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How do you coach desire? | Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Posted in: Coaching Youth (age 13-18), General Forum

How do you coach desire?

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  • garyfowler

    As a younger coach I used to believe that the two hardest things to coach were anticipation and desire. Whilst I am less hard and fast about anticipation, I am currently experiencing issues with 3 players on my U17 football team when it comes to 1 v 1 situations.

    I'm not talking physical strength, more a reluctance to enter a dual. The smallest player on my team regularly wins these battles against players twice his size, it's almost like he percieves it as a personal insult if he loses out. I have another attacker who wins balls time and time again that are only 25% in his favour. These 2 highlight to me that this is a mental rather than physical issue.

    The 3 others may as well give the ball away if they come near another player as 90% of the time they barely compete. I have tried discussing one on one, speaking to parents, having other players approach them etc. It's at a stage where the other players are expresing frustration with these 3 as it affects the team. The performance level of the team was so different in our last game with and without these 3 players on the pitch.

    I want to be able to do more to help them, but their lack of feedback isn't helping (standard teenage boys yes/no/grunt etc). Hoping some of you could shed some light on similar instances and any approaches that can help.

    All 3 are technically as good as anyone else on the team but it's almost as if they are cheating themselves out of showing it by not competing more. 

    Thanks in advance

  • ABradshaw

    Hi Gary,

    Reading your post got me thinking about what might be the root cause of what you're seeing as an issue with these boys' 'desire' in the 1v1 situations.  Getting many 15/16 year olds to give useful feedback is often a challenge but my suggestion might be to use the following approach as a start point to explore this situation.

    A relatively simple profiling type exercise might help get some useful information from them.  Get them to rate themselves on different tackling techniques, other defensive situations and a variety of other aspects of their play.  It may also work to ask for them to explain why they give the score they do.  It's also always useful to help them with what they are scoring themselves against in this type of exercise - 1 to 4 (4 - top performer in the league they're in, 3 - better players in their team, 2 - basic team standard but needs work, 1 - area for improvement).  This way you should help avoid getting lots of very low scores on whatevere scale they use because they are comparing themselves to Raheem Sterling or Ross Barkley.

    What this approach might unearth is some extra information to inform you in your observations of the players and hopefully open up some opportunities for further discussion.  There could be a whole host of possible explanations why these players may be appearing to shy away from some 1v1's - previous injury, lack of specific technical coaching, change of position, fear of getting exposed through lack of pace etc.

    Hopefully this might give you some insight as to the possible causes of some of these players' actions and behaviours.  I would be interested to hear how things progress ... good luck

  • garyfowler

    Thank you Andrew, some great and very detailed advice. I am going to put this together and get it round the players asap. I like the idea of a scale to rate themselves against so there aren't massive variations in each player rating themself against a different standard.

    I'll let you know how this works out and thank you again!


  • garyfowler


    so far, so good for 2/3 of those players as well as a general team wide improvement!

    I took your thoughts and guidance and used this template. So as not to only highlight the 'dual' area I added in a few others.

    Feedback was interesting. Some more harsh on themselves than other, some more optimistic, but overall seemed similar to where I would place them. Many actually went into detail explaining why the rated themselves as such and what the were doing or wanted to do to improve and other asked for my input. Nice to see that sense of ownership. Good thing was 2 of the 3 I mentined in original post took it on board and have been competing much better. Issue now is to go and discuss the self-feedback with the one remaining lad. Hard(ish) part is that it's his Dad who was the other coach with me until this season but has now taken a back seat. Thankfully he's very on board with the issue however.

    Will report back on any further developments over next few training sessions and games


  • ABradshaw


    Any further progress with this ... looks like you made some good initial gains and as with all these things it sparked some useful conversations!


  • garyfowler

    Morning Andy

    Progress has had ups and downs. It's good timing you checking in as I'm just about to pose a further question based upon selection at this age group.

    I've followed on from the self reporting with more informal discussions. Whether it be a chat during a break in training, a discussion in the car pre/post match or a few text messages to check in. The overall result in individual and team responsibility leading on the levels of perfomance and then results have been marked. I've used our team captain often too, both so he can get information to the team and for him to take more ownership too.

    However, the one player I have struggled most with this season is the one I have had most parent issues with, and I'm sure we'd all agree this is of zero surprise. This has especially reared it's head in the last few weeks. In fact he was the one player who needed prompted and reminded multiple times to complete the self assessment!

    The player's mother text me after a game a few weeks back to complain about his playing time. The player has been having hip problems for some time but the player-coach dialogue has been good. He keeps me up to date with levels of soreness and frequently tells me if he feels unable to start a match, needs subbed etc. In a recent game I subbed him at HT so he could a) get a extra few minutes rest and b) have a few tatical things pointed out before returning mid way through the second half. He told me he felt unable to return to the match, info which he clearly didnt pass to his parents, so I was the worst in the world for him not playing a full match again.

    His work rate and effort, especially off the ball and when it comes to duals is apalling. The problem has gotten worse the more his team mates notice it. In our last game other players complained that he was getting playing time at all. 

    I've tried talking to the parents and him but it's having zero effect. I'm close to accepting that nothing will make a difference as there are factors beyond my influence and control. I don't believe it is fair to the others to keep giving him the chances. Final kick was Monday training as he didnt show or let me know why. I messaged him to find out he'd forgotten - no apology was forthcoming or at the subsequent training session. This from a team with incredible training attendance or who always let me know if there's a reason why they can't make it.

    While this may be a sidetrack from the original approach it poses the question to me, what impact can we as coaches have on players IF there are so many other factors at play & are we unrealistic in our outlook?

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