By Matt Settles
Coach Settles recently completely his 11th season as a high school coach in Indiana. The former collegiate player at the University of Southern Indiana is also a regular contributor to the Soccer Toolbox
If you have coached high school soccer for a few years or any sport for that matter, you have come across this or probably done it yourself. I know I have and catch myself even today trying to do too much coaching or over-coaching. You constantly talk (or yell for some coaches) on the sidelines, you point out every good or bad thing done on the field, you are directing and organizing free kicks, corner kicks, throw ins, etc. I know I have personally seen other coaches run down sidelines with their players as they go up and down the field. I have also seen the ugly side of this with coaches constantly yelling negatively throughout an entire 80 minute match. As tough as it is or may be, we all have to fight this and resist over-coaching our players.
One of the best articles I have read regarding giving instructions to soccer players was from Mike Jacobs, a former collegiate soccer coach and current Assistant Technical Director at Sporting Kansas City. His rule with giving instructions to his players during a game was that if he could not do it quick and concise while getting all the details and important information across in a few seconds, then it was better to not say anything at all. He would wait until a stoppage in the game occurred or even halftime if it was the 1st half to make his point. His main message was to not distract his players while on the field. If something was so important and critical that he had to tell one of his players during a game, then sub them off, but don’t distract them as well as distracting other players. This comes back to over-coaching and how many times have you done this as a coach or how many times have you seen other coaches do this during a game?
I struggle at this a lot with a new high school soccer program where most of my players are new to the sport of soccer and have never played a varsity soccer match. There are not too many games that I don’t walk away from feeling exhausted and like I played a full 80 minute match. I consider myself similar to most high school coaches across the country in that I want what is best for my kids. I want to help them through the games and put them in positions to be successful, but the reality is that I can’t do everything for them. There are no timeouts in soccer and plays can’t be stopped if something is going wrong. Players have to ultimately gain the experience in practice and games to make the correct decisions and as we all know, these are kids we are coaching and they will always make mistakes no matter how bad we want them to be perfect. If they learn from their mistakes though, they will be better off in the long run and you are accomplishing your job as a coach.