Half time team talks (part 2)

The half-time period at matches is an important time for you and your players and you must use it wisely.

And, as with everything in youth soccer, preparation is a key soccer coaching tip.

During the first half of the match you should be making mental or written notes of what you want to say when the whistle blows.

Bear in mind that your half-time comments should always be 90% positive so – regardless of the match situation – your focus of your notes should be about what the team is doing well rather than what is not going so well.

Save the problems for the next training session!

Find somewhere sheltered and out of earshot of the opposition and parents for your half-time team talk. Make sure everyone has a drink and get them sat down (if the ground is not wet) facing you and check that there are no distractions behind you.

Important: never forget you are a role model for your players so don’t criticise the match officials at half-time or at any other time. Even if they’ve clearly made a mistake that has cost you a goal or two!

Once your players are settled, the first thing to do is to check for injuries. Is everyone OK?

Then it’s time for some ‘well dones’. But be truthful. Your players will know if you are giving them false praise and if you are going to pick out individuals make sure you mention everyone, not just your star players!

If you feel you can correct any simple errors with a short comment then do so. But don’t try to introduce any new concepts or embark on a lengthy lecture.

Limit all your comments to two or three points for nine year olds and older and just one point for younger children. Any more than that and you will run out of time or they will stop listening to you.

Tip: Don’t ask for players’ opinions. All you’ll get is a time wasting chorus of comments and complaints.

Now it’s time to announce the starting line up for the second half. If you’re not sure which players to take off then don’t make any changes until the second half is a few minutes old. But if you do that, make sure your subs know they are going to get on soon.

Finally, some more words of encouragement and send your team out for the second half.

Tip: Count the players on the field before the whistle goes. I’ve often tried to start with one player more or less than the rules allow!!

After the game

Make sure your team shake their opponents by the hand and you congratulate your opposite number.

Thank the referee.

If you won the game, celebrate quietly. If you let your players celebrate loudly it’s not only poor sportsmanship but it will make your opponents even more determined to beat you in the return match.

If you lost, don’t analyse the reasons or let your players blame each other. Praise them for what they did well and save the corrections for your next soccer coaching session.

Finally, make sure your players and parents help you put the goals and other equipment away!

Ask…don’t tell!

“Football is a game you play with your brain” – Johan Cruyff

Thirty years ago, in the “good old days”, a youth football coaching session usually took one of two forms:

1. A few laps of the field, some stretches, then a long time standing in lines waiting to be told the “best” way to pass a ball to each other.

2. A mass scrimmage while the coach watched and occasionally tossed in a few “you don’t do it that way”‘ comments.

Despite this, coaches didn’t have to worry about getting their players to turn up for training on time and they certainly didn’t worry if their players weren’t smiling much.

That’s because the world was a simpler place back then. There were less distractions, no Xbox, no PlayStation and hardly any televised football. Boys were grateful to be given the chance to kick a ball around the park and girls… well, girls didn’t play football anyway.

Sadly, you can still see this style of coaching. But it’s as old fashioned as typewriters and 35mm cameras.

Youth football coaches today need more than a bag of balls, some cones and a loud voice. They have to plan stimulating coaching sessions and make football as attractive as the myriad of other sports and extra-curricular interests that are available for children today.

That means taking an interest in their players as people, being patient and allowing them to have fun.

It also means creating an environment where children can discover their own answers to football problems, not make them stand in lines waiting to be told what to do.

But “let the game be the teacher” has become something of a cliche in youth football today and unfortunately it’s given lazy coaches an excuse to do nothing except mark out a pitch, toss their players a ball and hope that they will learn the skills they need all by themselves.

But letting the game be the teacher can work… if the coach creates problems in the game for his players and then helps them to find the answers.

Guided discovery

Guided discovery is an “active learning” technique in which students are asked open questions that encourage them to work out answers for themselves.

It makes children think, consider alternatives and allows them to test the solutions they come up with.

From a youth football perspective, guided discovery will develop the minds of your players and enable them to anticipate and react to situations they encounter in a game without waiting to be told what to do.

But it’s not an easy option for any coach.

Coaches who use guided discovery have to:

A) Decide what they want their players to discover in the session – the objective.

B) Set up games that might lead to the required discovery.

C) Ask “good” questions at the right moment.

As you can see, it involves more than just “letting the game be the teacher”!

The objective

The objective of a guided discovery session should not be a single fact or a yes/no answer. It should be a tactical strategy or relate to the principles of play.

