Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: discipline, how long?, parents, problems, time, understanding
I always remember when I was struggling to cope with delivering sessions in my early days, a very experienced academy coach said to me: “There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.”
It’s a great piece of advice. My right hand man at training is fairly new to coaching and he, like you, works very hard at getting the right sessions and delivering them to some of our younger teams. But he gets very nervous and if the kids haven’t understood what he wants them to do, he moves right on to another session and tries that.
Understanding is vital to a session, both for the coach and the players – often it takes time for the players to get the session you are delivering. We were well into the session last week and I could see the players looking at one another slightly lost.
“It’s not working, Dave,” said my right-hand man. “You said it was a 15-minute exercise but time’s almost up and they’re not grasping it.
I told him to hold fire and managed to block out the murmurs of the watching parents who were keen for me to move on to something else. But I wanted to show them one more time that this could work. It’s never easy watching kids struggling with a concept, but I couldn’t give up on this with them so close.
I tried giving two players some extra encouragement – sometimes that’s all it takes. And sure enough, within 30 seconds, they began to ‘get it’. And more than that, they started having fun. The session was working and they wanted to carry on, because part of the fun was ‘getting’ the session.
Within a further 10 minutes they were making it look easy, which was exactly what I wanted. “Okay,” I shouted, “it’s a wrap!” And guess what? They didn’t want to stop
Some players began to move onto a small-sided game, but a good number were still running the passing sequence. I initially planned this as a 15-minute warm-up, but it had ended up filling the majority of the session!
I’m always amazed when coaches tell me they ran a session with 15 minutes of ‘this’, then 20 minutes of ‘that’, and another 10 minutes to finish, because that is what it told them to do in the session notes. Sure, following that principle helps you keep control of your session, but it won’t allow you to develop your players with any spontaneity.
Don’t keep looking at your watch just because it says 15 minutes in your session notes. Instead, watch the players and use your own coaching knowledge to judge what to do next. Trust me, the results can be fantastic.
Filed under: Better Soccer Coaching Blog Guests, Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: behaviour, coach, parents, players, relationships, respect
Respect is at the center of the player-coach relationship. With a setting that is based on respectful behavior, all members of a team can thrive. A parent’s role in helping a child to have a good relationship with a coach is one of instruction, encouragement and support. Unless you, the parent, are the one doing the coaching, it’s not possible to control how the coaching is handled. However, you can work to provide positive support that will enable a child to have a good experience.
Although children at different levels have different physical and behavioral abilities, it’s always possible to teach respect. Important aspects of respectful behavior include paying attention when the coach speaks or models a skill, listening without interrupting, following directions, trying new skills and asking questions in a polite manner. Additionally, respectful behavior involves not being distracted by other kids. Simple use of polite words and behaviors can also help form a positive relationship. Teach your child to thank the coach for his time at the end of practice.
A young child can stray off task easily, and distractions are common in early league levels. However, coaches working with young children are generally trained to keep activities shorter to accommodate age-related needs. As children grow older, more attentive behavior can be expected as longer drills and activities are provided. Help a child to enjoy a good relationship with coaches at any level by reinforcing respectful behavior with encouraging words. Correct your child when inappropriate behavior is observed, and be sure to praise positive behavior.
Model Respectful Behavior
Your child doesn’t have control over his arrival time. Being late to practices and games can create problems for the coach, and it’s on you to make sure your child arrives on time. The team can also suffer if multiple kids are late or absent. Good communication from a parent can help. Let your child’s coach know if he will be absent or late. Make it a point to be on time for official activities. Follow through on commitments to the team, especially those involving things like after-game snacks or important forms.
A parent who expects a child to show respect for an authority figure like a coach must also model such behavior. If you bad-mouth the coach’s style, decisions or other actions, your child may assimilate some of these same sentiments into his own behavior. If he perceives negativity on the part of Mom or Dad, he may feel that he is justified in acting out or criticizing on his own.
No coach is perfect, and parents often disagree about a coach’s decisions. However, helping a child to have a positive experience means that it’s important to avoid attacking his coach publicly or privately. This can be tough, especially if there is a perception that the coach hasn’t treated a child fairly. However, it’s important to remember the power you have as a role model.
