Sunday, October 1, 2017

Reinforcing and Modeling Behaviors: You are all together the team

It was our second game day with my U7 team yesterday.  We split our team up to be an Away and Home team. I got to coach the home team which consisted of four players--four players are also needed to form the basic diamond formation.  Our technical trainers have drilled into the coaches’ heads the importance of the diamond formation.  In our training sessions and in our recent game day we began to also instill in the players' minds and in game play to form the diamond shape–reminding them consistently and often, as this is still U7.  My co-coach and I agreed to focus on our diamond formation this week–communication with the co-coach and having consistent coaching plan is also essential.  Then make sure to clearly communicate the goal and desired behavior to your team. 

During the games, I would encourage the boys to get into their diamond and complement them when they formed one. This is an example of where praxis is important–it's not enough talk about it–we (as coaches for these young players) need to be on the field, show them, and to point them to look at each other.  When we had water breaks, I would complement each and everyone individually on a job well done and praise them on the wonderful diamonds they were creating on the field. Reinforcement of the goal and desired behavior matters.  As an aside, I would say, focus only on the positive at this level.  And I must again complement these kids because by the end of game day, they played hard, they had fun, scored a bunch as a team; impressively, these boys got into their diamond formation at the sound of my voice.   They even figured on their own to always have one person stay behind (as the other 3 played offense) in event of a sudden breakaway from the opponents.  I thought the other team would demolish our team because they were physically bigger than my boys; however, the other team were disorganized and simply became demotivated due to the lack of instruction and coaching that was taking place.  After the game, my co-coach shared with me how impressed the other team's coaches were with our teams because of our ability to organize.  Secretly, I felt a bit like Leonidas from 300.  This was a stark reminder of how important having a coach is in not only the soccer game, but also strong leadership on ANY team for that matter.  

This leads into my second point.  As coach (or managers), we are not only dictating instructions or shouting commands from the sidelines. We cannot be hiding or highlighting only the negatives and failures.  We need to BE the extra player on the team.  In soccer, there are 11 players (10 plus goalie); Coaches are like the 12th player.  This is going to be different for older kids and other parents and coaches will probably see me running around like a madman.  If you know me, you will probably hear me from a kilometer away.  And when the players are running up and down the field, I’m right behind them and cheering them on. You cannot help yourself to be excited when you see these players play! They are simply amazing to watch.  Others can say what they want, but my philosophy is the same whether it is coaching a U7 team or in the workplace–managers and leaders need to be part of team. They need to know you got their back.  The team needs to know that you are there for them, care for them and work with them in training and while on the field.  Leaders/Coaches are on the field; they are always energetic, energized and ready to celebrate with the players and always ready to encourage them.  Also, always be ready to tie the laces of one of your players–they are your All-stars.  Contrastingly, when the coaches are unenthusiastic and lacking passion, these players at this young age will feed off that energy and passion.  Moreover, we need to model the behavior we want to see in others.

Another tip for coaches–when you see the other team demoralized cheer them on too because it is not about winning; next season, some of these players could be on your team.  In the end, we are all playing a part in coaching the future superstars of team Canada and the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Be proud of your team but also be proud of all these players.  Celebrate them and motivate them through engagement, encouragement and empowerment.  

When you are having fun, everyone will have fun too!