Attacking principles

Defending principles

The game

Any small-sided game might lead to a situation where the coach might be able to ask the question(s) that might lead to the solution he is hoping his players will discover. But that’s a lot of “mights”. It is better to give some thought to the game and ensure the desired situation arises by placing conditions or restrictions on the players.

The questions

These are examples of “good” questions:

  • Why didn’t that pass work? OK, how should we do it this time?
  • How can we get the ball to our attackers quickly?
  • How can we get the ball to the other side of the field?
  • Why is it important for you to lift your head up when you have the ball?
  • And these are the type of positive responses that will encourage your players:
  • Great! so how could we do it faster?
  • I like that answer! what other skill can we use to get the ball to our team mates?
  • Now you’re getting the idea!
  • Where could you position yourself so that you could see both the player you are defending as well as the ball?


Your players must feel comfortable making suggestions so make it clear that there are no wrong answers and there is no risk of being put down or laughed at by their team mates.

Encourage them to make suggestions by listening carefully and always responding positively, thanking them for their contribution and saying things like: “That’s good! What else could you do?”

Common errors

The most common mistakes a coach can make are:

Not giving players enough time to think about the question before jumping in with the answer.

Getting carried away and asking too many “good” questions in a short space of time.


Guided discovery is a suitable coaching method for all ages of players.

Even four and five-year-olds can be asked questions that will lead them to discover how to pass the ball, for example, providing appropriate language is used.

But coaches should remember that guided discovery works best with individual players rather than large groups. In groups, only some of the players “discover” the answer. The rest hear the answer and accept it as fact rather than discovering it for themselves.

That said, helping children learn by asking them questions and letting them play the game is always preferable to telling them what to do.

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.“ Albert Einstein

The pre-season meeting

It is very important to have a pre-season meeting with both parents and players.

This is your first and most important opportunity to discuss your soccer coaching philosophy and codes of conduct and maybe your only chance to explain team rules in a non-confrontational setting (before any discipline is needed), and to recruit volunteers to help you with administrative tasks.

Skip this first meeting at your peril!! If the first time that some bossy parent has any contact with you is on Game Day when your team is getting pounded, and this parent tries to “help” you by yelling at the kids or standing beside you to offer “helpful” suggestions, you will be very sorry that you did not lay out your game-day ground rules early.

And when little Johnny doesn’t show up for 4 practices running, doesn’t call, and then appears on game-day without shin-pads and no kit (and Mum is furious that he’s on the subs bench), you will be very sorry that you had not given out team rules which covered mandatory equipment or your expectations on attendance.

We are not kidding when we suggest that this is probably the most important meeting which your team will have for the entire season. So, plan it carefully; get organized; and do your best to make an excellent first impression.

Where To Have The Meeting

You will need about 30-45 minutes to go over the items which you want to cover, so you want your “audience” to be comfortable. There are many places where you might consider holding your meeting. Libraries often have meeting rooms available. Churches also may make their meeting facilities open to outside groups. In addition, cafeterias often have meeting rooms, as do many family-oriented restaurants. Of course, your home is also an option if your team is not very large.

When To Have The Meeting

Families are always busy and it can be hard to find a time when everyone can attend. It’s hard to set out general rules: use your own judgement in trying to find a moment when most people are likely to be free. In some places, Sunday afternoon may be the only unclaimed time in the schedule of many families, so around 4pm on Sunday can be an excellent time to hold this type of meeting. Mondays and Tuesday evenings frequently are slow times for restaurants, and often may be less hectic for families.

Scheduling around 7 pm allows the family to eat first if they want, or to decide to eat at the restaurant. Try to avoid times when parents who also have other kids may need to take them to other activities.

What To Cover At The Meeting

Here is a sample agenda for a preseason meeting, which addresses the common topics to be covered in the meeting.

  • Introductions

First of all, introduce yourself and your assistants (if any) to the parents. Most parents like to hear something about your background and your philosophy of coaching, especially as it impinges on their own child, so you may want to say something about how much playing time each player can expect.

It’s also a good idea to go around the room and ask parents to introduce themselves and say which player they’re related to. Some of the parents may know one another well, others may not, and they’ll be seeing quite a bit of one another!

You may also want to pass around a sign-in sheet and ask people to put their name and phone number on it; this can be useful later to see who was present at the meeting and to check phone numbers.

