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Soccer. The correct relationship between Coaches and Players (in my opinion).


If there is one topic in which I deeply disagree from many other coaches and websites, it’s this.

Many times, I have a very different point of view compare to the American way of approaching youth soccer. That’s why a few people like me, because I bring a point of view from another planet, where soccer comes from, and many others hate me because, maybe, I underline something that is really wrong here (in my opinion)!

Anyway, here’s what I think the relationship should be between coaches and players. Obviously, one has to adjust, taking into account the age and the sex of the players, but not so much as it may seem thinking superficially.

First. Too many times I’ve heard or read about these 2 assumptions: soccer has to be fun and should put emphasis on winning or losing.

In my opinion, soccer is already fun by itself and there is no reason to add fun. Plus, being a game, like every game, it is supposed to be played to win! What’s the meaning of playing a game if the final goal is not trying to win? In saying this, I’m clearly referring to players, minimum 12/13 years old. Younger than this, they have to play in spontaneous pick up games, in which players constantly come or go home, in and out, so there is no win or loose. Every goal scored is just counted by itself.

Obvious, in pursuing victory, we have to respect the rules of the game and, absolutely not, TRY TO WIN AT ANY COST, WHICH IS THE CLASSIC AMERICAN WAY TO TRY TO WIN. Probably, in trying to take away the concept of winning at any cost, the coaches and the youth organizations in this country, took away completely the concept of playing to win!

So, coming back to the relationship with the players, my attitude is this.

I believe that a coach is a teacher that teaches soccer, like other teachers teach math or history. So, I’m not here on the field to make new friends. They already have a lot of friends and……………………………… me, too!

We can become friends, but if not, it’s O.K. because we don’t have to!

I’m here as a teacher and my job is to teach soccer, like in a soccer class. The sooner the players (the soccer students) understand this concept, the better it will be! They are here to learn and study soccer, that, as I said, is already fun by itself. So, in learning, they will have fun.

And because I’m not one of their friends, I’m not their father, either. Let’s stop being so ‘protective’. We have to be honest, clear, polite, fair, understanding, motivating, but let’s not fell in the trap of: good try honey, try again honey! If a player approaches us with a problem, sure we have to be there as a friend or as a father, but after this, finding the correct way, we need to transfer the problem to their counselors or their families. This means to their fathers and mothers and NOT SUBSTITUTING FOR THEM!

As Ron Lavi (the President of the Marin Soccer League) one time said in an article in my news letter, a coach ”serves as a second parent/teacher to understand his players on a personal basis”. Nothing more! Are you ready to coach? By Ron Lavi

Our job is to be an example of behavior for them and teach the discipline of a sport that, by itself, will help them to become men and women!

I said: discipline.

When I read about youth soccer, I always find the word ’fun’ and almost never, the word ’discipline’.

The basic element that governs a group, in any field of life, so sports too, is discipline. Not the stupid discipline enforced by fear but the discipline that sets rules that are shared and accepted by the group, that recognizes them as the only way to respect each other in the attempt to reach a common goal!

Possibly on the net of the opponent team!

To make myself more clear, I understand that the span attention of youth players is limited and they need to ‘joke’ among themselves. At the beginning of practice, when they arrive on the field, we have a great problem. This is provoked by the absence of the locker or dressing room. I already wrote about this. Where has the dressing room gone? There is no ‘transition’ from daily life to the soccer field.
They come from different schools and don’t often see each other. It’s clear that they need to talk and laugh about everything. But this can’t go on for the whole practice!!!!!

So, ask them to arrive a little early, let them have fun by pushing each other (the boys) or saying the ‘usual nonsense’ that they call conversation, let them chase each other in kicking the ball around, until the practice begins.
Let’s extend this period of ‘transition’ from daily life to the soccer field, even to the warm up and stretching, in particular with the girls, who clearly need to talk more. When I call them, all of this ends! Now they are soccer players, in the soccer class to learn soccer and I’m the teacher, that respects them, like they respect me, as a teacher, not as one of their friends.

And because their attention span is short, let’s have a drink-pause every 30 minutes, in which they can talk to each other, until ‘returning’ to the soccer class.

Here’s another point that for sure will be controversial: punishments.

The new generations, give us the sensation that everything is doable, without rules. We need to understand that THEY WANT RULES. When they challenge us, we need to understand that this, is a request for love. If we give them rules, they know that we love them, that we care. If we permit them to do anything, they think that we don’t care.

So, they challenge us, to see how much far they can go. When we say ‘stop’, only then do they know that we care and they will respect the limits, the rules, that we give them. We, as coaches, need to set rules, possibly setting them with the players, and ask them to enforce them all together.

If you don’t do this, every time there is a recurrent mistake, or lack of concentration, they just laugh. But if after a while of repeating the same mistake, or not paying attention, the whole team does 10 push ups, they understand that there are consequences, and it’s not about laughing anymore. When the whole team pays the consequence for the repeated lack of concentration of a few, the group adjusts the problem by itself, as a tribe, with it’s own rules, accepted and shared. This will create the spirit of being ‘united’ that is the basis of every group. Discipline creates group spirit, that is the basic element which forms a team.

Sir Alan Ferguson, the coach of Manchester United, that everybody knows is very severe, when asked what makes Manchester United, so strong, he always answers: united!

As always, I would like to hear your opinion about this attitude of mine.

Coach Gianni


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Posted on 21 Dec 2006 by coachgianni
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