For the Kids:
One person does not make a team. Players have different skills and experiences. Some can kick better, some can communicate better, some can defend better. And it takes all of those people working together to make a winning team!
Coach's Corner - A few words about teamwork: When you have a team that has been playing together for years, a bond and synergy is built between players that can dramatically increase the overall success of the team. With new players, it’s crucial to integrate them into the team not only so they feel welcome, but so they also add to the team value.
- Set Expectations - There may be similar positions in soccer and intersecting roles, but each player functions independently and has a specific job on the field. With each player, make sure they are clear on their exact role and what is expected of them. Take time to ensure they understand how their position interacts with other players on the field. In addition to this, make sure each player understands their responsibilities to the team. This starts with them being held accountable for bringing their proper equipment to practices and games.
- Build Trust in Each Other - Assigning individual responsibilities won’t work without the players’ trust in each other. Every player on the team should know that their teammates will fulfill their corresponding roles. You can integrate trust-building into your coaching strategies by allowing training to be the time spent with teammates they’re least close to. Pairing them up during conditioning and adding a little competitive play during training will force them to rely on and work with each other to achieve a goal together.
- Create a Solid Communication System - Playing soccer is as much about improvisation as it is about strength and skills. You can’t control how the opposite team will perform, so your team needs to adjust accordingly. As a coach, it’s your job to let your players know exactly what they need to do in every possible situation. This way they don’t even need to talk on the field. A solid communication system doesn’t only refer to verbal communication, but also visual cues and sensitivity to each other’s body language on the field. Simple eye contact, for example, will clue them in on the same strategy you taught them in training. Good communication also needs to exist off the field. Conducting team meetings every once in a while and open forums when needed are important so your players will get comfortable about voicing concerns, feedback, and settle misunderstandings with each other.
- Empower Each Member Equally - Favoritism is one way of developing unspoken grudges between teammates and it separates them more. You might encourage the opposite of working together by focusing praises on the star players. Even if the new players are not as good yet, recognizing when they’re doing the right thing can do heaps for their self-esteem and motivation to do better.
- Set Goals for the Team to Strive for Together - Camaraderie forms organically when a group of people is driving towards the same goal. Set small wins and big goals that your team can work towards. For one, the pressure and weight of the goal will be equally distributed among them. Hustling won’t feel as heavy on the individuals. Simultaneously, achieving them will feel that much sweeter when they know they worked for it together. The celebration is grander.
- Encourage Players to Build a Personal Bond - Encourage your players to know each other beyond the field. When they have knowledge of each other’s lives outside of training, they’ll have a better understanding of each other’s struggles. They’ll also find similarities among themselves, be it life situations or simple mannerisms, that will form a deeper connection than just being teammates.
Conclusion - Playing soccer is a team sport. Naturally, it won’t work out in any team’s favor if the players themselves are not in sync with their intention, goals, and motivation. These tips are something you can incorporate in your coaching techniques to strengthen the team’s personal foundation.