  • Discussion of plans for the team
  • Need for every player to do soccer homework between practices.
  • Expectations for player development by end of season.
  • Expectations for win/loss record by end of season.
  • Need by team for volunteers (Calling trees, assistants, etc.).

You may want to set up a parent committee if there are matters such as fundraising or carpooling to be handled that are outside your jurisdiction. If possible, it’s a good idea for this committee to be appointed on the spot and meet for a few minutes to get to know one another.

  • Team Kits/Team Name
  • Any Equipment needs of team (nets, goals, etc.) and fundraisers needed to obtain these items.
  • Special Skills Clinics
  • Issue of medical consent forms or – better still – a handbook that contains all the forms a parent needs
  • Questions/Answers

Tips On Making The Meeting Run Smoothly

Many parents will want to go ahead and fill out the questionnaires at the meeting, so bring plenty of pencils/pens. Young players tend to get fidgety, so try to talk to them as much as you can. Bring a sack of candy or little treats (pencils, stickers, etc.), and start asking questions like “Why do you suppose that I want you to call me if you cannot come to practice?” – and toss a piece of candy to the people who answer correctly. Don’t hesitate to reward parents, as well – they will get a kick out of this.

If kits are to be purchased by the team, try to get some samples (for sizes) from your kit provider – and have a signup sheet for kits once you have selected which ones you want. Some coaches like to pick the team kit and name ahead of time – but kids enjoy this part so much that it really is a good idea to let them participate.

Some parents may be divorced, so bring extra questionnaires, rosters and game schedules to the meeting for the other parent. If you note that the parents are divorced, make a mental note to check with the parent attending the meeting with the child about custody problems (including who is allowed to pick up the child after practice). This can save a lot of arguments later.

Be sure to go over the Team Rules, and your expectations for parental behaviour (especially at games). While being friendly, be firm that you expect that parents will not yell at kids on the field or yell at referees – and that the ONLY talk that you want to see is positive (good try, nice save, etc.). Remind parents that children perform worse if distracted or harshly criticized, so you really need their cooperation. Also remind them that refs are usually inexperienced themselves at lower age groups, and often will make mistakes. However, if we yell at the refs, we can make the ref more rattled, or get the ref mad at the team, or even might convince the kids that the ref is against them, which tends to make players want to stop trying or say/do bad things to the refs themselves (which can get the kids in really hot water) – so you expect the parents to set a good example of sportsmanship for the team.

If you are going to take a long-term approach toward player development, and move players around (instead of locking players into single positions to increase your win/loss record), tell the parents why you have chosen this route. Explain how you define “winning”, and what your approach towards player development will be. Of course, there may be some parents who really want their child on a hyper-competitive team. By giving them early warning of your approach, this allows them to talk to the club about moving to a different team (which may be best for all concerned).

Some coaches haven’t done much public speaking, and may be nervous about talking (especially if they have never coached soccer before – and are not sure what they are doing). As an old college professor used to say, “There is a big difference between ignorance and stupidity – one is curable.” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and to admit that you are learning by OJT. If you are trying hard, and doing your best to be fair and make learning fun, most kids and most parents will give you the benefit of the doubt. So, try to relax; get prepared for the meeting ahead of time; ask some questions yourself to get the kids/parents talking; and enjoy. It is going to be a fun year!

Coaching during matches

Soccer Culture

The essence of the soccer culture is that soccer is the “player’s game”. What this means is that, once the game is underway, the players are expected to make their own decisions as to the right thing to do in any situation, without interference from coaches or spectators. Of course, in a professional game, there are plenty of spectators with an opinion but their input is thankfully lost in the noise of the crowd. In a youth soccer game with only a handful of spectators, loudly-voiced opinions and “suggestions” are all too easily heard (at least by the other spectators – see below).

This soccer culture is alien to most North American sports, in which the coach is effectively a part of the team, controlling plays, using a timeout to stop the other team’s momentum, instructing a player to run or stay on base and so on. Irrespective of whether you think this is good or bad, [I’ll admit that I prefer to make my own decisions], it is not the soccer way. Once the whistle blows there are no practical mechanisms provided by the laws of the game for a coach to influence the outcome. The players make individual decisions, good or bad, and collectively have to react as a team to the strategy and tactics of the their opponent. They learn to do this in two ways, first at practices, where the coach does have control, and second and, ultimately more importantly, by experience at the games. This is the origin of the soccer coaching adage “the game is the teacher”. It takes a lot of games to get the experience, but there really is no short cut, much as coaches might wish there were!

