TOPIC: Coaching the Youth Player
EQUAL PLAYING TIME DEBATE 1 year, 11 months ago #1000
Your views on the equal playing time debate
How you use your substitutes during matches seems to be a difficult problem for many youth soccer coaches.
There seems to be so much to consider. For example:
Should I have an equal playing time policy, even if it means losing games we could have won if I kept my best players on the pitch?
Shall I start with my best players or my weaker ones?
What shall I do with my star striker who doesn't have a good reason for not turning up for training last week? Shall I leave her out of the team?
How can I keep track of the time my players spend on the pitch?
Should I make subs every few minutes or at half time?
Should I risk getting little Johnny on the pitch even though we all know that he's got "two left feet"? Will it destroy his confidence?
These extracts from the emails you've sent me on the subject of equal playing time provide possible answers to these questions.
But I would suggest there is only one question you need to ask yourself... "Is what I'm doing in the best interests of every child on my team?"
1. We need a result so you're not getting on!
My son's team needed a draw in the last game of the season to get promotion.
My son and two of his team mates were left on the sidelines while his manager chose to play three players who hadn't turned up for training in the previous weeks rather than the subs who hadn't missed a game or training all season.
But the worst thing is the manager barely acknowledged the subs or apologised. Ironically, two of the players he used in that game have now decided to leave the club and my son and the other subs are planning to leave as well. – Coach Stewart
2. "Coach... am I going to be sub today?"
All my players take turns starting as sub.
But the first question to come from the boys was always "who is sub today?". The second was "who is going to be subbed?".
So I changed the way I carried out substitutions so that I made a substitution every five minutes throughout the game. This gave all the team equal time on the pitch and the boys knew they all had to come off at some point. – Coach Mark
3. This is how I do it.
I guarantee every player will play a minimum of half of every game.
We have 12 players, with 8v8 games. We play two 30-minute halves, so I divide the game into 10-minute segments. My players know they will play a minimum of two segments in one half and one segment in the other half of the game.
Players who have worked hard at practice or shown improvement may play somewhat more, depending on the number of subs for that day. – Coach Jim
4. How to give less experienced players the chance to succeed.
I don't think there is any issue that gives me more heartburn as a coach than playing time. I set up a substitution schedule each week for the game and allocate playing time as equally as I can and I try to stick to that schedule no matter what the score is.
I balance the team out and do not have all of my more developed players or all of my less developed players on the field at the same time.
But sometimes your options as a coach are limited. Players don't come to the game or are late. They get injured or want to come out during the game so "equal time" never quite plays out exactly as it should. But those are things out of my control as a coach. I can only do my best to ensure the kids feel like they are getting quality playing time.
The only people who have ever voiced a concern to me about playing time have been parents, not players.
Next season however, we will be playing in a more competitive division and teams field players with the intent to win the game. I don't expect that playing time will be as equal as I have done it for the past two seasons. However, I do think it is important for everyone to play. If a kid comes to practice consistently, works hard and listens well, then the expectation to play on the weekend is not an unreasonable one.
For less developed players, I think the trick is to find points in the game where they can enter and be put in a place to succeed. It's OK if they make a few mistakes but if they are aren't making any positive plays, even small ones, it's better to have them come off in my opinion.
It's counterproductive to have a less developed player on the field for extended periods if they are getting overwhelmed by the other kids. I've found it's not good for their morale and it's not good for the team. I want to give them enough time to make a contribution but not leave them on the field for too long where they get discouraged.
As they come off the field, tell them they did a good job and let them build on that experience for more playing time.
Developing confidence in young players is as important as teaching them technical skills. – Coach Tony
5. No one is perfect.
We play 11-a-side, two 35-minute halves. I try to rotate my subs through the game and I usually start changing around the 15 to 20-minute mark, again at half time and then during the second period.
Most players get roughly equal time on the pitch. There are very few grumbles when they come off as they know they take it in turns and they will be back on.
Unfortunately I broke this rule a month or two back during a cup final. I felt the pressure from the parents and kids to win the game and did not rotate based on playing time, but on performance and ability.
One boy did not get much time on the park and after the event (which we won on penalties) I felt pretty bad, especially when his dad told me his boy had been feeling very down and that he said that "he wished he had not been part of the cup final squad".
He has continued playing and I hope he continues to do so but to think that my actions may result in a player stopping playing really grates with me.
