How a coach can build respect and long lasting relationships in women’s soccer
Giving players your confidence builds theirs. Being the first to consistently show confidence in and respect for a player creates an honest, strong, and durable relationship between coach and player. Sharing and showing confidence is the single most important factor in player motivation in women’s soccer.
To be successful in confidence building, you must sincerely love and respect the players and show that you are clearly willing to invest in and work hard for their long term success. This means never criticizing over today’s temporary limitations, always looking forward to the player’s potential ability, holding to high expectations shared with the player, looking for signs of progress, encouraging and praising small successes, and treating the player today as if she had already achieved her greatness and as if she were already a most valuable player.
If you can sustain and encourage a developing player over an initial 6 to 12 month period with love, praise, and encouragement, you will be rewarded with a greatly improved player willing to work hard to succeed for many years to come. You will then find it easy to continue to support and encourage the player, and you will enjoy the respect, appreciation, and support from the player and the player’s family.
Showing confidence when it counts is crucial. You will find that sincerely friendly laughter over mistakes cures much. Humour cuts through all the stress in even the most crucial matches. On game day, the coach who first starts criticizing players or who moans over mistakes during the match is far more likely to lose than the coach who is first to compliment and encourage good play or who laughs with his players over a mistake. Criticism is never beneficial, and is especially harmful (and never forgiven) in a group setting like the match. Players know when they’ve made a mistake. If they don’t, it’s your training oversight and you need to teach them more. Make a note, cover it later when everyone’s receptive.
Once you’ve built confidence in players and your team, don’t destroy it at half-time. Players look to your posture and facial expression as a reflection of their performance and match prospects. Limit your instructions to one main point and at most a couple of small ideas, say it all in 60 seconds or less. Players can only focus on a few ideas, and they interpret lengthy instructions as a sign of your sagging confidence in them. Their play in the second half will reflect the amount of confidence you share with them at half-time. To give confidence at half-time, gather the team and compliment several of the players for good things you saw in the first half. Laugh about the mistakes, including your coaching mistakes, promise to try to coach your best, and encourage all the players to play their best. The kids will know that you were paying attention, the individuals encouraged will feel great and continue to play with confidence, and the rest of the players will appreciate your fair treatment of their friends and will work harder to earn your recognition. When they play well, you will be pleased to give them the respect they seek in front of the team.
These are some of my personal observations, and perhaps they will work for you in women’s soccer. I offer these ideas but will not argue them with anyone, and I won’t pretend to know if these concepts work in boys soccer. After 10 years with different ideas and mixed results, I’ve enjoyed the last 8 happy years of fortunate results with these ideas. I treasure most the little successes in building players, and love and respect the players who have taught me so much about the game and about it’s players.