Many coaches find this situation frustrating, especially if they also coach a sport in which they do have more control. A common reaction is for the coach to become a “shouter”. In the extreme this takes the form of a continuous barrage of shouted verbal instructions to the players, which is essentially an attempt by the coach to “control” the game. At any game with a noisy crowd this doesn’t work, of course, although some coaches develop remarkably loud voices trying. This style of coaching at the game is sometimes also referred to as “mini-coaching”.

What’s the Law?

FIFA law states that a “coach may convey tactical instructions to his players during the match and must return to his position immediately after giving these instructions. The coach and the other officials must remain within the confines of the technical area, where such an area is provided, and they must behave in a responsible manner”..
The spirit of the FIFA law is that coaches convey only occasional instructions to players and these are limited to “tactical”, that is “off the ball” instructions. The expectation is that coaches use the game to observe their players in action and use what they see as feedback into the practice situation.


Let’s start by admitting that many veteran coaches, including the author, have followed the humbling path from mini-coaching to being an observer and cheerleader at games. We’re not perfect either. Sometimes we lapse into bad habits under stress because we’re human. But we believe in the soccer culture and strive always to be good role models. In this section I will discuss some of the issues surrounding mini-coaching in more detail and explode some myths.

1: Instructions get through to the player on the ball.

It’s hard to accept this if you have never played a team sport. The truth is that, when concentrating on handling the ball, it is impossible to process instructions. Players shut out extraneous inputs; all they hear is a general background noise. Of course, if they are close and you shout really, really loud, they’ll hear you, but in doing so they will probably lose focus on what they are doing and lose the ball.

2: Players like being shouted at [told what to do]

Even if they do, [I haven’t met any yet – and you have to ask them to really find out], it isn’t helping them make their own decisions, and they’ll never become good soccer players if they don’t. Some coaches justify their behavior on the grounds that the kids need really the instructions and that it helps them become better players. It’s possible that this could be true but at what cost? Again, it’s hard to appreciate this if you haven’t played a sport with a “coach”, but most adults would find it irritating and unsettling to be the subject of constant verbal instructions. Kids spend their whole lives being told what to do by adults. Historically they learned to play sports without adult involvement. Times have changed so that organized sports are now the norm, for better or worse, but that doesn’t give adults the right to take over their games. It’s the players’ game.

3: I only ever provide positive instruction and encouragement

I hear this a lot and I’m sure some coaches really believe it. However, if you’re a real shouter, you will inevitably get seriously involved in what’s happening out there on the field. Eventually when something goes wrong, you’ll let your guard slip and some not-quite-positive remark will emerge, because it’s practically impossible to keep the brain properly engaged when in verbal torrent mode. As an example, what do you think is the impact on your players of a shout of “Wake up, defense!” immediately after a goal is scored? I would suggest to you that this belittles the players and simply expresses the coach’s dissatisfaction with their play. It is not positive coaching and it is unlikely to improve performance on the field. Other tell-tale phrases are those containing “you should have…” or “you need to…”. While well intentioned, these remarks will be perceived as criticism by the players. I don’t know too many adults who respond well to public criticism, let alone kids. Just remember, the players only “need” to have fun. Finally, panic shouts of “Get it out of there!”, “Shoot!”, “Boot it!” just overload the players with noise. They rarely have any useful effect, except to make players feel more nervous and unsure of themselves. Great performances are not made in a mental state of panic.

4: I have a really nice voice at 90 decibels

My experience is that listening to a shouter coach, however well intentioned he/she is, just gets plain annoying after a while. It certainly spoils my enjoyment of the game. Spectators (parents) come to watch their children play, not to listen to the coach.

5: The parents expect me to instruct the kids at games. No parent has ever complained about my coaching style.

Many parents are equally unaware of the soccer culture, and simply transfer their expectations from other sports. Others are themselves intimidated by a coach who is a shouter. Some, seeing progress in their child’s soccer development, may put up with the shouting because “my child is learning a lot this season”. [Many shouter coaches are indeed good at teaching soccer at practices].

6. It’s ok to complain to the referee if he/she makes a call you don’t agree with.

Mini coaching often goes hand-in-hand with public complaining about the refereeing. Again, if you are involved with the game at the mini-level, you are going to react deeply to every call, just as if you were actually out there on the field, and if you’re verbalizing, you’ll find it very hard not to say something critical. There is no margin for discussion on this one: public complaining about the refereeing is not acceptable, period.

