The big match is fast approaching. This is what all the hard work and coaching sessions have lead up to. Players are hyped up, frenzied even and ready to play. Parents are even more hyped up and frantic with excitement and anticipation. Can the players perform and demonstrate the skills you have been working on in previous coaching sessions. Can the team win and justify all the hard work you, your coaching team and the players have put in? Do you feel under pressure to maintain the winning run or maybe to win after a losing run?But wait. Is this what playing a match is all about, the excitement, the hype, the winning, getting the "right result" justifying your position as a coach?
We probably wouldn't be human if it wasn't a little bit of all of these, but arguably the most important aspect of a match is that it allows the players, particularly younger developing players, the opportunity for ongoing development in their soccer learning process.
As coaches we should be planning that match days are a continuation of an ongoing coaching and learning process for the players. We should be ensuring that the players are capable of producing the skills and techniques we have been working towards in the training programmes are now the focus of the match.
If as coaches we allow over excitement, a win at all costs mentality, result driven philosophy and get the ball forward and chase it style of football to take precedent, then we will fail. This approach will only suppress the longer term enjoyment, development and learning of our players.
If we do not have a clear, agreed philosophy and strategy of what playing matches are about, then parents are likely to become a baying rabble. Offering conflicting, incoherent advice to the players, berating officials and opposition and demanding that the players play with an almost hysterical enthusiasm to win the match.
Match day should be an exciting, special day for all concerned. But it should be all about the players - not anyone else!
So how can we achieve this?
Parents role on match days
The role of the parents should really be quite simple. To support, encourage and cheer for their team, whilst respecting the opposition and officials. They are not the coach, you are. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case and very often parents will be a source of conflicting and damaging coaching advice. So how can we as coaches get the parents to be a positive force on match days, rather than a negative one? ....(read more)
Pre match planning and organisation
One simple and effective way of ensuring that you have covered all the bases in your pre match organisation is to have a pre match planner. This would cover areas such as transport, equipment, drinks, kit, balls, officials, register, contact details, maps etc.
Ensure the players arrive well before the match starts - this will depend on your own requirements as a coach. Ensure you have all the aids you will need prepared before hand. Things like flip charts, tactic boards, motivational quotes, medical equipment prepared etc ... read more
Pre kick off team talk
It is important that you have the players sitting down, with no distractions, facing you and concentrating on what you are about to say, before you begin the pre kick off team talk. The talk should take no more than 5 minutes and should look to deliver 2 or 3 key team instructions. Any more than this will confuse the players. Make sure you talk in a clear, calm, measured voice and finish with the message that all coaches should emphasise to their players
"Don't be frightened or afraid, go and try your best and enjoy yourself"
Coaching within the match
There are many different ways of coaching within the game. You can literally kick every ball, be your players voice of command - almost like remote control - and give instructions for everything, from how to kick the ball, to where the run. Many of us have always coached within the game like that. But let's take a step back, and consider what we want from our players. Do we want players who are robots and need constantly instructing in everything that they do, or do we want them to begin to think and learn for themselves as players. Are we coaching for their benefit our for our benefit? ......(read more)
This is an opportunity for you as a coach to have an impact on what will happen for the rest of the game. But there is a limited amount of information that the players will be able to cope with...(read more)
There is a danger that coaches can focus on the game and forget about the substitutes, which can leave them feeling left out and neglected. Think about adopting a policy that encourages the active participation of the substitutes within the game...(read more)
After the game
Make sure that regardless of the result, you set an example by acknowledging and shaking hands with the opposition coaching team and the officials. Ensure your players do the same with the opposition.... (read more)
Clear strategy of your philosophy of why and how you coach within matches.
Parents role - develop a code of conduct.
Pre match organisation
Pre match instructions
The hows and whys of coaching within the game.
Warm Down - post match talk
Let football and the game be the teacher.
Coaches should be the link between training, practice and the game.
Very rarely will a match go as we as coaches would like to. Be realistic, positive and enthusiastic and accept winning and losing with equal grace.