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?
We need to be clear on our coaching strategy. Do we want to guide and help the players, so that they can learn and become better, or do we feel we have to dictate to and dominate our players from the side lines.
To be able to help and guide our players we need to be able to observe and understand what is happening. This is very difficult to do when we are kicking every ball and screaming a constant stream of instructions at the players. It is hard to be able to calmly analyse the game, when we are so emotional and controlling. But, there are a number of simple ways in which we can become more effective at guiding and helping our players during a match:
Spend as much time critically observing the match. Develop the "coaches eye". It is important that the coach adopts a position where they can see all the action, not just follow the ball. For example, to coach the defenders and the goalkeeper in a defensive session, stand behind the goal so you can see the movement and action of all the players with a wide vision, rather than stand at the side where there is a danger of ball watching. A simple rule is that if the coach has to swing their head, like watching tennis, they cannot properly observe the action off the ball, which sometimes is more important. When watching a game, a coach should adopt a position where they can see what is happening defensively, even when their team are attacking. How would you know what to put right if the other team counter attacked from your attack, to score, if you were ball watching.
Observe and analyse how the team is performing, what areas of the team are performing well or badly. Where is your team causing the opposition problems, where are they hurting you. How are you matching up in the individual battles. Do you have a decent shape as a team, are you trying to pass the ball in the right way and in the right areas. Are the team trying to implement the skills and organisation have worked on in training. As a coach you can only be in a position to effect match situations if we can clearly observe and understand what is actually happening in the match. It is a useful exercise to have an assistant who also observes and who you can talk to during the game. Two sets of eyes are better than one. It is also a useful tip to write down, in bullet point format, some of these observations for reference at half time and for the debrief at the end of the game.
Work as a pair with your assistant, for example when your team is attacking the assistant coach might be checking the position of the defenders and goalkeeper. When a cross is going into the box, they might be checking on the support play of the midfield or they might be responsible for observing a particular area of the team i.e defensively or how the team are retaining possession.
Football is a very emotive game and becomes even more so during a match. Supporters and players become very excited and emotional. It therefore becomes even more important that the coach is seen to maintain a calm and dignified manner. That doesn't mean to say you are not positive or enthusiastic, just that you keep your emotions under control. Be very aware of not making negative or critical comments to your players or indeed the officials or the opposition. Also be very conscious of your body language. Young players, like many older players, will look towards the coach during the game. If they see you displaying poor body language, they may interpret this as criticism or lack of belief in them or as an excuse to become negative in their own play.
So what is the most effective way and the best time to give advice and instructions to the players?
The most effective manner to give information is the three C's Clear, Concise and Calm.
Avoid negative instructions, destructive comments, be positive in what you say.
Make sure what you have to say is relevant and to the point.
Ensure the information you give is based on your observations of what has actually happened during the game - not what you think has happened. Be accurate.
Don't give instructions to the player when he is active with the ball. Shouting specific command instructions to the player on the ball might help your team at that moment in the game, but certainly won't help the player learn for himself.
Try and talk to players when they are not actively involved in the immediate action, for example when the team are defending would be a good time to get instructions to the forwards.
Look to get information to the players when there is a break in play, for example when there is a throw in, ball gone behind the goal, injury, drinks break etc.
Use positive body language and hand signals for players - to catch the left wingers eye, when he on the other side of the pitch - smile and give him a big thumbs up, speaks volumes! You don't always have to talk to communicate effectively.