7: It’s very important to me that my team wins the game.

A lot of mini-coaching has its roots in the coach being too personally invested in the success of the team. This is dangerous ground that can lead to some truly bad behavior by coaches. And, yes, it happens every season. Sometimes a coach is trying to make up for his or her failed success in sports by playing vicariously through the team. Other times the drive to win (at all costs) is just too deeply embedded in his or her personality. Other times the coach feels inadequate if the team isn’t successful and attempts to remedy this by mini-coaching. If any of these resonate with you, just remember “it’s for the kids”. You are a teacher not a player.

8: Should coaches be silent at games?

No! The opposite extreme of a shouter is the truly silent coach, which is easily mistaken for indifference. Players do like to be praised when they do well. There are plenty of opportunities at a game to provide praise and positive encouragement to your players. It’s also perfectly ok to communicate tactical suggestions just so long as you don’t do it continuously. For example, instructions to your defence to move up with play, and occasional positional advice. What you should not do is try to teach positional play at a game by constant instruction.


If while reading this you recognized some of your own behaviour at games, try to examine your reasons for mini-coaching. Hopefully some of the arguments above will persuade you that there is another way that will achieve the same results and, in the process, let the kids play their game in as natural a way as possible.

Good communication – the key to success

Good communication – the key to success in youth soccer

It’s impossible to over emphasise the importance of good communication for youth soccer coaches.

It doesn’t matter how much you know about the game, how much you care about your players and how much time you put in to make it all come together…if you don’t communicate effectively with your players and their parents you’re going to have problems.

Whether it’s at half-time, at coaching sessions or at a pre-season meeting with parents, good communication skills are vital to your success.

The pre-season meeting

This is a golden opportunity to be proactive with parents that should never be missed.

By outlining your expectations and coaching methods before the season starts you’re painting a clear picture about how you plan to handle the season.

Key points

When parents hear from you that you’re committed to skill development over winning and that you intend to give equal playing time to all players, regardless of ability, you leave no room for petty squabbles over how much playing time their children receive when the season begins.

It’s just as important to discuss and agree how you expect your parents and players to behave during coaching sessions and at matches. Some clubs ask both parents and players to sign a copy of their codes of conduct. Whether you go that far is up to you but I would strongly recommend that you hand out hard copies of your discipline code. And don’t forget to include what sanctions will be taken against offenders.

An example of a pre-season meeting agenda

  • Introduction – tell parents who you are, what your coaching background is (if you have one), and how you got involved coaching the team. Make this brief, but remember that parents appreciate knowing a bit about who will be coaching their sons and daughters.
  • Your coaching philosophy – let parents know your approach to coaching, including your philosophy in terms of providing instruction, giving players equal playing time, and so on. Tell them, briefly, why this is your philosophy and how it benefits the kids. Let everyone be in no doubt that while we all want to win; it is not the main objective. The main objective is the kids having fun while developing. Thus, we teach a style of play that works long term – put the ball on the ground and using skill to work the ball into the opponents penalty box rather than just big kicks and muscle. You might also want to explain that you need your players to make their own decisions so you don’t want to hear parents shouting instructions from the sidelines.
  • The inherent risks – soccer has some inherent risks you need to make parents aware of. You should also let them know you have a plan in place to respond to injuries and find out from parents any medical conditions their children have, as well as how the parents can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  • Basic expectations – state your expectations of players and parents, in a positive fashion, and let parents know what they and their children can expect of you as a coach.
  • The practice schedule – include the day, date, time, and place of the first practice, and note the rest of the practice schedule, if you know it at this time.
  • The fixture list – if you know the fixtures, hand out copies. If not, let parents know when they can expect to receive the schedule.
  • Other information – tell your parents if you have some special event planned or need volunteers to help in various ways. You might also wish to discuss travel arrangements to away matches, what equipment the players need and what they need to bring to matches.
  • Your contact information – let parents know how and when they can contact you.

Half time team talks

Tweeeet! The whistle has blown, and your players are jogging off the pitch. The first half is over, and before long, the second half will begin. You have seen moments of accomplishment, periods of wavering stamina, goals scored, successful and unsuccessful tackles, different types of passes and much more. How can you possibly relate all of your feedback concerning the first half in a typical 5 to 10 minute half-time speech? As a coach, what are your responsibilities during half-time, and how can you make the most out of the little time you have?

