have a positive influence on the outcome of the game and is not in the spirit of the game anyway. Referees and umpires of all levels and abilities will rarely change a decision once it’s been made and it may even turn them against you.
7. DO create and refer to a checklist.
When the game starts, as a coach you should be able to read effectively the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and alter your strategy accordingly. Use a simple checklist with the tactic you will apply to counter strengths or exploit weaknesses. For instance, identifying their best player may change the way they are marked, or noting whether that player is left or right sided.