A good time to reassess the way I talk to my players

Having started working with a new team over past couple of weeks I have had to remind myself of some best practice that often gets lost when you’ve been coaching a team for a long time.

Players listen to the coach

©Danone2017 Danone Nations Cup is a great place to see players listening to the words of the coach

The team I’ve coached since they were Under 8 are now playing at Under 18 level so they understand what I am saying and how I am saying it – but all the bad habits I have let slide must be corrected!

As I work a lot with other coaches on development and help them to be good examples to others I’m not short of ideas and tips for making the right choice when it comes to talking to young players.

So I jotted down a few things this weekend to look at when I am talking to the new team and what they will look for when I’m talking to them :

1. Body language and voice control

Your body language needs to mirror what you are saying. Spouting positive phrases in a monotone voice while scowling, motivates no one. It is essential to be upbeat and energetic when speaking to young players. Use your hands and facial expressions to accentuate important points. Children focus on these and it helps them engage with you as the speaker.

2. Accentuate the positives

Whatever happens in games there are always positives to be found. It is your job as coach to find them and remind your players of them. Don’t dwell on defeat as it can lead to negative feelings, fear and ultimately more defeat. Focus on the positives and success to breed more of the same.

3. Rephrase and refresh

Think before you speak. Is what you are about to say positive or negative? If it is negative, is there a way to rephrase it positively? If not, then don’t say it. I often hear coaches shouting: “Don’t miss your tackles” when their team is defending close to the goal. This immediately makes players think of the consequences of a missed tackle. The same statement rephrased could be “win the tackle”, which conjures up positive thoughts of tackling to get the ball.

I think in general coaches need to think about what they are saying and where they are saying it. Travelling back from a match I was in the car with a coach from the same age group, but a team that is in a lower league than mine.

Little ears hear big things

In the back was a number of players from both teams, including my son and his son.
Both teams had lost, we’d lost 1-0 but my fellow coach’s team had lost 6-1 and he was not happy, so the mood in the front of the car was a bit low.

The coach of the other team sat next to me launched into a tirade about his players and the referee. “Sean is absolutely hopeless!” he moaned. “The referee was obviously a home team ref he was basically cheating, there’s no way we were going to win that game.”

Later that day my son was talking to some of his friends who were asking him how the teams got on. When he told them about the other team which had lost 6-1, I heard him say: “They lost because Sean is absolutely hopeless and the ref was cheating!”
Since my son had been playing for his team at the time there was no way this had come from him. He was repeating what the coach had said in the car.

So watch out when you’re driving home from games and feel hard done by. Don’t moan about your players when there’s little ears around to hear it and repeat it.

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