Primarily, what you say during half-time should be succinct, helpful and clear. You have an entire half of a game to recount, and you have a very short amount of time to do it. Brevity is clearly a must. In addition, your players may be weary, and half-time is also an important time for them to rest their legs, re-hydrate and catch their breath. In order to get your points across effectively, using simple language and clear explanations are necessary.

Generally, your comments ought to provide your players with feedback concerning the progression and the outcome of the first half. It may seem impractical to impart advice about half-time speeches given that the first half of every game will be slightly different from the next. We do not know the strengths and weaknesses of your players, nor do we know the type of opponent your team is up against. We can, however, provide valuable recommendations to consider as necessary topics to cover. These tips will help make your half-time speech effective, concise and encouraging.

Pitch conditions

The conditions of the pitch and certain unfavourable weather conditions can subtly or drastically affect the game. If it is raining, the pitch will be wet and the ball will travel faster across the grass. A slick ball may also be more difficult for a player to trap. Is it windy? A team that attacks with the wind blowing from its back will have an advantage as opposed to the team that must fight the wind head on. In addition to the weather, what are the conditions of the playing surface? Is the grass trimmed well or is it rather long? Longer grass is more difficult to run through and may be more trying on players’ legs. The ball travels a longer distance on a pitch with short grass. Are there uneven spots on the pitch? Are there divots, bumps or large dirt patches? Are your players aware of these areas? Is the pitch short, long, narrow or wide? For instance, narrow pitches have a short distance between the side of the penalty box and the sideline. Caution them about how the pitch conditions may have affected their play, and advise them to be mindful during the second half.

Player sense and vision

It is always helpful to remind players to be aware of their surroundings while they are on the pitch. Anticipating where the ball is going, knowing where teammates are and getting in position are vital off-the-ball skills that can only be mastered if a player has good pitch sense. Sometimes players only examine their own positioning on the pitch in comparison to where the ball is located. Encourage your players to see the entire space around them. In addition, advise players with the ball to keep their heads up so they can make important choices relative to dribbling, passing and shooting.

Play your game!

You may be wondering what coaches mean when they encourage players to “play their own game.” Although it is helpful to know the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent, frequently coaches expend too much energy discussing the other team’s skills and identifying the better players. What skills have you and your players focused on in practice? When your team has possession of the ball, where are the team’s strengths, and what strategies work well for your players offensively? In the first half, did your players execute the skills and strategies that you worked on during practice? Remind your players of these tactics, and encourage them to take control of the game as a team. Advising a team to “play its own game” incites confidence, promotes teamwork and plays toward your players’ strengths.

Pressure the ball and mark up

By putting pressure on the ball, your team will force the opposing team to work harder. Pressuring the ball increases the possibility that an opponent will make mistakes, thus increasing your team’s opportunities to retrieve possession of the ball. Every player on the pitch must play defence when the opponent has the ball. To protect your goal effectively, each player must be defensively alert, and everyone must pressure the ball. Although only one of your players may be marking the opposing player who has the ball, your entire team is responsible for defending. Supporting teammates must mark up and effectively guard their players to block any potential passes or runs. A team that pressures the ball and defends as a unit will break down the opponent’s methods of attack. Have your players been “going to the ball” and attacking opponents as soon as they receive the ball, or have your players been waiting for the opponents to advance, only challenging them after they have complete control of the ball and are ready to be challenged? Has the opposing team been able to make passes to players who are not “marked” or defended, or has your team done a good job of anticipating passing lanes and shutting down those potential passes to unguarded players?


Finally, it is always useful to remind your players to talk to each other. Soccer players cannot use their hands, but there are no rules that prohibit the use of voices! Your players should consider their voices as aids on the pitch, because verbal communication is very important, whether your team is playing defence or is on the attack. “Someone’s on your back!” “Double-team!” “I’m on your left!” “I’ve got number ten!” Players warn others about potential tackles, and they can help teammates make good runs and find open passes. At the same time, you need to critique your players, to advise them whether the oral advice they have been giving is good advice and whether they have taken the good advice from their teammates. For example, a player who constantly runs down the pitch yelling “I’m open! Pass it to me!” may not actually be open and may be giving advice contrary to what you as the coach have been telling your players to do. Is that player actually open? Would it be a good idea for the player with the ball to make the pass that is being requested? Is the player yelling for a pass when the player with the ball is in an open space and should continue dribbling? At the same time, when players are yelling advice, are their teammates listening and following it properly? When a player correctly calls for a pass, is the player with the ball trying to make that pass or are they moving ahead on their own, trying futilely to dribble through several solid defenders? Overall, communication is a fundamental tool of a successful team, and it is a skill that should be utilized at practice. Remind your players to open their mouths and communicate.

