Behavior Problems (Part 2)

By Dave Simeone

You must acknowledge that young players have feelings. In fact, while we would like to see them develop and improve they must learn to enjoy the game. They have a genuine need for attention and inappropriate behavior is their way of soliciting attention. If, in fact, you as an adult have difficulty acknowledging your own anger or frustration, how can you recognize and acknowledge these feelings in others? Most adults use methods that deal with behavior and discipline that are reactive versus proactive. This causes coaches to sometimes overlook how a youngster feels about their comments on the youngster’s behavior.

In identifying behavioral problems, parcelling out “punishment” is risky. Consequences must be meaningful to young players, but cannot be confused with punishment. The difference is the factor of respect for young players versus making them feel demeaned.

The real gift exhibited by competent youth coaches is to manage people / players effectively. There are several factors associated with effective management of players relating to behavior:

1. Management of Time

2. Management of Environment

3. Effective Communication

The availability of time is limited when working with young players. Practices are usually scheduled twice weekly, anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and a half in duration.

This places a high priority on effective teaching / coaching.

The time youngsters spend with the youth coach is minuscule in comparison with the time they spend away from soccer, with family, in school or in other activities.

The environment for youth players is a key ingredient.

Creating the appropriate games, activities and conditions directly influence management of players and acceptable behavior. Typically, youth coaches attempt to arrange and manage players by over-organizing them. They place them in lines, with unrealistic absolutes, that do not allow them to move and play. It’s great for adults since it resembles the adult perspective of discipline and order. Soccer is a dynamic game; one that exhibits and includes movement of the ball and players. The organization of “play” has direct bearing on boredom versus stimulation as well as interest and learning.

It’s simple: there are no lines in “the game”, let there be no lines at practice. The advertisement for the Sega computerized game product which emulates NFL football says it best: if it’s in “the game” (The NFL), then it’s in “the game” (Sega). In one sense, those coaches who insist on over-organizing the environment are contributing to their own woes!

Effective communication has everything to do with all avenues to offer information. This includes body language, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, eye contact and quality of content. Very simply, is the information useable in improving the player’s enjoyment, development or performance? Emotional outbursts, yelling and screaming either at parents, referees opposing coaches or PLAYERS is really unacceptable. It’s a tremendous sign of intolerance and a great indication of a lack of the necessary qualities to be an effective coach. The game, at all levels, must be the teacher and meet the needs of players. Youngsters learn more from their experiences in the game than from the coach. That’s why the role of the coach is to create the appropriate conditions and let youngsters play!
What youth coaches must ascertain is the distinction between a discipline problem, or poor behavior as a result of unsuitable management. The nature of youngsters is to run, jump, be inattentive (from an adult’s perspective!), change their focus at a moments notice or gaze expertly off into the sky at a far away plane. If they are uninterested in the activities, it may be a problem of management. They come to soccer to be challenged and invigorated as well as to play, make mistakes and learn. A phenomenal aspect of “play” is that the problems, challenges disappointments or rewards resemble and parallel life experiences. Learning for youngsters between the ages of 5 and 12 is a leisure activity that is accomplished through play. Remember…PLAY is a key part of PLAYER DEVELOPMENT!

Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. His website, Soccer Development Strategies is a valuable resource for coaches

Read the May issue of OnDeck!

May’s editions of our popular OnDeck Newsletter are chock-full of great information. Our soccer issue features an article by Dave Simeone and the baseball edition is highlighted by some great pointers from Nate Barnett. Check them out for these great write-ups and much more!

Behavior Problems (Part 1 of 2)

Handling discipline problems presents a distinct challenge for youth soccer coaches. Many coaches are inexperienced in dealing with discipline or even identifying real problems versus child’s play. Many coaches mistake immature behavior, which would be appropriate for youngsters, for behavioral problems.

A few factors influence the typical inexperienced parent /coach:

a. FALSE EXPECTATIONS: inexperienced youth soccer coaches begin with personal expectations of what goes on during games or practices. These expectations are, sometimes, inaccurate; these parent / coaches lack perspective. They forget that soccer is a child’s game. It is “play”. These coaches encounter reality in their first session with youngsters. They find out very quickly that working with youngsters does not meet their expectations of “coaching”. This, in turn, causes feelings of fear and anxiety. These inexperienced coaches may, at times, react abruptly and may not successfully handle these situations.

b. PERSONAL CONCERNS: New and inexperienced youth soccer coaches become concerned with “controlling” situations. They also are over – occupied with being well-liked. Many coaches see these two interests working in opposite directions: “If youngsters like me…I can’t control them,” or “l can control them, but they won’t like me.” Coaches either become over- ambitious to please players, or harsh.

Both of these approaches have grim consequences.

Coaches may feel betrayed if they are overly friendly and feel taken advantage of, while being too harsh causes youngsters to feel resentful or bitter. In the end, problems are unresolved and both the coach and youngster are angry or disappointed.

c. LACK OF RESPONSIBILITY: Many times, inexperienced coaches have difficulty coming to grips with their inability to “manage” these situations. These coaches tend to blame players, solely, for problems.

Some, on the other hand, allow serious problems to occur, repeatedly, but lack the insight which would allow them to prevent such situations from happening time and again.

After several experiences in attempting to “discipline” youngsters, coaches become increasingly frustrated. This results in the coach perceiving themselves poorly. For this reason, some youth coaches leave our ranks early. It is through coaching education programs that we should address their needs for appropriate player management.

These coaches must be empowered to help themselves overcome these “problems” and feel effective.

