What to do when a player hides on the pitch

It’s a big question. But one that I am often asked “what do I do when he/she wont play or hides on the pitch?”

Ewhurst v Albury

There is always a lot you can do when players struggle during a game. Move position, give encouragement from the coach and parents, and also get teammates to encourage them.

The other way of course is to give them challenges that they can meet that gives them the confidence to push on and to ‘want’ the ball. In my Under-11s side there was a player who never wanted the ball, great in training but come match day and the pressures that go with it, he wouldn’t perform on the pitch.

So to help him to focus on the game I gave him challenges – easy ones at first like can he make two tackles in the first half. Then progress to can he play the ball forward three times in the first half.

As this progressed so did his confidence. No longer was he focusing on the match but the focus of his game was to make forward passes when he could. And he began to look for space and move into it so his teammates would pass the ball to him.

Suddenly he was alert on the pitch and thinking about getting a number of passes in before half time. As his focus changed I too had to keep thinking ahead to develop the challenges that took him step by step into the player he was at training.

And after a few weeks the challenges began to change – can I take 2 shots at goal or can I score one goal. This development in young players is usually quick as long as you are prepared to see it through.

There is nothing quite as reassuring for a young player than to think the coach believes in him and that the coach has given targets he believes the player can attain. Coupled with this of course is the coach’s tratement of mistakes – ignore them – or failures – you didn’t meet your targets this week but you will next!

Mistakes and failures should be left in the kit bag to be dealt with at training. Sometimes when I turn up to a match I imagine im putting all those phrases in a little box, along with the ego element of “why aren’t we winning” and let everything flow in the direction the kids want to take it.

I have structured their training and given them challenges to help them discover what playing is all about – match-day is all about them and how they use those ideas/challenges/decisions. But they know I’m there right behind them!

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