Keep it up!

Some of the most important topics to discuss during half-time concern what your players are doing well on the pitch. Choose a few maneuvers or skills that your team mastered in the first half. Highlight a few great passes, plays or combinations during the first half that were noteworthy. You may choose to provide three positive and praiseworthy remarks for every negative comment or piece of constructive criticism you report. Ultimately, it is important to praise your players as well as provide constructive criticism. Positive reinforcement boosts confidence and increases the likelihood that certain skills or plays will be repeated.

These suggestions for effective half-time speeches will remind young soccer players about some very important basic concepts. Nevertheless, based on the tone of the first half, there may be many other topics you wish to cover during half-time. Here are some more questions for coaches to ask themselves at the end of the first half of a match.

Is your team taking advantage of set plays and free kicks? Are your players having trouble defending against them?

Consider the possible physical advantages of the opposing team. Are players on the other team exceptionally tall? Is your team having trouble getting the ball away from taller opponents? Is your team shielding the ball successfully? Is the opposing team more aggressive than your players?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing goalie? Is he/she better in the air? On the ground?

What specific calls has the referee made? Does it seem that the referee is paying more attention to certain types of fouls?

Are your players being spectators? When players do not have the ball, they should be moving to support the player with the ball or moving toward a better position to receive the ball. Passive observers on the pitch do not help a team succeed.

What formation did the opposing team use in the first half? Should you alter your team’s formation to better respond to your opponent? How can you use the other team’s formation in your team’s favor?

Have your players been using the pitch effectively? Do they keep trying to plow straight ahead, and should they be moving the ball across the pitch more? Are they passing as much as you would like or are they dribbling too much? Are they passing when no one is on them, and you would prefer that they take the ball forward themselves more? Are they making short passes or kicking long balls past the defense for their teammates to chase (and is that what you want them to be doing)? Are they supporting their teammates, moving into open spaces when they do not have the ball, moving forward with the attack, and retreating to help defend? Have they been playing the game the way you have been coaching them at the level of ability that you can reasonably expect of them at their age and stage of development?

How did the process of substituting players in and out of the game go during the first half? Do you want to tell your players to work as hard as they can, then signal you (or you will see) that they should come out for a short rest? Or, do you want to tell them to pace themselves so that they will have sufficient reserves to make the necessary sprints when a scoring opportunity (or severe defensive threat) presents itself?

To review, clarity and brevity are important objectives of the half-time speech. Do not try to address all the topics listed in this article in a single half-time speech. If you are worried that you have too many items to discuss, do not try to cram in everything. Be selective. Try not to say all the same things every half time or your speeches are not likely to be effective. Try to identify the few key changes that may help them improve, and applaud their play when praise is appropriate. Encourage them to keep it up.

In addition, it may be beneficial to leave time for questions and comments at the end of your speech. During the game, you have a particular vantage point as a coach and as a spectator, but your players have very different perspectives on the pitch. Players’ comments and suggestions for the second half may be useful supplements to your half-time speech – and it will give you some time to catch your breath! Good luck, and remind your players to have an orange slice and to stretch if they desire.

How to communicate with players, parents and officials

In your role as a soccer coach, you need to communicate effectively with a lot of different people: your players, parents, grandparents, officials, other coaches, association directors, etc…

All of them have different agendas and need communicating with in different ways.

The Players

Communication with your players goes far beyond simply giving them instruction. If you took a communications class in high school or college you will remember that more than 50% of communication is non-verbal. Facial expressions and tone of voice also convey a great deal of the communication.

Leave the sarcasm at home! Players may place a great deal of importance on anything you may say or do, possibly more than what their parents’ may say or do. Also, although it can be tough with 12 jabbering kids, try to listen to each one, allowing each one to talk in turn.

A few pointers:

Talk to the players’ on their level, both physically and emotionally. This may mean getting down on one knee and looking into their eyes as you communicate. Use simple, direct statements that will be less likely to be misinterpreted.

Don’t wear sunglasses on the practice or game field. Players need to make eye contact with you to fully understand the communication.

Be positive, honest and sincere with your players. When trying to correct a particular skill problem, it can be advantageous to make the mistake yourself, and then point out your own shortcomings. Players will respect a coach that is honest. Be positive: constant ‘nagging’ will only ‘turn off’ your players’.