I have now resolved to rotate players fully during every game regardless of the situation and ensure that all players within the squad will get their fair share of match time. – Coach Alex
6. Am I a victim of our team's success?
I know that this will sound wrong, but if we are not in a position to win the league I'll give all my players equal playing time but if we are in with a chance of winning the league, my better players will play more.
It seems to me that some coaches are victims of their own success. – Coach Justin
7. My boy was left to rot on the sidelines.
My son had average skills and experience so was very much a "work in progress". Initially he was getting 15 or 20 minutes but as the season wore on and the team started losing, this diminished. I spoke to his coach and thought we had sorted things out – my son was not the strongest player in the squad but would get at least 10 minutes.
Then came a game against a bottom-half team in December. It was bitterly cold with bouts of sleet. My son was told that he would play in the second half and was told to warm up, twice. However, the game ended and Luke had not played a single minute.
I asked the coach:
How could he keep an eight-year-boy standing around on the side of a pitch for an hour?
Why did he not keep his word to play Luke?
The response was that it was a close game and winning might help the team avoid relegation.
I pointed out that kids do not care about the result – they care about playing soccer – but he was just not listening.
I wrote to the club and asked their policy on playing time. They didn't have one, even though it is a FA Charter Standard club.
How can kids enjoy soccer if the adults involved are allowed to lie to young boys by telling them they will get to play when there is no intention of doing so and, by not playing them, they are telling kids indirectly that they are rubbish?
Surely the FA could be prescriptive on what is acceptable behaviour, e.g. if a boy turns up to a game then they must spend at least a quarter of it on the pitch, barring injury or illness.
All teams would then be in the same position and coaches would have no lame excuses for leaving a boy to rot on the sideline. – Mark
8. You're going to need your subs one day!
My U9s play seven-a-side.
We can generally hold our own in matches if I have two developing players in the team and I've communicated that principle (if not the exact numbers) to the parents of my players.
How did we do? Won 11, Drawn 3, Lost 12. Could we have won more if we'd played our strongest team every week? Yes, of course – but that's not the point. And, looking ahead, I need a large squad when we move to nine-a-side next year. I therefore absolutely need to keep the developing players engaged. – Coach Andy
9. My girls have to earn their playing time.
We have a club with around 260 kids. I coach and now manage an U13s girls team.
I began my coaching "career" in the usual way – as a dad who took his daughter along and then instead of just standing watching, got involved.
When we started at U11s, most of the girls hadn't really kicked a ball before and we did try and make sure they all got similar playing time by making lots of subs. This proved difficult to control so we moved to subbing at half time instead.
We feel that at the age they are now, there is a need to work for their place and learn a life lesson that you have to put the effort in to get into the "first" team.
We take into account the effort and behaviour in training, timekeeping and other elements that we hope will help develop them away from soccer.
Although we try to get our weaker players on in a match, it's not always possible, or we choose not to if the game is close. Those that don't get playing time in the main match however, do play the whole of the friendly that we usually play after the league match.
Since we went down the road of girls having to earn playing time in the "main" match dependent on effort, behaviour and listening to what was being taught etc, results have improved dramatically.
All the girls really work hard for each other because they enjoy the buzz of winning or at least improving from where they were two seasons ago: losing games by double figures. Even on wet and windy nights, they still turn up for training, and it's great to see. – Coach Bill
10. "He's absolutely useless".
In the mid-1990s, I was the soccer development director to a city just north of London.
At the time I operated a Saturday morning academy for eight to 12-year-old kids.
One lad was not particularly gifted but simply loved his soccer. Always the first to arrive and the last to leave after assisting me to collect in the equipment.
On a bitterly cold Sunday morning I stopped to observe a junior soccer game. The lad in question was huddled up on the bench soaking wet from a non-stop drizzle of icy rain.
With about 10 minutes to go I approached his coach and and asked the score. He told me that "we are winning 9-0". "Any chance of the lad on the bench getting a run out?" I asked. "No chance, we need all the goals we can get and he is absolutely useless."
Even more disturbing was that over a period of 28 games he had NEVER started a game and had only come off the bench five times for a total of 70 minutes.
I later learned that the lad had stopped playing soccer, had become very withdrawn and that his school work was also suffering. I also learned the coach in question had been awarded "coach of the year" for his team winning the league.
