Grassroots Coaching

Liverpool FC and Harnessing the 12th Man

Proving the potential of people power

During Liverpool FC’s heyday, the “Kop”, a raised terrace at the Walton Breck Road end of the Anfield stadium, gained mythical status as the clubs 12th man. The support of 27,000 devoted souls, standing shoulder to shoulder with their team, inspired the club to reach the top of the domestic and European game.

Bill Shankley, Liverpool’s legendary manager, spoke in genuine awe of the Kop’s support, aptly describing the fans as the clubs extended family.

Supporters, united behind a team, create a powerful force at all levels of the game. Their humour, forbearance and passion strengthens’ the self belief players need to win and softens the disappointment of defeat.

For youngsters learning to play the game touchline support is the essential ingredient needed for success. Young players are incredibly perceptive and quickly pick up on the mood of adult spectators. Reaction and remonstration, commonplace in the professional game, is entirely inappropriate in youth football. Publicly berating a referee, player or coach would be considered boorish behaviour in any other amateur sport.

The example of the touchline can influence the development of young players’ way beyond the confines of the football pitch. Ultimately success in grassroots football is reflected in the friendship and support players and parents enjoy on and off the field. Coaches have to balance a natural desire to win with the need to develop players. A star striker, midfield maestro or doughty defender can only improve if they step out of their comfort zone to experience different challenges.

This is where the touchline can become the 12th man. Creating the confidence in the team to grow, develop and enjoy their football safe in the knowledge that, no matter what the result, they will never walk alone.

Carl Robertson is a coach at Brazilian Football Schools and Cassiobury Rangers FC.

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