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!