I was alerted to the following two articles by a post in the footy4kids soccer coaches forum.
The articles are designed to help coaches who have been with the same team for a number of years and have, perhaps, allowed discipline to slacken off to the detriment of team morale and performance.
However, I think any coach would be well advised to build the principles described below into their coaching philosophy to maintain and proactively improve three essential attributes of their teams – their attitude, morale and discipline.
How to restore discipline to an undisciplined soccer team
A soccer coach writes that the team he’s had for several years isn’t showing up for training but players come to matches. Here’s the brief e-mail…
Our team is anything but disciplined. For 3 yrs we have moved up with very little discipline. Is it too late, do we need discipline, or should we just try to get a happy medium? I feel our team could be so much better if the players would have discipline. The players rarely try in practice but show up for games. What do you think?
In practice, the problem you are observing is the area that is most troublesome for both of us and for most other coaches of players in the transitional years, leaving U14 and heading into U15 and U16. There’s a big difference between how kids feel about soccer in elementary school and middle school, and how they feel about it during the early high school years.
Here are a few ideas about the situation and some options you could consider to try to make improvements. There’s no way to know which of these apply to your situation, so maybe you can just pick the ideas that you find relevant.
Why Discipline and Participation Problems Happen
1. Coach’s uncritical and unrealistic vision of who the players are, who owns the team, and the nature of players’ motivation.
It is easy to be overly sentimental and uncritical of a younger team of kids that you have worked with for several years. The coach may come to look on the team as his or her own team. This may seem only natural and reflect the coach’s care for each of the players and dedication to the coach’s vision of the team’s future. Unfortunately, this isn’t what the soccer team or players need to be most successful, and sets the stage for decay. First, the soccer team doesn’t belong to the coach. Instead, the players and parents have their own agendas and have different expectations about the team. In many cases, it is likely that the players and parents have less confidence in the coach or team than does the coach, and the team may not be very important to some. In any case, having a sentimental or overly optimistic view of the players and team prospects is the root cause of most of the rest of the problems listed below.
Sentimentality or a misplaced sense of ownership can lead the coach to excuse, rather than fix, poor skills and game habits, or to settle for less than the best each player can give. Lack of critical vision leads to inconsistent expectations, slack practices, low intensity, lazy practice participation, lowered morale, less effective player development, and frustratingly inconsistent match results.
The hardest thing for any coach is to realize that player’s and parents aren’t the coach’s “friends”, that the coach does not own the team, and that the coach is responsible for the technical, tactical, physical, and mental development of the team. This has to include not only setting demanding goals and creating challenging training, but also doing critical assessment of players abilities and potentials, and planning to replace players who are not committed and making good progress in developing their abilities.
Lack of critical vision and sentimentality is the most common problem for parent coaches, and the biggest differentiate between the results obtained by parent coaches and those obtained by hired trainers who have no kids on the team. This difference also gives rise to the feeling among parents that hired trainers are too cutthroat in recruiting and replacing players. Sometimes true, sometimes sour grapes, but either way, this is the greatest differentiation, much more of a factor than coaching ability and experience in many cases.