Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Getting players to pay attention
by Mike Woitalla, March 20th, 2013 1:45AM
Subscribe to Youth Soccer Insider

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
Friedel's revamped U.S. U-19 men lift Slovakia Cup    
The U.S. U-19 men's national team, coached by Brad Friedel, beat Russia, 2-1, to win the ...
How refs work with assignors    
Assignors are the people who give referees their schedules. Depending on the league, some assign the ...
U.S. U-16 boys beat Brazil    
The U.S. U-16 boys national team, after opening the 13th Tournament Delle Nazioni with a 2-1 ...
Omid Namazi has done it all in coaching: indoors, women, Iran, now U.S. U-18s    
Omid Namazi, who took charge of the U.S. U-18 men's national team in January, started his ...
Toronto kid helps U.S. U-17s beat Canada    
The U.S. U-17 boys national team hosted Canada for two friendlies in Fort Lauderdale and won ...
What makes a player push through adversity?    
He was this player of mine who wasn't particularly talented. In fact, he barely made the ...
Road-trip games for a fun journey    
Whether your child plays select or recreation soccer, chances are good that in the next six ...
Benefits of heading ban are clear to see    
I have now refereed and watched several games since the elimination of heading for children 10 ...
Historic game against Iran awaits U.S. U-16 girls    
The U.S. U-16 girls national team, at the 1st International Women's Tournament of Gradisca in Italy ...
Is FIFA protecting or impeding Mexican-American players?    
Mexican clubs heavily scouting the USA for Mexican-American talent has been one of the greatest developments ...
>> Youth Soccer Insider Archives