Act in a Supporting Role
Coaches often appreciate the availability of parents during practices and games. Having a parent available makes it possible to quickly deal with serious behavioral issues. Additionally, having a few parents help out can lighten the duties of the coach by making it easier to manage drills and other administrative tasks. Consider volunteering as a team parent and assisting a coach in coordinating distribution of team notices, uniforms or fundraising materials. Demonstrate a willingness to help set an example for a child while supporting the coach. Parental support can do a lot to keep a child’s relationship with the coach positive.
Dealing with Differences
It’s important to realize that no matter how attentive and cooperative a child is, the player-coach relationship is two-sided. There will be times when a parent may not agree with how a play is handled, where a child is positioned, or when a child has to sit out for a play (or longer). An unintended slight can lead to a negative relationship between parents, players and coaches. It’s important to address concerns directly with the coach. Similarly, teach a child to ask questions respectfully if he disagrees with how a situation has been handled. Help your youngster understand that the coach is the leader and has the responsibility for decision-making. It’s important not to over-exaggerate small issues. At the same time, a pattern of oversights may require some private discussion.
Your child will have many coaches over time. Every coach will be unique in his approach to team discipline, drills and game strategies. It’s important to help your child understand that respect is an ongoing priority. Encourage him with positive points at the beginning of a season, and continue to model support and cooperation in order to facilitate a pleasant player-coach relationship.
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Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: angry, behaviour, incident, parents, shouting, violence
This week I had to do exactly that. Two players in my team had been winding each other up in school, and although I knew they had history, there were never any problems that spilt over into the team… until one of the dads got involved, that is.
A relatively innocuous incident in training was enough to make the whole thing explode. John and Peter (not their real names) were on opposing teams in the small-sided game we were playing. The former had already scored two great goals – much to his watching dad’s delight. When he tried nutmegging Peter there was an untidy coming together, from which Peter emerged with the ball.
“No, no, no,” shouted his dad, “I’m not having that! Free kick! You should be keeping your eye on this ‘problem’”.
I reacted only by explaining it was a fair tackle. But then a similar incident followed soon afterwards, and this time it was a foul. Before I could stop play John’s dad was on the pitch pacing towards Peter. I had to intervene, calm him down and get him off the pitch. I’m not sure what would have happened had I not managed to keep his dad at arm’s length.
We got to the end of training with no further incidents, but when Peter’s dad came to pick him up, I told him there was friction and it would need to be sorted at some point.As for John’s dad, under no circumstances can I accept this sort of behaviour at my coaching sessions. I told him I would ban him if it happened again. He accepted he had crossed the line and has promised to remain calm in future.
John is a great player and an asset to the club but if I did ban his dad he is likely to leave. Yet it is in the best interests of the club to reprimand a parent if something like this happens. Under no circumstances can repeated aggressive parental behaviour be overlooked; it sets a ridiculous example.
In the end, the team is more important than the individual, even when – such as in this case – you’re talking about one of your best players.
Football is often about making tough decisions, but the best way to avoid them is to be open and upfront, and to nip stuff in the bud before it escalates. Now I’ve just got to get Peter and John getting on – wish me luck!
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: information, lazy, match day, new players, not turning up, parents
At the weekend everything was looking good – the weather had cleared up and our game was on. But then, as I was preparing to leave the house, I was informed that three players had gone away for the half-term holidays without bothering to tell me.
So I had a problem. And sure enough, within the hour I had only nine players present, and was being asked what time the others were turning up. “Well, this is it, lads, this is the team… we’ve been let down”, I replied.
We’d beaten our opponents 1-0 earlier in the season, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely… not that I told my players that.
We gathered for our team talk and I assured them that they could still perform with only nine men. It’s not the first time this sort of setback has happened, and in the past I’ve used different tactics – one being to tell them to pretend we’d had two players sent off. But nothing had worked because, simply, they wanted to be told that everything would be okay and they wouldn’t be easily beaten.
So this time I took a simple, honest approach, telling them that hard work would compensate for the loss of players, and how if everyone put in an extra bit of effort we could make up the difference.
The reality was that the three who had failed to show comprised two strong covering players and a speedy trickster. So how was I going to cover that tactically?
Well, the pitch seemed particularly narrow, so my first move was to sacrifice the left-back position and tell my defenders to cover left. The defenders were sure they could manage – great.
