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Being a coach is no easy job. What with preparing training sessions, managing and preparing for matches, selecting teams and being questioned for it all the time, and working out often complex tactics, coaching a team takes strength of character and a lot of adaptability.
And things have got even harder for the new generation of coaches, with players becoming more and more individualistic, making it even harder to manage them in what is a team sport.
A good coach learns to listen to what’s being said in the dressing room after a defeat, and we’ll tell why.
Are you a coach? Are you new to the job or an old hand? Do you need advice on how to handle big egos and the post-match reactions of your players? You’re in the right place!
You’re in the dressing and you hear someone say, “I didn’t score” or “I didn’t have a good game”.
Even when your team wins, some players can be in a sulk because they haven’t achieved what they wanted to. With this in mind, it's pretty clear where they stand: they’re putting their own interests ahead of those of the team.
As a coach, you need to watch out for this type of behaviour so that it doesn’t affect team morale and cause irritation among the rest of the players.
“I didn’t come on.”
If a player’s not getting much playing time, then they’re not going to be that happy, which stands to reason, because everyone wants to play.
So how do you handle reactions like that when you’re a coach? The best thing to do is tell the player that it’s perfectly OK for them to be unhappy but that there will come a time when you’re going to need them, if not now, then in another game, perhaps the very next one. The trick is to get them involved and to make them feel a part of the team so they can share in its success.
You have to choose your words carefully, because there’s nothing worse than letting a player mull things over for too long.
“I had a great game.”
Then there are the players who excel on the pitch, outperform everyone else, and make sure everyone knows it in the dressing room.
So, how to handle them? Tell them it’s great, while gently reminding them that the season is 36 matches long, that there’s another game coming up next week and that they have to put in another good performance then.
Make sure they don’t get too big for their boots after a win. It’s vital they don’t get carried away.
It’s vital to put wins into perspective too. It’s good to celebrate them but with moderation. If you’re going for the title and you’re six points clear, make sure you don’t take your foot off the accelerator and celebrate too early.
As you can see, egos are at their biggest after a win.
You know that talking is key. Speak to your players; don’t judge them. Try to find out why they’re reacting the way they are. Sometimes, they’re just doing it to blow their own trumpet in front of the others.
Look to your leading players to spread the word in the squad and talk to their team-mates in the changing room or away from the club. You don’t always want to be the one who’s preaching, so get them to do some of the work.
As a coach, you always need to look for positives. Even when you’ve got negative things to say, try to finish on an upbeat note and make sure the vibes are positive in the dressing room. It’s up to you to find the big solutions, but it’s important to keep talking to your players because they might have the answers you’re looking for.
In reality, you have to be a lot more than just a coach. You need to know what’s happening off the pitch and listen to your players. If they have personal or family problems, listen to them and help them. If need be, leave them out for two or three matches of, if they’re feeling up to it, name them in the team. It’ll take their mind off things and they’ll want to give their all.
You’re also going to have to contend with the different characters of your players.
You’ll have players who are always full on and who you’ll need to calm down to get the best out of them.
Then there are the introverts, the ones you can’t pull up in front of the whole team if they step out of line. It’s far better to pull them aside and speak to them on their own.
And then there are the players that you need to keep motivating and encouraging because that’s the way they’re wired. They just need to have your support and get the occasional confidence boost.
That’s what makes a coach’s job so hard, knowing how to manage each player and adapt what they’ve learned to all the different characters they come across. And that’s because a team is made up of little groups of players who come together because of the affinity between them.