Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

What’s it like to be coached by YOU?

“A coach who smiles and praises his players will get more out of them”

davidscwnewAs a coach I know I have a lot of responsibilities, so how I coach and how I get my points across are vital to the progression of my players. It is not just about progression on the pitch either – my coaching should also help them learn how to achieve their life goals away from the pitch.

I try to imagine what it must feel like to be coached by me. Do I take enough interest in every one of my players and make them feel special? When they arrive at training or for a match I try to recall a key fact or occasion that will make each one of them think: “he remembered”.

What do you think it feels like to be coached by you? When your players arrive what goes through their minds when they see you? Do you inspire them? Are they afraid of you? An inspirational coach will find players respond better – they will listen more intently when you are explaining what you want them to do in a particular exercise.

A coach that breathes fire should realise players are just doing what they have to because they are frightened. I want to inspire my players, not scare them. When I think about my coaching I want to base it on best practice rather than just controlling kids. Best practice comes from the activities I create, how I use them and the enjoyment the group gets.

DavidClarke1At a recent coaching event I watched a top class coach run a session – unfortunately the youth team he used didn’t understand what he wanted from them. He got exasperated and his coaching style became very commanding. Afterwards he moaned that his session didn’t work because the players were not up to his standard.

A good coach should recognise when players are not up to the level of the session and quickly change the exercise to make it easier.

A coach who smiles and praises his players will get much more out of players than one who snarls and shouts.

So take five minutes to sit down and imagine what it’s like turning up to your sessions. Are players having fun? Have you coached them in the fundamental skills – touch, passing, receiving, communication and heading? Do they know the rules? Have you explained tactics and sportsmanship?

There is a lot there, but think about how you coach, what you coach and try to get to know a little more about each player. You will build a solid foundation and a better understanding between you and your team.


Filling the emotional tank of young players

By David Clarke
davidscwnewAs coaches we need to recognise that every young person has an “emotional tank” that fills up and drains.

  • A young player with a low emotional tank is irritable, less coachable, and unable to deal well with tough situations.
  • A young player whose tank is filled is cheerful, more coachable, and better able to deal with tough situations.

Research has also shown that a plus/minus ratio of praise to criticism of 5:1 or better is ideal for children’s learning. When the ratio drops below 5:1, children become discouraged (their tanks become drained!).

So it’s a simple fact. More praise, less criticism.

When fans are cheering for a team, those players experience their tanks filling up. We want to coach in a way that will fill the tanks of our players so they can play their best at all times – we want to cheer our teams on not shout at them and drain them.

And, we want our teams to learn to fill each other’s emotional tanks by supporting each other on and off the pitch.

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The power of praise

David ClarkeOne of my newer players is driven by a constant desire to be the best at everything he does; and when he’s not, he becomes a handful.

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:

  1.  The power of praise
  2.  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.

Where should you stand at training?

By David Clarke

David ClarkeBeing able to see everyone and everything that is going on means a coach can give feedback more effectively, correct errors or encourage good work. Here is a quick guide to better positioning in training.

  • Position yourself far enough back to be able to see all the players working.
  •  Try to keep to the outer perimeter of practice areas so there are no players behind you at any time.
  •  Make sure you move to various positions around the practice area to give yourself different perspectives of the action.
  • If you need to deliver one-to-one coaching, bring the player to you so you can help them while keeping an eye on the rest of the players.
  •  When demonstrating or talking to the players, create a half circle so they can all see.
  • Always demonstrate with the weather (sun or rain) in your face rather than the faces of the players.
  • Ensure there is nothing interesting happening behind you when talking or demonstrating to the players.

When talking to your players use the right words. I find that often a coach will praise the players that can easily do the tasks they set out for them but  if you read my blog Praise Talent or Praise Hard Work  you may think differently.

Also check out Five Ways To Make New Players Part of the Team.


Dealing with tricky parents

David Clarke Soccer Coach Weekly

Almost every parent occasionally disagrees with your decisions as a soccer coach (whether or not you hear about it). Usually, the parent is simply putting the interests of the child first – and seeing things from the child’s point of view. The following soccer coaching tips can help if this situation arises in your team.

Most parents don’t complain, and are more likely to leave the team if they are unhappy with how things are handled. So, it is good to have parents who will bother to give you feedback (even if it can be painful to hear).

