Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

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.