EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FOR GRASSROOTS SOCCER COACHES

Getting the best out of your players

It is getting to that time of the season in England when coaches are taking stock of how many players they need and how many players are staying/going. And the players who have friends that want to join the team and all that goes with putting together a team for a new season.

Dealing with disruptive players

There are also coaches who are changing from 5v5 to 7v7 or 9v9 to 11v11 so squad sizes are changing and everyone needs new kit.

Just when you think its all over there seems to be more to organise.

At the end of last season I had a request for a player to join my club.

He came to meet me with his mum and dad. He had been having a tough time at his club and was both tearful about returning to the club and tearful about not playing football.

He was having a hard time there, after struggling to cope with the pressures the team were put under to compete at the top of their league. They had fallen back into fifth place and the manager had decided he was only going to play the boys that he felt were good enough to fire the club back to the top.

But this meant the young lad that was sat before me wasn’t getting a game and he felt he had been singled out to take the blame for the team’s lack of victories. Shockingly, he even spoke about the goal the team had conceded to lose a cup game and he hung his head in shame because he had been the one who failed to clear the danger.

Unsurprisingly what his mum and dad wanted was to get his love of the game back – and his confidence. I’m not sure why I felt shocked by this because go back 16 or 17 years and a younger me was doing the same thing as a coach and it took me a season to realise that winning is important but in the great scheme of things it matters far less than player development and good old fashioned fun.

You’ll often find that out of adversity comes opportunity. I like a challenge and love to see kids enjoying themselves in an atmosphere where mistakes are not penalised, so they are all Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo, trying flicks and tricks and getting plenty of experience with the ball.

The young lad joined us for some training sessions and as the months have peeled away he is really enjoying being with the other players who have welcomed him with open arms.

The social side of soccer can be a very lonely sometimes, but a very positive experience under the right conditions. I take it as a great compliment that players have a good time with our club, both for the sport and for the social opportunities it throws up.

I couldn’t wait to see how he fitted in when we played matches – It was a truly great time watching him join in and show off the skills he had and starting to show the skills he was learning being part of a team where the players care for each other and don’t blame each other when they lose a match. Since then he has made good friends with the players and knows them all both on and off the pitch.
As you can imagine his mum is really pleased and even shed a tear of thanks.

It is a wonderful thing when you get a player who has had such a bad experience playing the game and not finding it fun. To give that back to them is something I cherish.

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