Looking back to half-time in the 2005 European Champions League final, with Liverpool 3-0 down to AC Milan, captain Steven Gerrard was distraught and ready to concede defeat.
Afterwards, all he could remember of half-time was the manager getting his pen out, writing down the changes he wanted on the board, and telling the team to try and get an early goal
Gerrard has since admitted that he could barely concentrate, yet that one thought stuck in his mind… And they got that early goal as Liverpool went on to win on penalties.
Make sure you approach your half time team talks in the right way, just as Rafael Benitez did, by following these seven top tips…
HALF TIME TIPS
- Before starting to talk you need to consider how to make sure your players are listening. Try to implement a routine, such as counting down from 3-to-1, so that you give your players a chance to calm down, whilst also letting them know you expect them to be listening by the time you reach “1”.
- What you tell them will, of course, depend on the score and the coach’s perspective of the match. You must also take in other factors – is it a cup match in which the loser gets knocked out? Is it a league game and what are the league positions of the teams contesting the game? Is one team an overwhelming favorite to win the game? Is the team winning but not performing well? Take into account all of the game’s factors when preparing your half time team talk, as each factor could affect how you want to approach the second half.
- Prepare some relevant off the cuff questions to gain and keep your players’ attention, and to make them think about their performances – this way they’re more likely to reflect on how to improve in the second half.
- The half-time period in a match is not just about refueling and physical therapy. It’s a crucial time for the coach and team to gather their thoughts and prepare mentally for the challenges of the second half. Don’t be afraid to ask your players what their thoughts are – this will get them involved and give them ownership of the teamtalk and their performance – just make sure you ask them after you’ve shared your own thoughts first!
- If you have something specific to say to them, keep it short and simple – ideally no more than one or two points. Small bits of information are much easier for players, particularly young players, to comprehend.
- In bad weather at half time – rain, wind or bright sunshine – make sure the players are protected from the weather conditions and can see you clearly. If necessary, that may mean you will have to talk to them facing into the weather.
- Always be positive – this will rub off on your team – but don’t be cocky! A coach I know once said: “Don’t get too carried away, this lot you’re playing aren’t very good.” His team were winning 4-0 at half time and went on to lose!