Know Your Players
Itís important to know
the people youíre leading, therefore, coaches should take the time to
get to know each of their players. Develop on going relationships with
each player, with an open line of communication and trust. Itís never
too soon to begin to get to know your players. As early as tryouts,
coaches should be making decisions about players based on their
performance in the tryouts and based on other factors.
consider the following factors:
What motivates each
player and why theyíre playing. Keep in mind there are many reasons
people may be trying out for your team. Some may play because they
love to play and theyíre up for a challenge, or may just want to
have fun. Others may play because their friends are playing and they
want to be with their friends. Some may play to make friends. Others
may play because their parents have pressured them into it and donít
want to let their parents down. Players also may use your team as a
stepping stone toward making another team.
Who knows if one
reason for playing is better than another, but this type of
information may help coaches to build a cohesive team, where the
players play for similar reasons and may share similar goals. Itís
better to find things out early, so there are fewer surprises
throughout the season.
Do any of the players
have medical, physical, or other conditions that the coach should be
aware of? Could the conditions limit the players performance? Is it
safe for the player to attempt to perform at the expected level of
Are the players able
to make the commitment as identified by the coach? Players and parents
should be informed up front, of what is expect of them throughout the
year. The teamís tentative agenda should be developed prior to
tryouts. The agenda can be discussed with the players and families
during the teamís tryouts, and should be provided to each player in
the form of a flyer or pamphlet.
The agenda should
include: a practice schedule with dates, times, and location,
consequences for missing practices and games, and tentative league and
dates and other known dates that players may miss practices, games,
tournaments, or any other team function. This should be done shortly
after the teamís registration meeting, allowing time to adjust the
teamís agenda and possibly borrow players for tournaments or
reschedule games or tournaments. Finalize the teamís agenda
appropriately for the team youíve selected. Be prepared to be
flexible, but use the teamís agenda as a reference throughout the
remainder of the year!
Confidence? From time
to time, some players donít realize their ability and may need their
confidence boosted, and there are times when players are too confident
and need a reality check.
When a player needs a
confidence boost, team that player up with above average players
during small sided games. Compliments and words of encouragement at
the right time are crucial to boosting a playerís self confidence.
A reality check can
easily be given during a tryout or practice. If a player seems over
confident compared to their ability level or just plain cocky, simply
place them in a small sided game where they must showcase their
ability. Place the over confident (cocky) player on a team with two
other average or below average players and have them compete against a
team of three above average players, and youíll learn about the
playerís character and ability. If they quit or complain, youíve
got a look at their true character. If they lose, without complaining
and donít give up, they may have heart and willingness to work hard,
but may lack skill. The same reality check can be done in one on one
games, making it even more clear, as players are beaten one on one.
However, you run the risk of the cocky player beating the ringer,
thus, becoming even more cocky.
Iíve used reality
checks at tryouts, as an unspoken means of preparing players to be
cut. Sometimes, players rise to the occasion and perform better than I
expected, and other times the players cut themselves! In, either case,
you and the players may gain a clearer picture of who will make the
team and who will not.
My strategy is to be
as subtle as possible when boosting a playerís confidence or setting
a player up for a reality check. I donít over use either strategy.
Use confidence boosts and reality checks just enough to maintain
balance within the team. The trick is to be in touch with your players
enough to notice a key moment when someone needs a confidence boost or
a reality check!
Do the players fit in
with your system or does your system need to adjust to fit your
players? In almost every situation the coach has to adjust to the
playersí strengths and weaknesses, so be flexible and ready to
incorporate a system that plays to the various strengths and
personalities of your players.
After assessing your
players individual skills and overall team playing style. Select a variety
of strategies that play to their strengths. Introduce and practice one
strategy at a time, until the players show signs of using the strategy in
game related play, then introduce the next strategy. Incorporate these
strategies regularly in game related situations, such as drills performed
at game pace, scrimmages, and games, until they become instinctive!