Coach Captain Obvious

By Tony Earp

While sitting and watching a youth soccer match, you will hear a lot of things said from either sideline. Often we focus on things that parents say from their sideline that are not beneficial to the players, but what about what is being said by the players’ coaches? Throughout the game, what information is being shared from the coaches’ sideline to the players? This will change drastically depending on the type of coach that is working with your child. High level youth coaches provide information to help players solve the problems of the game and improve their level of play. When mistakes are made, information that is useful to the player to help them have success the next time is provided. Unfortunately, some players will play for coach “Captain Obvious” who does not provide information that helps the players as much as just pointing out mistakes and running commentary of the events of the game.
Think of it this way, it is not enough to just point out issues and mistakes on the field. That is not coaching. It is the lowest level of observation and thought by just stating the obvious over and over again. Also, when a coach only points on mistakes without any information to the player on how to correct it, than nothing is learned.
Does your child play for “Captain Obvious?” Here are some things you would hear from the sideline from this type of coach, and how I am confident most players would like to respond.
“You can’t lose the ball there!”
OK. Please point to the area of the field where it is fine to lose the ball. Next time I “INTEND” to lose the ball, I will do my best coach to make sure I am in that part of the field. Is there anything I could have done different before I got the ball or with my first touch to help me not lose the ball in this “can’t lose it there” area of the field?
“Keep possession!”
Ohhhh, I misunderstood the point of the game. I was TRYING to give the ball to the other team. I thought we got points for each time we lost possession. Any tips on how to keep possession?
“You need to finish those opportunities!”
Are there opportunities that I do not want to finish? Hopefully you understand my intention was to score that goal. I did not miss on purpose because I thought this was one of those opportunities that it did not matter if I scored or not.
“Take less touches!”
You mean take one less than the number I took right before I lost possession? Yea, I guess that would have been a good idea. I am not sure why I feel the need to take all these touches. It is like some type of addiction to have the ball at my feet. Personally, I wanted to give the ball up earlier, but my feet would not let me. How many touches should I take each time I get the ball? Is there some type of chart for me to review?
“Better pass!”
By “better” do you mean one that goes to my teammate versus the other team? You’re right that would be a better pass. Perhaps some advice on how to strike a better pass than reminding me I just gave the ball away. Were you under the assumption I thought that was a good pass?
“Better first touch!”
Again, by “better” you mean one that does not cause me to lose the ball? Yes, again, that would have been better. I am glad you said something. I was actually going to take a worse touch next time and see how that worked out.
“You need to win that ball!”
By win the ball, is there some type of raffle, or do I just go and take it from him? I was under the impression that they are suppose to just give me the ball when they do not want it anymore. If I would have known I am suppose to go win it, I would have done it already. Thanks again coach! This game is so simple.
“You let him get by you!”
Well, he asked nicely. He said, “hey man, can I get by?” So I said, “Sure!” Next time should I say no?
“You have to run!”
Not true. Look up Carlos Valderrama. He rarely ever ran and was really good, and I model my game after him.
“You are out of position!”
Can you perhaps put up some type of markers, or maybe an electric fence to help me know when I am not in “position” during the game? Don’t worry about teaching about my roles and responsibilities, just point and yell.
“You dribbled right into the defender!”
Incorrect. That defender ran right into me. It is his fault!
“Shoot when you get the chance!”
Thank you for permission to try to score when I have the chance. I tend to wait till I do not have the chance to try to score, but I will try your way from now on.
“Get open/No one is moving!”
I keep trying, but this guy keeps following me around. Can we ask him to stop following me? It would make it much easier to get open. But if he is just going to keep following me, I really just don’t see the point.
I know I am being overly sarcastic, but my point is simple. These types of comments are just obvious observations from the sideline from the coach. They do NOTHING to help a player improve or better understand the game. To tell a player who just lost the ball that he just lost the ball, is not what I would consider high level coaching. To tell a player who just missed a shot on goal to hit the target, does not provide any information to help the player do what is being asked.
Instead of telling a player to not lose the ball or score, a coach would provide information to help them be able to do that the next time they get the chance. The player does not need to be told what just happened. He was there and is well aware of what just transpired. What the player needs from the coach, is corrective information that the player can apply to the next time he gets the same opportunity.
Instead of “hit the target,” after a miss, a coach who is trying to teach may say something like, “Take a look before you shoot so you know where you are and get your feet set before your shot.” That is just an example, but it gives the player something to try next time they get the chance to score.
This can be applied to most moments in the game. When coaches speak to the players during the game, instead of just commentating on what just happened, it is much more helpful to provide the players with information to help them improve their level of the play. All the examples I gave do not provide any helpful information to allow the player to have a better chance of having success the next time. Like any great teacher, comments should be designed to either spark critical thinking to solve the problems presented to the player or are hints/tips for them to discover how to find more success in the game. Stating the obvious may sound like coaching, but nothing is being taught (or learned).
Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at

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