Coaches: Allow players to learn from failure

This past Columbus Day weekend I was refereeing as opposed to coaching.  I like to ref a few games every weekend for the change in perspective.  Seeing a game through a coach’s eyes vs. a referee’s is entirely different.  

Over the years I have realized that I prefer the assistant reassistant-refereeferee role over the center.  The reason being, the center referee has a million things on his or her mind, and doesn’t get to take in the game.  Coaches and parents should respect this, recognizing the difficulty of the position.  The AR job is not easy, constantly adjusting position while watching the sideline, as well as the second to last defender is challenging.

However, as the AR, I find myself listening to the coaches or parents depending on what sideline I am stationed.  Naturally, I prefer the coach’s sideline.  This past weekend I was so disappointed in coaching tactics, I am here writing about it.

In a U9 girls game, the over-coaching, and yelling was unbearable. 

  • I must’ve heard the phrase “pass the ball” 150 times.
  • Telling players to shoot when they are in front of goal (I think they know this).
  • Constant re-positioning.  To the point where players were about to win the ball on defense, and ran away because their coach told them they were on the left.
  • “Look for space” which is always a weakness of young players, but if you understand their psychology, all their focus is on the ball.

The players are 8 years old.  Let them play.  Let them fail.  Allow them to learn by doing.  This coach, literally coached them every step of the way.  To the point where he was saying “pass to Julia.”  Making each decision for them.

I found myself no longer going to the fifty yard line, just to stay out of ear shout.  If I had enough of it, imagine how the players felt?

In a U15 girls game, the coach’s tone of voice was downright awful.  Berating his players with lines like:

  • You learn that when you are 2 years old.
  • This happens every game, you cannot clear the ball, you just kick it softly.
  • First Touch!  What happened to your first touch! Comon! coacharmsflailing

I cannot do it justice.  Imagine arms flailing, constant screaming, and disappoint draped on every word.  The sad thing was that some of the parents even laughed at the coach’s comments.

I felt bad for the girls while I sat watching his halftime speech, and nearly every player tuning it out.  Each word went in one ear and out the other, and I must credit the girls for carrying on through the negativity.  I cannot remember one moment of positive reinforcement, and it makes me wonder how clubs, parents, and organizations can allow that to go on.

Both are extreme examples of how NOT to coach.  The first coach was positive, but told his players step by step how to play.  The second coach showed passion, but said everything in a negative tone of voice.

My message to everyone reading this is that if you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything at all.  Sit down, and let the players play on weekends.  Kids know when they fail, even at a very young age.  If they repeat an action over and over again, it is generally because they have had success.

Reward those moments, but if you need to correct a mistake, pull the player aside, or at the next substitution, and use the sandwich method:

I love how you did blank, but you could improve blank, although you will get them next time when you do blank again.



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