Giving them ownership

I won’t name names in this tale but it is something I would like you to hear about because it is one of my players who had to do everything for himself so he can get to play the sport he loves and I am very proud of him.

He is the boy who has had to clean his own boots and pack his own kitbag on match days, and this week because neither of his parents were around, he got on his bike and he rode for a good hour to get to the match because he didn’t want to let his team-mates down.

A success story

He is a good player and I like to think of him as one of the huge success stories of my coaching career. He is someone who would never have played the game if he hadn’t found our club and whose parents had, for a brief moment, decided they would pay for him to come along and join us.

That was five years ago and now he is very a big part of the club and he loves every minute of being involved. I feel that the team has encouraged him to sort himself out and to pack his own bags and clean his own boots, just so he can experience the training nights and the match days with his team. It’s a great feeling to have given him that sense of belonging.

He is at an age now where he can choose where on the pitch he wants to play – he has been through my “play every position in the team” years and now sees himself as a left-back and a very good one. He can read the game and rarely lets a player beat him in a 1v1.

Doing something right

I hope all the youngsters I coach feel the same, but not many of them would have to make the same sacrifices that he has. I see it as a huge endorsement of my coaching sessions – I must be doing something right.

I recently gave a lecture at the United Soccer Coaches convention in Philadelphia where I explained how Spanish rondo warm-ups can be used to give players ownership of their sessions. What my players do is turn up for training and immediately get out cones to set up rondo warm-ups without me having to ask them or to set anything up for them.

This is one way to ensure your players feel part of your team and that they go the extra mile to make sure they get to training and matches on time – even if it means coming on their bikes.

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