How sad it is when children are made to suffer by so called "coaches" who are only concerned with satisfying their inflated egos. – Coach Dennis
11. "Mum, my heart is going to explode!"
My kids were actually the ones getting all the playing time while their team mates sat on the bench being used only when one of the weaker players on the field asked for a sub, and then staying on just long enough for that player to get a drink.
When my second child was an U8, her team played up a year at U9 – 8v8 on the larger field, and she was a tiny seven-year-old but that's another issue.
In one match she raised her hand repeatedly to get a sub and her coach ignored her.
She even came to the side and he sent her back to play. We had to tell him she needed to come off, she was nearly in tears!
Unfortunately, we saw the same behavior with my older child when she was an U7. She was so exhausted on the field she could barely move and her coach continued to yell at her rather than giving the subs a turn.
I finally went to him and told him to get her off the field or I would. Needless to say, my girls did not continue to play for those coaches – it's not fun to "feel like your heart is going to explode" as my daughter put it, either! – Name withheld
12. The importance of a blanket by the pitch.
From a tactical point of view, equal playing time is difficult but all parents pay the same amount of money and we all expect our money's worth, especially when it comes to our kid's self esteem!
This year I am coaching two teams. I have coached for four years and the age groups have varied. As the kids get older they want to win and they start to accept that some are better players than others.
Keep in mind our season here in Canada is only June to August and our town is too small to afford an indoor facility, so the excitement and competition on the pitches begins on day one.
I must also admit to being the only female coach in this age level and honestly, I love it when we win against the men!
But the male coaches are there only to win in spite of this being a house league and the kids are only eight to 13 years old!
But I know that all kids love winning and it is hard to make everyone happy.
I begin the year organised with schedules and send emails to parents with my expectations. I try to meet and greet with kids and parents prior to our first game, I give out uniforms and my kids come to games relaxed, suited up and there is no anxiety with who is on their team as they have all met and team "bonding" has begun.
I believe the emotional conditioning of a team is important and I work at that as a well-bonded team is accepting of their peers' faults and skills and they do not compete with each other.
I tell my players that if they do not get much playing time in one game then they start the next and they seem pleased with that.
I have a blanket I bring to games and there is a rule that if you want to be subbed on you must be on or by the blanket. The parents accept this as fair. – Coach Kim
13. I use a spreadsheet and issue handbooks to parents.
In July of every year, I hold a pre-season meeting where players and their parents are invited along so I can run through how the season will pan out in terms of selection, playing time, training policy, code of conducts etc. I also provide each parent with a "handbook" detailing all the information for their future reference.
I make sure that everyone knows that by signing the club's registration form and paying their fees by the end of August, they understand and accept how the team will be run over the course of the season.
During the season (I've just finished 10 wins and 11 losses with the U13s having been with them from U7s level). I also keep a spreadsheet with an average playing time percentage (may seem a bit extreme but it's a decent way of keeping track).
I'm glad to say that all my players have a playing time of around 72%. There are no extreme anomalies barring our goalkeeper, but this is only as no one else wants to go in goal and the lad that goes in is pretty good too. – Coach Andy
14. The forgotten eight-year-olds.
First, let me say that English is not my first language so I hope what I write makes sense.
I am a mum of twins. They are now eight and both of them are goalkeepers with the same team.
When they started as seven-year-olds they shared their position, made good progress and were both awarded the "most improved player" trophy at the end of the season.
When we moved from U8s to U9s, the team was divided into two new teams.
Both my boys were sent to team B. Our previous coach – who took team A – said: "They will have more chance to play in team B."
Later in the season a new player joined team B and so we had three players on the bench at the start of every game.
My boys played one half each in goal but the other two subs were not used very often.
The new player had a powerful shot and my boys found his shots to be very hard to save in training sessions, more difficult even than the team's attackers.
Unfortunately, his talent went unnoticed by the coach who made him play as a defender on the rare occasions he came off the subs' bench.
His parents think this is unfair and I have heard a rumor that he may not join the team for next season.
Then the coach thought we could win games so he stuck to the best players (at least he believed so) and often players on the bench were completely forgotten about.
These children will probably seek another team where they can play more and the team will lose players.
I believe that the coach needs to let every player feel they are a part of the team all the time. If some players are not being used at all, how they can they feel as though they belong? – Sayuri
15. I try to start with my weaker players.
I have managed my U14s youth soccer team for four years.