I wanted to leave my four-man midfield as it was, so that left a lone striker up front, but we’d give it a try. It was an exciting challenge.
And I’m pleased to say the formation worked well. The opposition didn’t really take advantage of our left defence problem – they had a fast winger but he continually attacked our right-back. The only thing that let us down was support in attack – we created more chances than them but couldn’t get shots away, and when we did, there was no-one to follow up.
The game finished 0-0 but the players were magnificent and it was a great lesson in how hard work can overcome a numerical disadvantage. In many ways, it was probably the best game we have played all season.
The moral is don’t be put off by what might appear to be a major setback. It’s from such events that we usually learn most about ourselves and our players
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: difficult, parents, praise, punishment, unruly players
He has an elder brother who is captain of the school rugby team, and the rest of the family are sporty as well, often supporting one another. For instance, his parents and brother turn up to watch him play his football… they even bring the dog sometimes! As the season has progressed they’ve grown into the heart of the club, and I offer them weekly reports as to how their lad has settled in and how he is responding to playing in my team.
And responding he really is. That’s because I have given him praise and responsibility – I’m some way short of offering him the captaincy, but he has a role in the team mechanic and that means a lot to him.
Now some players will find themselves motivated more than others by the words of their coach, and you might think that this lad is particularly receptive because he has a family who support and challenge one another. But in my experience absolutely anyone can benefit from positive encouragement… whether or not they’ve got an elder brother, a supportive family and an overactive canine!
And it doesn’t take much for a coach to say the right thing. For instance, when players do something wrong, I praise them instead for what they have done right, steering them away from the negatives. And sure, some respond better than others, but as a whole, they’re much better footballers as a result of this approach.
Indeed, back to the lad in question… he has even started to lose some of the backchat and boasting that he rocked up with at first.
In addition, his parents have noticed how much he wants to come to training and how much he talks about the team. They are surprised because he has never been like this before. He’s been rewarded at home with new boots and shinpads – he really is a different boy and it’s great to see.
For me, there are two key things here:
- The power of praise
- How successful working with parents can be.
Parents can be one of your best allies when dealing with disruptive kids. They get a lot of stick for doing the wrong things – such as shouting at matches or offering their kids bribes – but when it comes down to it you need the parents on your side.
Even his brother has started to be more positive on the touchline and regularly comes over to talk to me about how well his younger brother is doing. It helps me to create a great atmosphere at training and on match days without the tears and tantrums.
The game becomes the focal point and the players can have a much more enjoyable time with their team mates.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, lose, parents, score, shoot, tactics, touchline tale, win
I’ve heard a lot of things shouted at soccer games in youth leagues, but something that I was confronted with at our game last weekend was a new one for me.
It was hot on the heels of a meeting I’d had the day before where the blueprint for youth soccer in England had filled my world with hope for the future of the game. But the positivity and fair-mindedness that I’d experienced was quickly stifled in the reality of an Under-11s match.
We were playing against a strong, tough-tackling, hard-kicking team who were hitting balls at our defence with alarming regularity. Supporting this extremely hard-working team were a group of parents intent on winning, and winning whatever it took.
We adjusted to the pressure and at half-time it was 0-0. We now had the slope of the pitch in our favour. Our slick passing and movement began to gain us the upper hand, and the through-ball exercises we had been working on earlier in the week were looking as though they might pay dividends.
It was at this point one of the opposition parents, obviously realising his son’s team were losing their edge, began shouting warnings. Nothing unusual in that, until a final instruction came: “Don’t let them play!” he screamed. “Stop them playing!” This ‘tactic’ was promptly followed up by other parents. They were trying to end this absorbing game as a contest.
I remarked to the parent how much the players were enjoying the tactical battle, and that shutting down and stifling the game was a real shame… but of course I was ignored and the bluntly shouted instructions continued. This tactic actually allowed us to switch play more easily, and as my players began to pick off the tiring opposition players we found better chances to score. Late on, we finally found the net.
We held on to win the game, and the post-match atmosphere between the two sets of players, if not the parents, was good. It was our opponents’ first loss of the season and those around the sides of the pitch took it badly.
But what they failed to see was that it was a good close game. And it might have been even closer had they let the players continue in the same manner with which they’d approached the first half.
