Sunday, October 16, 2011

Youth Sports: Pre-Game Speech

What does your coach do before a big game, a game your team is not suppose to win? Is he (or she) working himself up into a frenzy yelling at the kids because he's nervous or is he (or she) Zen-like calm a la famed NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson?

Yesterday, before the soccer game against the undefeated #1 team in the TPL (The Premiere League - a league made up of some of the very best teams from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky), the coach of our team strayed from the norm. Instead of bringing the warm-ups to a fever pitch fifteen minutes before the game, he chose to sit the girls on the field in front of the goal for a quiet chat.

When he called the team over, I had been warming up the goalie, my daughter CC. The warm-ups were not going particularly well because CC was having trouble getting a good grip on the cold slick ball.  Quite a few balls were slipping through her hands.

Her eyes told me the story, "how can this be happening before this game of all games?" She knew she was going to be tested by one of the best teams in the league. I also think that CC was a bit nervous too because one of her AAU basketball teammates was the star of the other team.

When the coach called us over, CC didn't want to go. She wanted desperately to work through her pre-game issues, but I signaled her over to the coach for the pre-game speech.

Max Effort - Amazing Save - tipped over goal
"Girls" he said, "we have nothing to lose today. We are playing the best team in the league. They are undefeated. They are suppose to beat us and they just might. We are going to play our game. We are going to play smart. We are going to play our possession game. We are not going to let them intimidate us or take us out of our game plan. We are going to make mistakes, mistakes that might lead to goals but we are not going to hang our heads down if we do. We are still in school. Still learning. If we make a mistake and they score, we are going to get back up and bring it at them again. We are going to keep working on what we have been working on for the last 5 weeks, possession, possession, possession.

That team just lost in the finals of the State Cup in a PK shoot out. A loss that is going to remind them of our win against them in the last State Cup when we won on PKs. They're going to be upset, so they're going to want to win this game badly. They might win, but if they win we are going to make them earn it. Let's limit the mistakes. Let's leave it all on the field by giving max effort. Give max effort and if you get tired, raise your hand and we will get you a quick rest. Let's make them earn it."

The speech reminded me of the Coaching Alliance Double-Goal Coach course I took this summer before the AAU Basketball National Championships. Specifically, the section of the course called ELM. The E stands for Effort. The L for Learning and the M for bouncing back from Mistakes.

The Main Point

Goal 1 off of a mistake
Just like win-at-all-cost coaches, Double-Goal coaches want to win on the field, but Double-Goal coaches strive for mastery (getting better) rather than focusing on winning. Winning is a result of mastery of the game.

Goal 2 own goal
CC's team didn't win, they lost 2-1. They got down 2-0 before the half. The first goal was the result of a mistake. A poor clearing pass hit the back of one of our midfielders and rebounded in front of an opportunistic striker from the other team who rocketed the ball into the upper righthand corner of the net before CC could even see it. The other goal was an "own goal" off a corner kick. CC was tracking the ball across the goal, but the ball hit one of our defenders in the shoulder and deflected in the opposite direction.

But CC and her team made the undefeated #1 team earn it. In fact, CC's team shut down the powerful first place team and scored once to win the second half 1-0.

The team gave max E (effort) and bounced back for a few Ms (mistakes). They gave the #1 undefeated team a scare because they concentrated on working on what the team has been L (learning), possession.

1 of 3 great second half saves

1 of 3 great second half saves 
1 of 3 great second half saves 


  1. Great blog & great lessons for coaches, players and parents to read, hear and understand. "Pre-game speech" reminds me of a blog I wrote about an AYSO team I coached in 2007, "Defining Moments:"

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