I have always had a squad of a minimum of 15 players who vary from very strong and skilful to average to rather weak.
It has always been my philosophy to ensure every player that turns up to play, regardless if they have trained that week, to play at least 10 minutes minimum of the game.
This has been achieved in every match, regardless of how close or important the game was.
Some games I find it easier to start with some of the weaker players and bring the stronger ones on if we aren't doing well, but I will continue with the weaker ones if we are we winning or playing well. That way they have a chance of playing the whole match.
In the four seasons I have managed the squad, we have done well in the league and reached the semi final of the cup.
The squad has only changed minimally from one year to the next and I still have 13 of the original squad from the first season.
I monitor playing time to the nearest five minutes and I know that every player in every season has had at least 40% game time each for the season. Some players may peak up to 90%, but the majority of the squad end up around the 70% mark.
Therefore if I am confronted by a disgruntled parent claiming their child isn't seeing enough game time, I can show them exactly how many minutes their child has played and suggest reasons why they aren't getting the same playing time as some of the stronger players. That way they can make an informed decision to move their child to a team more to their child's standard if they wish.
In my opinion, it is almost impossible to ensure all players play the same amount of minutes but no player should have to sit on the bench ready to play and not get at least 15% game time no matter how important the result means to anyone.
What gives us, as a manager, the right to stop a player from playing the sport they love if they are signed on to play, train regularly and have paid their subs, irrespective of how important the match might be? - Coach Steve
16. A nine-year-old who needs his own transport.
The saddest thing I have encountered this season is the boy who came up to me at the last game in a non-competitive park league looking completely downtrodden. He had missed practice and he was certain that he would not be allowed to play... because that was his coach's rule last year.
He is not old enough to get himself to practice (he's nine), his parents had both had to work that night and the babysitter didn't have a car to bring him in.
That boy wanted to be there, but his circumstances prevented it.
Should he be punished for that? I don't think so, not at this age. But apparently there are others that think otherwise. – Coach Julie
It is quite easy to agree that all players should play but it's not always easy to stick to your principles in the last game of the season when you need to win to avoid relegation or win the league.
But it's really important we get this right and get it right every time. Because how you use your subs will not only have an impact on the way your team plays, it will either make children happy to be in a team with their friends or make them feel sad that they're not obviously good enough to join in the fun.
Your decision to leave a child on the bench could also make them want to give up the game, adversely affect their self esteem and even make it harder for them to do well at school.
So if you're coaching a team of eight-year-olds and you sometimes leave some of your players on the bench for most of a match... think again.
Is winning a game of soccer more important than a child's happiness?
How to make your players feel safe, valued 1 year, 8 months ago #1015
How to make your players feel safe, valued and part of the team
It doesn't matter how well qualified you are. Or if your players are four or 14.
You won't be able to teach them the most simple of soccer skills if you don't create an environment in which they belong, they are safe and they are valued.
"But", you say, "I am always nice to my kids and they know it's the team that counts."
Sorry, but that may not be enough. You have to attend to your players' emotional needs as systematically and carefully as you teach them to pass, tackle or shoot.
If you don't, all your hard-earned technical knowledge is going to waste as they simply won't be in the right frame of mind to learn anything.
So let's have a look at what you need to do to get your players ready to learn and, hopefully, become great soccer players.
1. They need to feel safe.
Your players have to wear appropriate clothing/footwear and feel comfortable. So make sure their parents don't send them to training in T-shirts when it's freezing cold and don't ask them to them to train or play in very cold or very hot weather. Make sure they always have plenty to drink and give them adequate time to take on fluids.
Making them feel safe also requires that you have team rules that are enforced consistently – no matter who is breaking them – and you keep a sharp eye out for inappropriate behaviour, especially bullying. Banter must be kept under control and you should never allow "funny" comments about a player's appearance, gender or ability.
To feel safe, your players also need to know that it's OK to fail. There's more on how to give feedback on a player's performance later but for now, just remember that children who are criticised for failure will feel afraid and they won't want to try to do anything new, ever again. And if they don't try new things, they won't learn.
2. They need to feel as though they belong.
One of the main reasons children want to play soccer is to feel as though they are part of a team. They love the feeling of camaraderie, of being wanted, of being special, of "it's us against them" that being in a team generates.
