Recently my Junior football team suffered two heavy defeats back to back against sides who carried a more physical presence than ours. The two teams have played for a lot longer then my team, who have only started playing together for a couple of months. From the first game, it was quite clear what they were trying to do, ‘get it to the best player as quick as possible’ who ironically was the smallest player in their side. This player had the highest technical ability compared to the rest of the team and was the only one who would try to run past players with the ball. This obviously worked as it got them the result against our team, but I couldn’t help think what did the other players learn from that?
The second game, we played against a team who were much bigger than our side and were very physical throughout the game. Each player used their size to dominate our team, instead of showing how good they are with the football. We lost both games 5-0 and I was wondering how my players would react to losing two games so heavily. Each player in the team handled the defeats without tears and was more concerned who got to keep the trophy we give out for the player of the week.
My U8’s already understood that it’s their performance which is more important than the score. Instead of dwelling on defeat, one of the players asked “did you see me run with the ball on the safe side, and I had my arm out” which he was extremely pleased about.
I feel that the coach can really have an enormous impact on how the players react to certain situations. Players shouldn’t be pressured to think that it’s all about the result at such a young age. For me, up to the age of 16, their development is the most important thing and anything else that comes along (wins, trophies or awards) is a bonus. Of course, players should never lose sight that it is important to try to win the game but coaches don’t need to enforce this on the players.
Don’t Lose Your Head!
Sometimes as coaches we don’t realise how much our players actually take in. We all want our players to do well, but as coaches, you have to remember what the end goal is short-term victory or player development?
Barking instructions throughout the game or arguing with the referee, won’t help your players show what they have learnt from previous training sessions. This will more likely distract your players than actually help them, so instead occasionally prompt them of what they can do differently, encouraging good decision-making.
We want our player’s to play without fear, so they are not afraid to take risks. Fear stifles creativity, so we must learn to show a calm exterior on the side lines and encourage the kids to show what they can do.
How Did We Play!
After a heavy defeat, the confidence of your players could be low, but you have to make them see how they can move forward and improve. With younger players, point out the things they did well first even if it’s something small such as a player trying to keep their arm out to shield the ball. Then refer to areas that they can improve on next time, not referring to the score, reassuring the players that it’s their development which is the most important thing.
I haven’t met a child who didn’t want to win a football match, so we don’t need to focus our player’s attention on just getting the result. I recommend creating an environment where the player’s performance takes centre stage. There is a number of way’s you can implement a performance focus environment, here are some you can think about:
- Educate your staff; Anyone who works at your club, need to be onboard with your methods.
- Educate your parents; parents must understand that it’s the player’s development which comes first.
- How did you play? instead of asking about the score get everyone at your club including parents, to only speak about their performance.
We Learn More From Losses!
I believe you learn more about your team when we suffer a defeat. It can also teach your players a great deal too if you teach them to look at defeats differently. I always try to get my players to reflect on their own performance after the game, this is because you want the players to see for themselves, how they could do things differently.
There are many coaches who prefer to tell their players where they went wrong, and what they should do next time. If you really want children to take on board what you are saying, ask questions which help them see the solution for themselves. Asking questions such as “what could you have done differently”? or ” What can we do to keep possession more in the next game”? is more likely to encourage your players to reflect on how they played.
Stay on course!
Having suffered a defeat, it can be tempting to think that maybe you should do something completely different the next time you play or train. But if you want to install a certain ‘style of play’ into your junior football team, then you need to have faith in your principles and stay on course.
This is why it is important to take the time to create your own footballing philosophy. A solid philosophy and a well-structured football curriculum, will guide your decision-making and make sure that the development of your players is not affected.
Changing your methods after every result will only hinder the player’s development. Young player’s need consistency, so a progressive coaching plan needs to be in place to support this.
For more information on developing your football coaching philosophy read 4 way’s to develop the perfect football coaching philosophy.
Let’s Play the Game Ltd is a provider of excellent 1 to 1 and team football coaching in Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley and Sandwell. For those who would like to try our services don’t hesitate to contact us. Don’t forget to subscribe below to never miss any of our posts. You can also like our Facebook page or subscribe to our You Tube channel for more football coaching tips.
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