Wherever the ball goes, the best teams create “mini-teams” of 3 or 4 players to dictate the outcome of as many mini-duels that happen through-out a game, whether they be 1 vs. 1, 2 vs.1, etc. The more times these duels are won, the more chance of a final victory. To make this a reality, a coach needs eleven captains to organize, encourage and influence the play. One captain alone cannot do it unless they are wearing a big “S” on front of their shirt. Nor can Superman’s dad, resplendent with cape and kryptonite shin-guards, help as the all-seeing, all-knowing coaching expert on the side-lines. They are often too far away from many critical plays. This is why coaches must educate their players to create a “captain/coach on every play.” The nearest player to their teammate who is involved in the “eye” of game action becomes the captain/coach for that vital moment. They have the best seat in the house to coach and should advise their teammates in making effective decisions to win that particular duel.
The more times you put verbal oil into the team engine, the smoother the team performs. Quality information “in” creates quality play “out.” However, just screaming it at the last moment will probably have the reverse effect. So develop the art of reading the play early and prepare your teammates for the action coming up. Get ahead of the play and coach “your players” to win these 1000 or more duels a game. Good players are like detectives, spotting clues to outwit St outsmart their opponents (visual cues, body language and habits). Often, their last look is often their first choice play (as it was the last mental picture of the game they took in the game). Such a clue for a “savvy” defender might determine how they would defend. For example, as the opposing player winds up to pass the ball, the passer’s head goes down. This infor-mation allows the nearby defender to get ahead of the game by planning his move – to maybe intercept or contain. At that very same moment the nearest teammate will be alerting/ coaching them with concise advice.
The “real coach” must educate their players into this winning mode of thinking by:
- Playing small-sided games where it’s easier to spot and have many opportunities to “captain” each other.
- Playing one on ones with a 3rd. player on the outside coaching one of the players.
- Going to pro or college games. if possible, be ball-boys/girls.
It’s vital for the coach to highlight good examples and correct the “non-coaching” efforts of the players. A team of captains, coaching each other, is like facing a team that’s playing with 24 players – it intimidates. As one coach said after his team had lost to Liverpool, “I’m certain they cheated as the Mighty Reds (Liverpool) seem to be everywhere with never ending pulse to their support play and verbal enthusiasm / coaching. To play that way they must have had 2 teams out there!” Such was their energy level. Great teams know the power of this constant knowledge and enthusiasm zapping through a game- coaching each other and the constant encour-agement to play brilliantly. This is par-ticularly necessary when things are going against your team. Too often youth or high school teams tend to clam up when the going gets tough. Potholes, red lights and conceding goals are part of life’s rich canvas. The teams and players that can rebound from these setbacks with renewed vigor are the ones to stay away from, as you know they are go-ing to compete to the final whistle. They are mean and dangerous.
When is the best time to start this black hole topic with youngsters? The earlier, the better! And keep the adults far away. How can a child learn to be a captain / coach if a dozen parents are screaming 20 pieces of “expert advice” per second. We have had a genera-tion of subservient, non-talking players because of this assault. Who can blame them, being that the parent has been their verbal life support system since infancy. You know the picture is wrong when parents are the dominant vo-cal forces and the players are verbally invisible. Sadly it should be the other way round.
For proof go out and LISTEN or probably NOT listen to a couple of games. Another indicator is watch-ing/hearing a high school game. Most of these youngsters have played for nearly a decade and yet cannot read nor coach nearby teammates. What have they been doing all these years? It’s almost as though they play in their own bubble or world. In fact, trying to correct this fault in older teenagers is almost impossible, as their habits are for the most part set in stone. Therefore one cannot over emphasize the need to start to acquire this verbal intelligence at pre-teenage years.
To help to understand the learning process these are the 3 main cancers fighting the development of skillful players. They are:
- Fatigue. Players simply don’t learn when they are tired.
- Verbal Interference. Yelling names like “Carlos” as he receives the ball is of little use. Being a high school player hopefully he’s learnt his name by his teens. However, what he does need is simple, vital information to help him and the team to retain the ball – “man on,” “time.” Giving misinforma-tion or poor advice or worse still no verbal help whatsoever are other major soccer crimes! Trying, to paint an analogy of watching a teammate about to be tackled hard, one coach stated – “It’s like watching your girl friend or mom about to be mugged on the other side of the street. Don’t you have an opinion? Don’t you care! Can’t you even shout “Man On”?”
- Coach Dependence. Where the coach dictates every play and shouts constantly. The product is non-thinking-robots that tradition-ally get their speed pass and sprint out of the sport as fast as possible, probably to skateboarding where adults can’t get to them.
To help you get into this new world its worth remembering this saying that has been used by pro’s for generations – “PASS the BALL, Pass a CAL!” When you are making a pass give the receiver verbal information, e.g., “man-on” or “time” or “turn.” As you can see these verbal skills allied to “soccer savvy” are like secret weapons which very few players or coaches understand or use these vital verbal tools. Can your team be the first in your area to create eleven captains on the field? If so, you have excited a squad of individuals to mold into a real team. Do that and you deserve a new Superman uniform for the play-offs! Go for it!!!