There's a lot you can do to encourage a team mentality in your players (see newsletters 106, 107 and 187 for some ideas) but I've found that having a team dress code is one of the most effective.
Make sure all your players to turn up at training and matches in full team kit and don't allow individuals to wear clothes that mark them out as somehow different or from a more wealthy family than others.
It's also very important to stop cliques developing. If you see the same small group of players standing around chatting or trying to get on the same team every time you play a game, split them up.
3. Make them feel valued.
Perhaps the most simple and effective way to make your players feel valued is to greet them by name when they arrive for practice sessions and matches.
Make the effort to know them as individuals, not just as players. Find out what they like to do outside of soccer, what their interests are, their likes and dislikes. Know the names of their siblings, their pets and ask your players about them when you see them.
The importance of positive feedback
Feedback on performance can also make a player feel valued or, if you get it wrong, make them feel pretty bad about themselves.
So make sure your feedback is always positive. "Well done, that was hard, and you managed it," is music to young ears. When someone does something really well - a pass, shot, tackle or save – stop the play and tell everyone: "That was great work! Exactly how it should be done!"
If a player is getting something wrong, don't stop the game and make everyone watch while you correct them. Take them aside after the session and begin by praising them for making the effort to get it right. Then show them how they could do it better. Then praise them again.
Tip: It is important not to praise your more skilled players for what they do rather than their work rate. If you do, they will come to believe that their success is guaranteed, that all they have to do is turn up and their performance will be good enough. These are the children who start off by being your "best" players but they will stop improving when the going gets tough.
On the other hand, if you praise children who try hard (and praise your high fliers for their effort, not their achievement), your players will work hard regardless of the difficulty of their task. And they won't give up on match days, either.
If your players feel insecure, isolated and invisible, the work you put into planning your coaching sessions will be largely wasted.
So take the time to work out how you are going to make your players feel secure, part of the team and valued. It will be time well spent!
How to make your soccer players LISTEN! 1 year, 3 months ago #1075
How to make your soccer players LISTEN!
Experienced coaches use a few simple strategies to keep their players focused and attentive during coaching session and the tips below will help you get your messages across more effectively.
But remember that your players are children – not mini adults – and if you are running a midweek coaching session, they've probably been at school all day being forced to sit and listen to their teachers. Once they're out in the fresh air with a goal to shoot at, the last thing they want to do is listen to more lectures.
Tip 1: Keep it short
When you're explaining a game or drill to children, try not to speak for more than 15 seconds and never talk for more than 30 seconds.
Give just one or two instructions, check understanding ("are we all OK with that?"), get into the action quickly, ("right, lets go!") and correct errors as you go along.
Tip 2: Silence is golden
Never start talking until you have your players' complete attention. Make sure balls are left to one side and keep quiet until your players are quiet too. Even if it takes several minutes.
Tip 3: Avoid distractions
Face your players away from other games or activities that are going on around you and don't stand with the sun behind you.
Tip 4: Get down to their level
Don't tower above your players. Get down on one knee if you need to and make eye contact with every player as you speak. Don't wear sunglasses.
Tip 5: A picture is worth a thousand words
Demonstrations are a key part of soccer coaching so show your players what you want them to do.
If you can't do it, find someone who can! Ask for volunteers or get an older or more experienced player to show the others the skill or technique.
Tip 6: Have rules... and apply them
It is essential to have team rules that are discussed and agreed with your players. My number 1 rule is simple: "No talking while I'm talking."
But don't be too quick to apply sanctions – if you do, you'll come across as a sergeant major instead of a coach – but if a quiet word doesn't do the trick you will have to tell the player concerned to sit out until they are ready to listen.
There's nothing to be gained by making a player sit out a game or drill that they didn't really want to do anyway but making talkative players sit out the first few minutes of the end-of-session scrimmage is a powerful deterrent.
These tips will help you avoid being embarrassed by players who refuse to listen and you should expect and encourage your players to pay attention to what you are saying.
But be lenient with players who are under eight. What you may perceive as discipline problems are really personality tendencies common to that age group: short attention spans, high energy, sociability and an inability to understand detailed explanations. Don't expect six-year-olds to act like 26-year-olds.
And remember that all children come to coaching sessions to have fun and play soccer which, ultimately, is just a game. Taking it too seriously, or making practice too much like school, will result in your players switching off altogether and, in the end, they'll just stop coming.
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