Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Getting players to pay attention
by Mike Woitalla, March 20th, 2013 1:45AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  youth boys, youth girls

MOST COMMENTED

By Mike Woitalla

It's perfectly reasonable that children who show up to soccer practice might have a difficult time paying attention when the coach has something to say. They have, after all, spent an entire day at school listening to adults. And now it's playtime.

But even those coaches who follow the Three L’s -- “No laps, no lines, no lectures” -- must at times address the entire group.

So how do you get a group of chatty, fidgety youngsters to pay attention for a few seconds?

For young children, there are those methods used by elementary school teachers: “If you can hear me, clap once. … If you can hear me, clap twice, etc;” various clapping patterns for the kids to follow; “1-2-3 Eyes on me” …

“I just talk quieter until they realize they have to quiet down to hear the info,” says Julie Eibensteiner, coach at Minnesota’s Woodbury SC. “But I think how you carry yourself and your approach to practice usually commands attention. The more you say, the less value you have when you talk. If you only speak when you have something valuable to say, they will be waiting for it and tune in when you do talk.”

The coach’s positioning, posture and demeanor are crucial, explains Ian Barker, the NSCAA’s Director of Coaching of Education:

“Take off the sunglasses and baseball cap, so they can see your eyes,” Barker says. “Turn their backs to the sun. … Turn their backs to distractions (parents, other action, etc.)

“Get down to their level … squat or sit. Talk softly, so they have to listen harder. Tell a story or a joke to draw them in. Use first names or nicknames they respond to. … Sometimes I engage the most energetic child and his or her focus on me draws in the others.”

Sam Snow, US Youth Soccer’s Coaching Director, recommends initially making eye contact with all of the players, so that they know it's time to tune in.

Once you do get their attention, there’s the matter of retaining it.

“Older players also tune out during a coach monologue, they are just better at faking rapt attention,” says Snow. “When the players know the coach's talk will be just another long monologue their attention quite naturally wanders. By engaging the players with one or two questions at the halftime or at a natural stoppage during a training session activity, the coach has the players' attention.”

Michael O'Neill is the girls Director Of Coaching of New Jersey’s PDA.

“Keep it simple,” he says. “Quick and concise is the only way!”

To players, he stresses the importance of eye contact and that only one person can talk at a time. For his coaches: “Patience, tone of voice -- and eventually the good habits will take over.”

For sure, a coach's job with a bunch of 6-year-olds is mainly about creating an active environment for them to discover the joys of the game. But just because the players are older doesn’t mean the lecture is effective.

In his book, “The Talent Code,” Daniel Coyle investigated highly successful coaches and teachers. He reported that advice or instructions uttered by the great basketball coach, John Wooden, averaged four seconds: “No lectures, no extended harangues … he rarely spoke longer than 20 seconds.”

What the great coaches and teachers Coyle studied had in common:

“The listened far more than they talked. They seemed allergic to giving pep talks or inspiring speeches; they spent most of their time offering small, targeted, highly specific adjustments. They had an extraordinary sensitivity to the person they were teaching, customizing each message to each student’s personality. … They were talent whisperers.”

Further Reading: YouthSoccerInsider Lecture them not

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)



1 comment
  1. James Madison
    commented on: March 20, 2013 at 10:09 p.m.
    I have learned from experience and, accordingly, taught parent coaches of young players that, if you run them around until they are huffing and puffing and then sit them down far enough apart that they cannot touch each other, you can talk until they have recovered their breath. If they are at all fit, it ain't long.


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Youth Soccer Insider
The benefits of pool play vs. traditional leagues for U-10s     
The Youth Soccer Insider asked Sam Snow, Technical Director of U.S. Youth Soccer, to explain the ...
Ref Watch: Why three is so much better than one     
When I moved to Florida for business 27 years ago, I lived and worked in Orlando ...
Tab Ramos auditions new talent for U-20 World Cup     
Coach Tab Ramos has called up three players to the U.S. U-20 national team, which is ...
George Altirs boosts New Jersey-area youth ball     
As a boy, George Altirs spent his free time playing as much soccer as possible in ...
Are tire crumbs on fields a cancer threat?    
Some environmental and health advocacy groups have claimed that the crumb rubber infill, used in artificial ...
A World Cup for Richie Williams, better late than never     
Richie Williams might just be the USA's most successful player who never played in a World ...
USA avoids debacle in U-17 World Cup qualifying    
Ultimately, the USA's quest to qualify for the 2015 Under-17 World Cup hinged on shots from ...
Americans down to one last chance at U-17 World Cup qualifying    
One of the U.S. national team program's consistencies for nearly three decades was that the USA ...
Video Games vs. Youth Soccer, the mismatch    
In an article by John O'Sullivan, founder of Changing the Game Project, he writes that three ...
USA clashes with U.S. products in U-17 World Cup qualifying quest     
One of the players aiming to prevent the USA from clinching a spot at the 2015 ...
>> Youth Soccer Insider Archives