Below is a letter I received from a soccer coach who was losing and wanted to know how to improve his team.
Since my original letter, we have had mixed success. The next soccer game we play, we win 3-0. I moved player 3 back to the blocker during the middle of the game and used player 9 to the blocker in the second half. The boys played really well and I thought I finally cracked the code on where to get the different boys to play.
But the following week we lost again. We were scheduled to play a team that, by all means, we could have played the same or, based on our play the week before, beat. We lost 5-1. My guys were playing without energy and it was extremely frustrating for me to see them rotate in place while watching the other team run between them. At least half, if not more, of the team were playing as spectators. Most soccer goals were scored because my defenders were out of soccer position and not attacking the ball.
We lost our game this last weekend 8-0. I started playing with my strongest players in the first quarters to try and keep the score low and morale high. We were playing against the number one team and we started out playing fairly evenly, but we couldn’t convert anything in front of the soccer goal because our offensive players weren’t in position and we allowed three goals in the first half. because our football defenders were out of position. Once again we had a big crowd on the pitch and after a while the defenders I had, who weren’t playing very aggressive to begin with, stopped playing altogether. I had to take a player out because he actually stopped moving, it was like watching the Bad News Bears play football. Towards the end, even my good players gave up.
Obviously I’m not being very effective in my soccer training. What are some activities I can do to try to help the children play their positions? We cover him at soccer practice regularly, but he doesn’t seem to be taking it in? Also, what are your thoughts on even playing for the kids? I have enough good players that I could put together a pretty good team, but usually half the team at any given time is on the not-so-skilled side. I’m trying to give everyone almost equal time, but when the kids don’t try I think I should take them out (I haven’t been doing this because it would mean some players are going to be sitting almost all the time).
Hi Coach T,
I want to encourage you not to be too discouraged by your loss to the number one team. It is very important that you are realistic; keep in mind that you are SUPPOSED to lose to that team. What happened was that your team saw that they couldn’t win and gave up in the second half. It’s not pretty, but it’s understandable and practical (Why keep killing yourself if you can’t win? That just drains your energy. I think it’s better to admit it’s not your day and focus your mind on the next game. Save your best efforts for the teams you have a chance of winning). I suggest telling your team that they are getting better but the opponent was better that day and losing that game is nothing to be ashamed of. It is very important that you are realistic about your team and its potential. You are not a miracle worker and you cannot do the impossible. All you can do is do your best with the talent, speed, aggressiveness, and practice time you have. You are SUPPOSED to lose to a better, faster team; all you can do is minimize the damage and try not to let your team’s morale and confidence suffer too much.
I have a few ideas for you to consider:
1. Do you play in practice? If you do, stop playing. kids play more enthusiastically in their real games if they don’t play in practice.
2. I see you use the iron-on patches with your gear. Your biggest needs are aggressive play, defense and scoring so I would only give patches for those 3 things. I would give him a patch NOT ONLY for scoring, but also for BEING IN A POSITION TO SCORE: if his players do the right thing, they will start scoring. Once they learn how to score, you may want to stop giving patches for goals, but for now you need to do that to teach them how to score. Your team must also develop a DESIRE TO WIN. If you get more patches, buy patches V and A… when you win, make a big ruckus. Do not give patches for participation, give them for effort, achievement and aggressiveness. The exception may be a practice attendance patch, but you can give one for every 2 or 3 practices you attend. Attendance at practices is critical to your team’s success.
3. To stay motivated, try Motivational Phrases in Premium… I read them myself.
4. Do you play the Dribble Around Cone & Pass relay race practice game? Use it to teach Aggressive Reception – this is important – your players need to be more aggressive to win the ball. Play with your friends and give a patch to the winners. You’ll get better and faster results if you focus on aggressive receiving than if you focus on passing. Aggressive reception is more important to teach.
5. Do you play Dribble Across a Square on all the driving ranges? This is important: play it at the beginning of practice as a warm-up, twice with a 10-step-wide square, then twice with a 14-step-wide square.
6. Don’t try to emphasize passing yet, except by playing the Dribble Around Cone & Pass relay game – tell your scorers to try to score and teach them to rebound and be aggressive. Tell defenders to kick hard forward and teach forwards how to win the ball and give them a patch if they do.
7. Do you have sports drinks and water at the games? If not, give it a try, it can make a difference (there’s a good article on Hydration in Premium)
8. Play the Shoulder and Power Tackle Game on the Ball to toughen up your players.
9. Regarding equal playing time: Most leagues require each player to play 50% of the game. Check what your league requires. If a player doesn’t try, hurry or do what you ask, he shouldn’t expect to play as much as someone who does; I think that is a fair approach. You have an obligation to the players, but also to the Team.
10. Have you taught Coaching Rule #3? It is worth 2 goals per game in U-9
11. Have you taught First Defender/Second Defender? How to teach it is in Quick Team Improvement.
12. I recommend you make a BIG DEAL on BRAVERY and give him a red patch and for that ONLY: the BRAVERY patch (also called the Blood Patch). Trust me, that works. I used it myself.
13. You are right, you MUST have brave players at Fullback and Stopper, that is CRITICAL. If you defend deep, you don’t need to be skillful or fast, but you MUST be brave.
14. If you defend deep (if you let your Fullbacks deep), consider letting your strong Fullbacks play most of the game or even all of the game (perhaps rotating 3 players at those 2 positions).
15. Try the Win the 50/50 ball game and use it to teach players to slow down the attack if they can’t win the ball.
I think you’re closer than you think. The key is to motivate your players to play hard. Don’t judge your progress by the 8-0 loss, that loss is understandable, it was like an avalanche, once it started you couldn’t stop it, it was better to try not to hurt yourself. .
Please let me know which of these ideas help and other ideas that help you.