Most of the time, this feedback is well-intentioned – and the parent simply wants an explanation for what has happened or wants to offer some suggestions about alternative ways to do things. Most of the time, this advice is well-intentioned (and the parent had no desire whatsoever to take over the team – or to try to order you around).

What parents want

Most parents have two objectives when they sign the child up: for the child to succeed and for the child to be happy. If you praise the child in front of the parent, you can rest assured that the child will give you a big grin – and you earn points in both columns. Do this as often as you can – and you will keep gripes to a minimum.

Any time that you start resenting the time that it takes to give this positive feedback, tell yourself that you could easily be spending double this time – and a lot less happily – talking to just one upset parent! In short, a good soccer coach makes the parents believe that they have wonderful, successful and happy offspring – which causes the parents to believe that the coach must be an absolutely brilliant judge of children.

Time to discuss problems

But, of course, you cannot please all of the people all of the time – and you may end up with a complainer or advice-giver despite your best efforts. If this happens, listen briefly to find out what the problem is, then schedule a time to talk about it. NEVER discuss any serious problem right before a drill session (or before a game). You have work to do, and don’t need the distractions (and certainly don’t need to be upset yourself if any harsh things are said).

Furthermore, if the parent is really upset, you don’t want any confrontation to occur in front of your players or other parents. So, set the discussion for the end of drill practice – or schedule a time to call the parent later (if this is something where the child does not need to hear the conversation).

NEVER discuss any problems or complaints right after a game. If a parent comes to you with a complaint right after a game, make up any excuse that you can and get out of there. Usually, these complaints come after a hard game and a hard loss, when everyone is upset. Give everyone time to cool off – so that things are not said which are regretted later.

Soccer coaching communication skills

When you do talk to the parent, listen carefully to the parent’s problem. Be calm. Try to get them to see things from your point of view. If at all possible, lavish some praise on the child during the meeting (remember parental objectives). Try to verify their reports that the child is unhappy (for instance, some parents want their child to be the goal-scoring star, while the child truly is happiest as a keeper or sweeper).

Volunteer to have a meeting with the parent and the child to talk about the situation. If the child truly is upset (for instance, he wants to be a forward, while you have rotated him to the back because he sorely needs to develop some defensive skills), talk about why you think that this is best. Usually you will be able to resolve complaints by open communication, and a calm approach to the problem.

Involve the club

However, some parents simply will not be satisfied, no matter what you do. This happens quite commonly with parents who were athletes, and ended up with non-athletic children, where it is easier to cast blame than to face reality about the child’s lack of skill and talent. If it is clear that you are not getting anywhere, suggest that you set up a joint meeting with club officials to talk about the problem. In the meantime, call the club to give them a “heads-up” that they might hear from this parent, if it appears that the parent is truly irate.

If worse comes to worse, take heart that “parents-from-hell” tend to stick around for only a short time. Usually, you will find that they have been very unhappy with every coach whom their child has ever had – so they go back in the pool every season. In fact, don’t be surprised if, when you call the club, you hear a large sigh come out of the phone – along with a comment of “Oh, no. Not them again.”

Fun game to teach soccer moms and dads how to help

How to deal with losing – it’s an attitude thing

Every team no matter how good they are will at some stage go through a series of games where they lose more than once and the coach has to deal with the outcome. In youth games losing often means losing big, by a large number of goals because it is hard hit back – three becomes four or five or six.

What happens then is that players go sick for the next game or email you to say they had forgotten but they were going on holiday that weekend, or they just don’t turn up.

A lot of coaches turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour and let the team struggle on.

As a coach there is a lot you can do when your team is losing to boost morale and help the players through periods when they lose. It’s a question of attitude for you and your players.

When the team lose:

  • PRAISE individuals who have played well despite the team losing.
  • PRAISE particular occasions in games when a player has done something good.
  • PRAISE players who have tried to continue playing well despite being a lot of goals behind.
  • PRAISE the individuals who try and encourage the rest of the team to step up a gear even though they are losing.

The other thing to talk to your players about is that they have the ability to put everything right the next week. To think about how they played in this match and what they need to do to put it right in the next match.

Finally explain what went wrong in the game and how with hard work in training they can put it right.

Watch this coaching video of the Nike coaches talking about their players’ attitude when they lost their first game 8-1. Remember this is a sport where you can often learn more when you lose then when you win.

 Soccer Skills and Drills