Soccer Coaches: A Soccer Player’s Attitude isn’t a Simple Choice …
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Soccer Coaches: The Player’s Environment Impacts Their Attitude, Effort and Energy
And now for a wonderfully controversial statement…
The players you coach, the people on your team, cannot simply choose their attitude. They cannot simply choose to exert 100% effort. They cannot simply choose to display 100% energy.
Attitude, effort and energy aren’t human qualities that are simple choices.
They are complex choices. They are difficult choices. And, they are choices you have to help your players, your people, make.
Now, I know I’m going against the grain here … in fact, I know I’m going against the tidal wave of coaching opinion.
For so long coaches have uttered, if not shouted the words: “You can choose your attitude, effort and energy!”
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
I’m very sorry but this is incorrect, and if you feel this way I’d like to strong arm you into understanding that this philosophy, this message, this approach is hindering you as a coach.
It’s holding your players back – their participation, their progression and their performance.
Why is it wrong?
Because the human brain and nervous system are powerful. They tend towards the negative, they work in milliseconds, and they’re causing your players to constantly judge the world around them.
“Am I acting in the right way here? Is this the right decision? Is this helping or hindering me? What does he or she think of me? I don’t think that’s fair…coach isn’t paying attention to me!”
Thoughts, emotions and motivations combine to make internal conflict our default state.
Player personality is powerful. Some people are naturally disagreeable and subsequently require a different way of coaching. Some lack orderliness and turn up late or forget things that should be in their kit bag. Some are fixed minded and don’t like trying new things. These aren’t incorrect ways of behaving – they’re simply human ways of behaving.
Let’s be very clear – some of the best players in the world are very tough to coach!
Players get to become better at choosing the attitude, effort and energy required in their given situation when they’ve been taught (and have learned) the appropriate skills that give them that capacity.
I know, I know! That statement is a bit long winded isn’t it?
It’s a bit uncool right? It’s not very sexy! And boy, does it place a burden on you as a coach. But unfortunately human behaviour is heavily nuanced. It’s messy and it’s chaotic. It’s difficult! And if you want to build the capacity to help your players change their behaviour, as well as manage their behaviour, then you need to learn how to help them develop the skills to do so.
So rule number one: Stop saying “You can choose your attitude, effort and energy”. Eliminate this sentence from all discourse.
Rule number two: Start upskilling yourself as to how you can help players have a greater choice over their attitude, effort and energy.
One way is through the environment you create and the coaching practice you have players engage with:
- Pay attention to as many individuals as you can when they arrive – your care helps them have a greater sense of choice
- Start training with a fun activity – sweat and smiles gives them a greater sense of choice
- Provide a greater player autonomy by asking your people one thing they individually want to improve in their game – this turns up the volume of their focus and gives them a greater ability to choose
I think you’re getting it, right? I could go on and on and on introducing you to lots of mini ideas that help players to expand their ability to choose their attitude, effort and energy. It’s achieved simply through your environment and through the processes that are a part of your coaching practice. You get the picture!
And, those mini steps to being the coach you’ve always wanted to be? Well now you’re taking giant strides to becoming world class at your delivery.
A second way is through mental skills – the mental skills and the character development piece. There’s so much you can do here.
Here’s a quick one:
Have your players choose one personality characteristic they think is a strength of theirs. (You can suggest some to help them: honesty, discipline, courage, bravery, leadership.)
Next, have them discuss their chosen characteristic in pairs, with the emphasis on each player talking to their partner about what behaviours they’ll display on the pitch with relation to their characteristic.
Finally, challenge them to show these specific character behaviours in the next activity.
This takes all of two minutes.
A whole two minutes to help your player develop…to help them become more self-aware, to help them self-regulate, to help them grow! And there wasn’t any shouting of ‘attitude, effort and energy’ – not once!
Now that really is great coaching.