Four ideas to foster discipline

This an excerpt is a followup to "The 5 Worst Punishments," which appeared in the Youth Soccer Insider last month, from The New Way of Soccer: Skill + Instinct + Mentality = Success.
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Here are four tips you can apply to discipline players without employing senseless punishments. Feel free to modify as you see fit with a little bit of creativity.

Paradoxical Intervention

This term comes from psychotherapy, but don’t worry -- no need for a couch! In short, paradoxical intervention involves reacting in a completely different manner than players would expect. To further explain this, here are a few examples:

Let's consider a player who constantly interrupts practice. He or she would most likely expect to receive a punishment or be sent home. Yet, you react differently. How? By allowing the player to take charge of practice for a few minutes.

In this scenario, most will shut up faster than you can say “paradoxical intervention.” Problem solved! If you do have players who feel especially daring, give them free rein. When their time is up, praise them and explain how they can use their abilities for the betterment of the team.

A different example: One player just will not keep quiet and talks incessantly. A paradoxical intervention? Allow them to lead the player meeting. You can also announce paradoxical interventions prior to team activities. For example, "Anyone who disrupts a meeting or whose phone rings will sing a song to the entire team." Believe me, after the first player’s serenade, the team will think twice before causing further disruption.

In any case, seek out creative methods and always react differently than your players would expect.

Locker Room Duty

Instead of sending players home early, let them stay late and attend to locker room duties.

This entails tidying up, sweeping, picking up forgotten items and giving them to the coach, turning off the lights, locking up, and returning the keys.

Trust us: Nobody wants to do that, especially in front of their teammates. This is a useful, superior punishment that is far better than sending players home early.

Equipment Duty

Cones, balls, poles, drill ladders, pinnies -- nobody likes to clean these things up. If a player offers him or herself up during practice by displaying a lack of discipline, assign this duty accordingly.

While everyone else heads off to the locker room, this player cleans up all the equipment. Not exactly desirable, is it?

Communicate to Find the Root Cause

From time to time, some players will continually egg you on. What to do with them? There are often underlying reasons for this behavior that you will need to unearth. This is only possible by engaging in open and honest dialogue: first with the player and then, possibly, with parents or other important people in his or her life.

Usually, you will quickly discern the cause(s) for any behavioral patterns. Once uncovered, you will know how to address them accordingly.

Possible factors can be parent divorce, girlfriend/boyfriend issues, academic problems, etc. Knowing the problem enables you to act sensibly about the topic and address it -- if needed -- with the entire team.

The lesson is clear: When contemplating punishments, do not merely consider short-term, but also long-term, effects. These four options present solid alternatives to senseless punishments, affording you more “useful” sanctions moving forward.

The New Way of Soccer: Skill + Instinct + Mentality = Success by Dominik Voglsinger & Thomas Mangold, 2021 ($9.99 Kindle Edition) German edition: Der Weg zum richtigen Start!: Ball + Instink + Verstand = Fußballtraining, 2020.

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Dominik Voglsinger, a UEFA A license holder, has been a coaching instructor for the German soccer federation (DFB), currently serves the Vienna soccer association (WFV), and is also a high school teacher. Thomas Mangold has been head of youth development and coach of the SV Aspern and FC Hellas Kagran, and specializes in individual training. Both started their soccer careers in their native Vienna, Austria.

1 comment about "Four ideas to foster discipline".
  1. James Serra, July 8, 2021 at 2:55 p.m.

    At the younger ages, what I found to work really well is to give a disruptive player a "time out".  I tell them to sit on the sidelines and watch practice and let me know when they will behave and are ready to join the team again.  After 5-10 minutes of watching everyone else have fun I usually here them say "I'm ready to come back and I'll behave!".  And they do.

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