Tell them what you want to tell them, tell them again, and them tell them once more. Try to reword your communication each time. This will give you a much better chance of getting the communication across with ALL the players.

Be loud enough that all players can hear you, but don’t scream at them. Clearly understood voice communication will get their attention and your respect. TIP: In one-on-one communication, a whisper may serve the purpose and be much more effective than a normal or loud voice.

Avoid inconsistent or confusing body language. I.e. don’t turn your back on a player talking to you, expecting praise, attention or instruction… Shaking your head while telling the player “nice try”…

The Parents

After your initial parents meeting you may or may not have a great deal of contact with the players’ parents. If a parent should contact you during the season, you should…


They may be concerned about their child’s skill development. I.e. “Johnny makes a lot of goals, but my kid…”. Just be positive about their child’s development unless you too have a concern that their may be a medical or physical condition that needs attention.

They may think you’re a lousy coach, or you just haven’t developed a relationship with their child. If they’re wrong, try to rectify the miss-communication, but not at the expense of the team. It could just be the parents or child’s problem, and you probably can’t “fix it”.

Finally, if you need to talk to a parent, do it after a practice or game where you can speak to them without children being present. Sometimes a phone call or e-mail will work just as well.

The Officials

Maybe it works for Alex Ferguson, but it won’t work for you. Yelling at or disagreeing with the coaches will solve little during a game. What it will do is show your players that you are disrespectful of the officials, and they will tend to do the same. If there was clearly a bad decision, bring it up after the game with the official or later at a specially called meeting.

The “Other” Coaches

Make an effort to seek out and greet the other coach before the game. By establishing an acquaintance, you may be able to accomplish more together than alone. For example, at the first game of the season, you may have some new players that can’t play an entire half. It is very likely he has the same situation. So the coaches decide to have ‘unlimited or free’ substitution. Like the official is going to argue with BOTH of you! I don’t think so. In most associations that tend to be non-competitive, the two coaches can then determine the best use of the rules for “THIS” game.

86 ways to say ‘well done!’

  1. Good for you!
  2. That’s really nice
  3. Superb
  4. That’s the best ever
  5. You did that very well
  6. That’s great!
  7. You’ve got it made
  8. Way to go!
  9. Terrific
  10. That’s the way to do it!
  11. That’s not bad!
  12. That’s quite an improvement
  13. Couldn’t have done it better myself
  14. Good thinking
  15. Marvelous
  16. You really are going to town
  17. You’re doing fine
  18. Keep up the good work
  19. You’re really improving
  20. That’s it!
  21. You’re on the right track now!
  22. That’s better
  23. Now you’ve got it figured out
  24. You haven’t missed a thing
  25. Outstanding!
  26. Fantastic!
  27. That’s coming along nicely
  28. You outdid yourself today
  29. I know you can do it
  30. You’re doing a good job
  31. Good work
  32. That’s the right way to do it
  33. You figured that out fast
  34. That’s better
  35. I think you’ve got it now
  36. Right on!
  37. I’m proud of the way you worked today
  38. Well, look at you go!
  39. Tremendous!
  40. That’s the best you’ve ever done!
  41. You certainly did well today
  42. That’s RIGHT!
  43. Perfect!
  44. You must have been practicing!
  45. Nice going
  46. Great!
  47. You’ve got your brain in gear today
  48. Keep working on it…You’re getting better
  49. Now you’ve got the hang of it
  50. You remembered!
  51. WOW!
  52. That kind of work makes me very happy.
  53. Wonderful!
  54. You’re really working hard today
  55. You’re getting better every day
  56. That’s what I call a fine job!
  57. You’re learning fast
  58. I knew you could do it!
  59. You make it look easy
  60. I’m very proud of you
  61. That’s a good boy/girl
  62. One more time an you’ll have it
  63. That’s very much better
  64. Fine!
  65. Super!
  66. That’s good
  67. You did lot of work today
  68. Good job
  69. Keep it up!
  70. You really make this fun
  71. You’ve got that down pat
  72. Good remembering
  73. Congratulations
  74. Nothing can stop you now
  75. Exactly right!
  76. You are doing much better today
  77. Nice going
  78. Keep on trying
  79. Excellent!
  80. You are really learning a lot
  81. Sensational!
  82. You’ve jut about got it!
  83. You’re doing beautifully
  84. I’ve never seen anyone do it better
  85. You’ve just mastered that!
  86. You are very good at that.