Real discipline problems are best described as conflicts of interest between the youngster and the coach. Are some of these interests predicated on the differences between the needs of young players and the role adults perceive youth sport to take? The answer is yes!

One of the real predicaments is to deal with behavior in a non- judgmental manner. Many times adults reprimand youngsters and embarrass them. The challenge for coaches is to address what is happening and modify their behavior without being threatening. An adult’s actions should imply that they are dealing with the behavior and not making the behavior into a personal issue. This might be caused if children are compared against one another.

Undoubtedly, dealing with behavior can be frustrating for rigid adults. It’s best to recognize that you, as the coach, are frustrated. There is a decided difference between anger and frustration. Adults need to differentiate between the two.

Again, differentiate between the behavior that is disturbing and the individual child: the behavior is what’s disturbing you.

Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. His website, Soccer Development Strategies is a valuable resource for coaches

Coach Development

By Dave Simeone

Player Development
A remarkable amount of time now goes into structured programming. The reasons for this vary. There’s the issue of insufficient free play that turns into structured play time. This moreover eliminates younger kids playing with older, wiser and more sophisticated players. This has an impact on players’ technical capability; their comfort level with the ball under pressure or developing a broader and more urbane set of “tools” that allow them to solve the problems the game presents them.

The mechanics of passing, receiving, heading, crossing, turning, or striking with laces all deserve some time in environments that don’t involve pressure from an opponent or the restrictions of time and space. There’s a need to balance this type of training out with activities that are game like which include restrictions of time & space along with opposition.

The same can be said for game understanding and developing the choices a player makes in the course of play. Often time we choreograph and set up situations in training that mechanically resemble coordinated movements but lack the “when” and “why” that are so instrumental in all the decision making in the game.

Stoppages Changing Methodology
Coaching takes on several roles. One is to set up the correct environment; the correct types of activities. Another, and equally important, is as an interactive means of instruction.

Our experiences, in part, that we take from our playing backgrounds shape and form our individual coaching methodology. This is also true via valuable experience from coaching education. In each instance we are influenced, in some way, by the personalities and behaviors of other coaches.

The emphasis has been shifting and there is a different approach prevalent in our coaching schools that reflect incorporating coaching appropriately in activities. We’ve always stressed the significance of creating the right game like environment for learning. The trend has continued to move towards when and how to coach within the context of games and activities without creating undue stoppages.

A Departure from “Stop, Freeze…..”
In the past the emphasis has been on identifying a coachable moment, stopping the activity, giving the player’s information, restarting the activity. The intent of this methodology is to interject coaching and information into the players. This contributes to a lack of flow in training; an absence of uninterrupted match play combined with an increase in “coach oriented” learning.

Affecting technical development in games or activities has more to do with application. Whether turning a ball into pressure, poorly crossing a ball into the opponent’s six yard box or playing a pass with the incorrect weight or accuracy speaks to application. We can implore players to have greater sensitivity of touch when dealing with the ball but most improvement comes by way of experience which involves trial and error and improved awareness.

There are also the situations which deal with decision making and choices. Many times coaches “freeze” an activity and patently move players around adjusting their angle or distance of support or instructing them to get tighter in defending. These points may be valid but they lack the “how, when or why” that is necessary in improving a players’ choice or behavior. Moving players around in this manner and then restarting the game is the equivalent of moving any inanimate object.

If we realistically expect decision making to improve then we need to incorporate what we, as coaches, read in the game as information we give to players. As the ball is moving through a certain part of the field or as a touch is taken; what is it that we read “in the game” and feel that players must notice and pay attention to that would change their decisions and ultimately the outcome of the circumstances?

The challenge for coaches is to find ways to interact with players in ways that don’t necessarily begin with “stop, freeze”.

Natural Stoppages
The most obvious of all these is when the ball goes into touch or out over the end line for a restart. The game or activity stops naturally and this presents the chance to coach.

The additional factor in these natural stoopages is that they are moments of transition. So whether it’s going from attacking to defending or vice versa we can address organization, decisions, communication as well as understanding the sheer significance of these pivotal moments in the game. These instances are when goals are given away or taken sometimes too easily.

Near stoppages can be just as opportune and also correlate with moments of transition. As a result of crossing or shooting and when the ball ends up secure in the goalkeeper’s hands; the game goes into transition but is also an opportunity for the coach to interject information without stopping the activity. As coaches we can encourage players going from defending to attacking to take up correct starting positions to get forward, goalkeeper distribution or once the goalkeeper distributes the ball how players stay connected to eventually possess, penetrate and create goal scoring opportunities. As players go from attacking to defending we can similarly coach defending; either drawing a line of confrontation, recovering to get goal side as the game goes into transition or if the game is played through the air how to get the correct starting position in order to head and compete in the air.

Near stoppages can also occur when one team is clearly in possession of the ball. This example allows the players from the attacking team further away from the ball to receive coaching. In attacking, if back players possess then we can address high players; how they create length in the game or how supporting teammates can become more mobile while the game is being played.

Insight: Reading the Game
The methodology to coach and teach in the context of games and activities requires the same sort of insight and “reading” that we expect from players. Much of the timeliness and information involved in coaching during near stoppages is founded in understanding how everything happening on the field, how it’s all connected, inter-related or effective in terms of its application to the game.

For coaches this process needs constant attention; being students of the game, an interest and willingness to continue refining our observational skills and instructional capacity. All together this is what helps impact the experience and development of players. Remember, play is the key word in player development!

Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. His website, Soccer Development Strategies is a valuable resource for coaches.