One of the biggest things I’ve learned from eight years of coaching soccer around the world is that the key to development is allowing players to organically learn the game. I think we’ve gotten into a situation over the years where too much over-coaching is going on. Our role as a coach is to guide. We can’t teach kids everything, but we can guide and create a fun learning environment for players. This will teach them to not only love the game now, but also to continue to love it in twenty years. The game alone is the greatest teacher.
The hardest thing as a coach, and I know this from personal experience, is to not let your ego get in the way of development. Constantly barking at players to do certain things on the field doesn’t get the long term results you are after. Players don’t learn from being told what to do at every step while they are on the field. That would be the same as just controlling players in a video game. They learn from making mistakes. The team who usually makes the least tends to win.
It’s ok to make mistakes.
As our friends at Online Soccer Academy say, when a player makes a mistake, “React positive!” They’ve just learned something!
If a player makes a mistake that leads to a goal you have to see that as a learning experience. They will learn and correct accordingly, understanding that a consequence resulted in that mistake. It’s how we learn many of our skills, not only in sports, but in life. Coaches can guide afterwards and re-correct, but that situation alone should never be over-coached in the moment.
Parents should recognize the silence of a coach isn’t always a bad thing. He/she is allowing the players to learn the game in an environment that is conducive to self-exploration and learning in a natural way by playing the game. Organized sports were never a big factor for learning the game in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Learning came from playing every minute of the day and watching the game on TV. Learning the game in an organic way is fantastic not only for the here and now but for the long term. It builds players who are creative and expressive while out on the field.
If you make it fun now, they will love the game forever.