The Power of Positive Youth Coaching

At Blizzards, we firmly believe that players should develop in a fun environment; we want soccer to be the most fun part of the week. If soccer is not fun, why is a child going to want to come and play a game or attend a practice session? And who is the person who is going to have the most influence on this? Of course, it is the coach.

As coaches, we have a duty to ensure that all of our players, irrespective of playing ability or age, enjoy youth soccer in a safe, constructive and fun environment. Unfortunately, a win at all cost mentality, including punishments for mistakes can creep into a coach’s armoury. Hearing a coach yell “You aren’t working hard enough” or “That is awful, come and sit on the bench”, is becoming far too common throughout Calgary, and in some isolated cases, I am sorry to say, Blizzards.

The way in which we communicate with our players and what we say has a lasting effect on and off the sports field. We are not just soccer coaches; we are lifestyle coaches for all of our Blizzard players. An alternative practice approach, based on positive feedback and communication can be used to inspire youth players to be creative, have fun, and enjoy learning this beautiful game.

You’re the kind of person who..”

What a great way to build the confidence of a youth athlete by saying “You’re the kind of person who always works hard in practice” or “You’re the kind of player who can affect a game with your hard work, effort and determination”. The mention of effort, hard work and determination can have a very positive effect on young athletes.  Praising hard work can have a greater effect than praising ability. Children are less likely to be frightened of failure or making mistakes if you are praising their desire to learn and work hard.

And vs. But

How many of us at some stage of our coaching journey have started a sentence with, “You did this really well, but….” By the time the sentence is finished, the player is far more likely to remember the deflating conclusion to what seemed to be a positive message at the start. By changing the word “but” to “and”, we can significantly change the effect of the statement. “You did really well getting past the defender, and if you focus on locking your ankle when shooting, next time it will be on target”. The simple substitution of one small word for another can transform the message to a positive and forward focused theme.

Try vs. Do

It may seem very subtle, but by using the word “do”, it implies that if the player can’t do what you are asking of them, they have failed. If you substitute “do” for “try”, you can ask a player to try something as many times as they like and there is no fear of failure because they are still trying. This is especially important with the much younger players.  If you have a group of under 8 or under 10 players who you are teaching a particular turn, by asking them to “try”, they are far more likely to experiment, be creative and accomplish their task, as opposed to be frightened of failure because you asked them to “do” this turn.

Following these simple suggestions will not guarantee that you will unearth the next Christine Sinclair or Ronaldo; however, you will be creating a positive environment in which young Blizzard players will be encouraged to thrive and learn. More importantly, you will be arming them with the mindset to help them be successful both off and on the soccer field. Try to incorporate these approaches into your season, and with your hard work and effort, you can set an important example for your players that will foster their development, success and love for soccer and life. After all, we are lifestyle coaches, not just soccer coaches!!