An extract from Peter Prickett's latest book Soccer's Principles of Play. In this part of the book Peter explores positive and negative transition and counter attacking and counter pressing as principles of play MORE
WEEKLY DEBATE Do You Drop A Player If Other Sports Take Up Their Time?
THIS WEEK’S DEBATE: I encourage players to try other sports but one of my lads is now playing county rugby and his commitments interfere with soccer training. Is it fair he should miss our matches because he hasn’t trained?
“Why not use this as a test of the player’s dedication to soccer? Let him decide if he can work soccer into his rugby schedule and vice versa”
“I’m afraid the rules have to be the rules in this instance, and from what you’ve said here, the rules seems to indicate that any player not training subsequently forfeits the right to play in – or at least start – a competitive match.
You have to treat everyone the same, no matter how the circumstances came about regarding this lad’s rugby commitments, because the first rule of soccer coaching is that everyone feels an equal part of the team.
In a sense, you’ve succeeded in broadening the spectrum of sport for a player, and that’s really important. Take this as the real positive from the situation and ensure that the player understands that too. Sure, we’d all like to keep footballers playing soccer indefinitely, but this lad clearly has a significant talent in rugby and you should be applauded for helping him to unearth that.
Why not use this experience as a test of the player’s dedication to soccer? It may not be a bad thing to let him decide if he can work soccer into his rugby schedule and vice versa. You may well find that it’s possible for him to play for you some weeks and not others, so don’t completely give up on the idea of him managing to combine sports.
Remember too you have a responsibility to ensure that players aren’t over-engaged in sport. It may be a good thing that he has to choose one sport or the other in a certain week, so that his body gets the sort of rest that all youngsters need.”
“The reason for keeping this player onside is the same as why you encouraged him to pursue another sport in the first place – new skills and ideas”
“I think in this instance making an exception to the rule is probably a smart idea. At the end of the day it is you who has guided the player into another sport, and I’m sure at the time you didn’t mention that taking up rugby would lead to his soccer time being curtailed.
If you’re not flexible and insist the player can’t play, then none of the other players will take your advice in pursuing other sports, for fear of the same thing happening to them.
Sometimes a player not attending training doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. Maybe he can contribute to the team in another way. For instance, can he turn up to match day early to help with preparations, or look after the club’s website? Involvement doesn’t always have to be face-to-face.
The reason for keeping this player onside is the exact same reason why you encouraged him to pursue another sport in the first place – namely new skills, new ideas, new practices. All of these things can be taught and passed on into soccer, to the huge benefit of the team as a whole.
And finally, so that the other players don’t feel there is significant preferential treatment, remember to be lenient if they too happen to miss a training session. Some coaches like to run their teams with rigidity and structure, but personally I think you get more out of players if you treat them as human beings, and here’s a great chance to see just how tangible the benefits of that can be.”