Monday, March 19, 2007

Sam's Blog - Match Talk - March 19

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

While observing youth matches over the weekend I was reminded of the over-coaching that so many youth coaches do during a match. Micromanaging a soccer game is very difficult to do as the action changes so fast that by the time a coach finishes a sentence of instruction the situation has changed.

The ball has moved and so have all of the players, so the information is likely now useless. A coach yelling out general reminders, such as move up to support or recover to defend, is fine. It is the step-by-step instruction coming from coaches and many spectators does that is in fact harming the players. With young players, 12-years-old or younger, the comments made are actually a mental distraction.

This means the player no longer is focusing on the match but instead is trying to hear and act upon what is being yelled by the adults. Move this to the teenage level of play and now the tactical reaction by the players is too slow. If they have come to rely on instructions from the touchline then they must be able to hear the instructions, filter out the extraneous parental comments from the coach’s comments, process the information, make a decision and then act upon it.

Odds are very high that this process is too slow for that player to now make an impact on the match. Players must be able to think for themselves in order to act fast enough in a match. The player who is hindered by the coach to rely upon the coach during a match is doomed to never be more than a reaction player. A reaction player is the one who just reacts to what just happened.

We want the American player to be an anticipation player. This is a player who can read the game and can then anticipate what may happen next. This is the player who can think one or two moves ahead of the action. This is a player who is now more likely to become an impact player!

When a coach yells frequently during a match the coach then doesn’t know if the players are communicating among themselves. That intra-team communication is crucial to success. Players that do not talk to one another will always be one step behind the opposition. A coach who is quiet during the majority of the match is one who can hear IF the players are talking.

Then the coach can asses what the players are saying. Is the talk positive and tactically useful? If not then the coach can address that to a small extent at half-time or the end of the match and then more thoroughly in the next training session. Some coaches who make the change from over-coaching to a match appropriate level of coaching will find initially that the players do not talk because they are not accustomed to doing so. The coach had been doing all of the talking and the players were largely silent.

Now that the coach is saying less, the players need to fill in the blanks and most will not be in the habit. Here the coach must show patience and allow the confidence to speak up during a match to grow with the players. This begins with the coach saying little during the scrimmage at practice so that players may take the lead in communication. Too many of our players do not speak up during a match, but many have not been able to get a word in edgewise over the monologue from the coach.

So here’s the bottom line…the coach needs to be quiet during a match and the players must do the talking! What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Any parent who has tried to talk to their kids while the child is playing video games should realize when a kid is focused on playing, they are NOT focused on your talking. For the child to truly listen to you, they must stop playing. I see the same thing with kids playing soccer. Parents yelling and yelling, so the kid will actually stop playing to listen.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Imagine doing your job at your desk with people yelling at you. Can you think in an environment like that? Kids tend to play the video games because they are n control of what they are doing. No one is telling them what to do. Ever see a kid that plays video games for a while still be a bad "game player"? If we let the kids just learn from their mistakes, they will learn the game themelves. Problem is, most parents are to result oriented to sit back and watch.