Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Do your players UNDERSTAND?

David ClarkeYou can be as clever as you like with tactical planning and technical instructions, but players must be able to understand what you want them to do.

I went to a demonstration this week by a couple of highly respected youth coaches to see examples of the different ways you can coach young players. There were some really good coaching and session ideas that I was privileged to take away from the get together.

However, one thing that was clear to me was that the players were having a hard time understanding exactly what was expected of them.

Both sessions were player- and activity-centric – but, because this was a meet-up designed for coaching knowledge, the players at times were clearly unsure of what they were doing and what was expected of them. In that respect, the experiment failed on all levels, bar one – namely in reminding me that one of the most important things you must do with players is ensure they are ‘with you’ at every step along the path of learning. It’s the whole purpose of what we do, after all.

If you notice that players are not doing what they are supposed to or are looking around to see how others perform the task, either they were not listening or you failed to get instructions across well enough.

Remember, players understand things in three different ways:

  •  Visually
  •  Verbally
  •  Physically

It is important that for each demonstration a coach must:

  •  Perform and show the technique that is being learnt, or recreate the scenario for tactical feedback (the visual part).
  •  Use explanations and key coaching points through the stages of the demonstration (the verbal part).
  •  Let the players perform the technique or replay the situation (the physical part).

This way, you can be sure your players know what they are doing. And it will ensure you make the most of every session you take.


Take the hit and win a free kick

Sometimes your young players are going to play teams that are very physical, and your players will find it difficult to play the way they normally do. It’s not nice to be knocked over every time you get the ball.

We played an U14 team who were bundling my players over constantly. Of course this annoyed them but I kept reminding them that they would get free kicks out of the physical contact which they must remain cool and take advantage of the situation.

Watching the professionals play you see the way they are constantly hit by big tackles and bundled off the ball. This results in free kicks in dangerous positions, which is why you see so many players diving once they are touched. Watch the video of some tackles that have been flying in during the season then watch Dani Alves take advantage for Brazil with a free kick.

There is a physical side to the game, but there is also a man in charge who will give your players an advantage they can turn into goals.