At the end my players said they had enjoyed winning 1-0 much more than the previous week when they’d triumphed 8-0, but I think even they felt the spirit of the game had gone in those final phases. That was a shame, because up until then there had been two styles of play cancelling each other out, providing a platform for an abundance of skill all over the pitch.
If only the parents hadn’t got involved…
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Football, how to be a parent, parental support, parents, Soccer, youth, youth soccer
Parents have a big influence on the type of player their child becomes. Parents have powerful emotions generated through their involvement with their children, which can be both positive enablers and negative barriers.
These will have wide-ranging and long-lasting influences on those young players. Parents need to look at the “big picture” issues and responsibilities, and not fall into making the common mistakes which abuse this power.
Top 10 mistakes
- Taking their child’s sport experience too seriously, and not mixing in the appropriate levels of fun and recreation.
- Expecting perfection in their child.
- Living vicariously – as though they were taking part themselves – through their child’s sport experiences.
- Making negative comments about other children, parents or coaches.
- Having an unrealistically overblown assessment of their child’s talent.
- Contradicting the advice and guidance of their child’s teachers, trainers and coaches, leading to the child being confused and torn in loyalties.
- Failing to realise when their child is developing their skills rather than being competitive.
- Failing to see the value of sports lessons as preparation for life itself.
- Not realising that their child can learn valuable sport and life lessons even when they lose.
- Labelling their child a choker or other name.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: chipping, golf, keepy uppies, parents, watching matches
Set out a weekly plan and have the players keep a diary of their daily physical activity, as other forms of exercise can add to their football development.
Some players will respond to this, others might find it a struggle. Give your players tasks to work on from session to session, just like football ‘homework’, although don’t use that word, as it may well put some players off. Perhaps you can call it “extras” or “add-ons”.
Check that the tasks you gave each player have been completed, for instance by asking them to demonstrate them at the next session.
What tasks can you give the players?
Ball control exercises
Any type of juggling, trapping, flicking will serve your players well. Ask them to make up a 30-second performance.
Dodging, stopping quickly, accelerating, moving backwards, or sideways. Again, have the players make up their own movement circuit and demonstrate it at the next session.
Chipping, curling, or firing the ball at pace is good. Kicking accuracy games such as Football Golf are very enjoyable, and can be played by a lone player or in groups.
Remember, not every type of homework has to be in the practical sense. Your players should be encouraged to watch as much football on the television (or better still, live) as their parents deem appropriate. Encourage youngsters to reference and observe as much as possible. For as many who write down a spectacular overhead kick, you’ll get the same number who comment on a box-to-box midfielder’s tireless running or a goalkeeper’s instructions when lining up a wall.
Get mum and dad to help
Another thing to consider is that working on their own can be limiting for kids. Encourage the players to ask their mum or dad to help in these situations by feeding the ball to strike or being the target for the pass. You may be surprised at just how much your players can round their technique in between training sessions, and the parents will undoubtedly enjoy playing their part also.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: aggression, parents, referee
We came up against a team earlier on in the season who claimed for everything, even throw-ins that were obviously not theirs! But coupled with the pressure applied by a band of vocal parents as well, this had an effect on the referee who, in reacting to the side constantly appealing for decisions, gave the team the benefit of the doubt in almost every 50/50 situation.
That’s not something that you want – nor expect to see – at this level, but it was evidence enough that it happens. Certainly, I would never recommend my players to constantly appeal for decisions – it’s not the brand of football I want them to learn. After half-time though, I did recommend they were more vocal when they were sure that possession was theirs, be that from a ball going out of play or an obvious free-kick situation.
Otherwise, by accepting that the other team was ‘better’ than we were at claiming a corner, for example, we were giving up a good deal of possession. When you play teams like this where the opposition players and parents put pressure on the referee, it can be very daunting for your team. You will probably find that your own players’ parents begin shouting opinions from the touchline, and the match can descend into something of a farce.
The best solution is to talk to the parents of your players and explain that, as a team, we have to get used to coming up against opponents who try to bend the rules. Point out that we want the lads to learn the game in a respectful way, and always retain hope that the referee will begin to see a pattern emerging in the game and will get smart to the barrage of appeals.
If he sees the opposition calling for everything but then realises your players are only reacting when they know it is their ball, he will respond accordingly, and your players will get their fair share of the ball having gone about it the right way.