Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: match day, playing time, squads, substitutes, team selection
Last month we took on a young player who has never played for a club before. He’s 11, and charges around the place without being able to control the ball or kick it very well.
I’ve started to coach him and he’s already improved, although some of his team mates have made it clear they don’t think he’s good enough to play for our team.
But I like to have players like this; players who can be allowed to develop and find themselves a role in the team.
The lad has been desperately keen to play in a match, and I spoke to him and his parents about when and where he can expect to play.
I planned to introduce him slowly to the pace of match play because I didn’t want him to have an experience that would put him off.
Well, the best laid plans and all that…
At the weekend I had three players call off sick at late notice. When we turned up on Saturday morning it was quite clear we were going to be a player short. And one of our 10 was my new player.
I got the usual moans and groans at our lack of numbers, but explained to my new player where I wanted him to position himself. Needless to say, he was really keen to get going. And with a couple of interventions by me – at one point to explain the offside rule! – he played well enough in the first half.
Sure, he wasn’t quite up to the pace of the game, but was beginning to show signs that he would be a good acquisition to the team. And this was confirmed when he made a surging run early in the second half – the only player alert to a through-ball. He got away beyond the defenders to go 1v1 against the goalkeeper, and fired the ball high into the net.
What a strike! To say I was surprised is an understatement! He was thrilled and so was his dad. Of course, this gave the player a new-found confidence.
As a result, he was looking for the ball all over the pitch – it also gave him boundless energy. It helped the team as well and they all congratulated him on a solid (goalscoring!) debut.
And so he has written his name into the history books. To think I was afraid of playing him straight away shows how wrong it can be of coaches to consider some players ‘not ready’.
Sure, you use your judgement based on what you see on the training pitch, but sometimes the only way to really tell if a player has what it takes is to give him the opportunity when it matters – on match day.
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