- Players should always leave practice begging for 'one more game, one more goal'
- It is the coaches role to inspire and create that passion for the game
- Coaches can actively and passively inspire through the way they coach and the set up of their sessions
One of the questions that came out of my last article (Why Players Should Be Learning to Learn) was "How do you teach young players to self teach" or "take responsibility for their own learning?" It echoed a conversation I was having with another coach and sparked the basis of this piece - coaches, if nothing else, should be inspiring their players and fostering a love of the game within every player they come into contact with.
'One More Game'
In any given session, a player should go home begging for 'one more game' or 'one more goal' and should be impatiently waiting for the next time they get to train. I sometimes hear the complaint that players are late for sessions. While this is not always strictly in a players control, you'd be surprised at how tardiness decreases when you start a session with a 1 v. 1, 2 v. 2, 3 v. 3 game as they get to practice. Practice should always be fun for the players. The more they enjoy it, the more likely they are to want to practice and get better at it (as well as bug Mum and Dad to get there early!)
The youth soccer landscape in the US is different to anywhere else in the world and as such, the role of the coach is truly unique. While players are now starting to get better access to watch soccer on TV or live games in the MLS, it's still in it's infancy. As a result, coaches are the role models in many children's lives. They have the task of creating the passion for the game that may not naturally occur in a multi-sport country compared to other nation's whose sole passion is one sport - football.
The Three E's
Coaches can actively impact their session's and inspire their players in a number of ways. I've got it boiled down to Three E's:
- Energy - coaches need to set the tone for their practice. Be energetic, be positive and watch as the players feed off of that.
- Enthusiasm - closely linked to the energetic coach above, being enthusiastic, commentating on activities or in games can help raise the tempo and player's enjoyment as you wildly celebrate little Jimmy's tap in from two yards out.
- Engagement - learn your players name's and don't stop using them. Engage your players, use their names, ask them questions, learn about what's going on away from soccer and show them you care about them and their development.
Give Them Choices
While the Three E's are very coach-centric, there is another approach that can inspire your players that requires little input from the coach. All young players have vivid imaginations and as soccer continues to grow in the US, their knowledge of the game is growing at a rapid rate. Let the players motivate and inspire each other by letting them pick a player to be during practice. Let them pick (as a group) what team they're going to be when they scrimmage. Let them pick the competition - play that competition. Have a final. Have a winner. Have a trophy.
Even if you're working at the youngest age groups and development comes before winning, it's still OK for them to win and lose (as long as that's not the goal on gameday). Keeping score, playing the World Cup Final, scoring the winning goal as Cristiano Ronaldo and doing his latest celebration are all things kids want to do. They want to emulate what they've seen on TV and as a coach you can facilitate that and help their passion for the game grow.
Lastly, as well as your demeanor and fun session - don't be afraid to show them the cool tricks and flicks. Inspire your players so that they enjoy the game and want to learn more. They may not use them in a game, but if you've got a player going home and practicing every night on a new move because he loves the game - you're having an impact on that player's development and fostering that desire to improve and self teach.
As a coach or teacher, what do you do to inspire players and create that passion for the game? Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a tweet: @deanatk