Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Returning players and team discipline

David ClarkeAn email popped into my inbox this week which filled me with dread. The title alone was enough to have me put my head in my hands… ‘Harry wants to come back’, it read. Everyone had breathed a sigh of relief halfway through last season when Harry had decided to leave the team to go on to “better things”.

His parents were quite adamant that this was his decision and that he was going to “a team that won every week”, even though we were on a strong winning streak ourselves. (That said, we’ve never preached that winning is vital to our success.) Harry and his parents caused a lot of trouble – not at matches but at training. The lad rarely attended, and when he did, was one of the most disruptive boys I’ve ever coached.

But during matches he was the model player – very skilful, strong and never gave up. Even if I substituted him he was fine with the decision. But the trouble was getting him to matches in the first place. He once turned up 10 minutes after kick-off and was surprised that I made him sit on the bench for the majority of the game.

Harry’s problem was that his parents were too busy to get him to matches on time and too preoccupied with other things to ensure he attended training. But no matter how often I spoke to his mum and dad, they never reacted in the way I hoped. And Harry’s reasoning was that he couldn’t be blamed for his parents failing to get him to places on time. But punctuality is the first example of player discipline at any football club, and the team will suffer if players don’t turn up for training. It is vital in any squad that all of the players are singing from the same song sheet.

What was wrong with Harry was that – good player though he was – he wasn’t a team player. He missed out on key coaching sessions and the development of my other lads was being hindered by him not realising what he was supposed to do on the pitch. So if Harry wants to come back he does so on a two-month trial. If he sticks to the team rules on match days and at training he will win himself a place in the side.

If not he has to leave.

I’ve put the ball firmly in his and his parents’ court. They have to make it work or Harry will be finding himself another team.

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Couldn’t agree more. I coach a 1st eleven U18 school team who play in a combined club/ school competition in Christchurch NZ. One of our foundation rules is “no train, no play”. In addition if a player is late on game day he will be lucky to get on the pitch at all, unless there was a genuine emergency which resulted in the lateness.
All our players are aware of the rules and respond accordingly. It is rare for any player to either miss training or turn up late on game day. As coaches and teachers we believe the team culture is positive and vibrant because they know the boundaries of both behaviour and attendance. Our results have reflected this approach throughout the last decade.

Comment by Derek Hay




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