Whether you coach a recreational or very high level team, how you behave and what you say to your players after a game is crucial for their development. Your response to their performance will shape the way they will endure challenges, have success, develop and enjoy the sport. Here are five things to keep in mind when you address your team following a game:
- Speak to effort. Regardless of the result, commentary on the outcome or ability of the players or teams is less beneficial than feedback regarding your players’ effort. How did they try, what did they contribute? Here are some examples:
"I like how we were taking more long range shots like we worked on in training."
"Even though we didn't score, I could tell there was a lot more focus on the quality of your crosses. That's great progress!"
"The way we responded as a group after we got scored on was great. We raised the energy, intensity, and communication."
"The way we battled, especially pushing for a goal in the last 20 minutes was great. A full team effort from those on the field and on the bench."
"I thought over the 80 minutes that our effort was there. We battled for 50/50’s, tracked down players, were physical all around."
- Be succinct. Make your talk as direct as possible, with one to three points at most. Players are generally unable to absorb more information than that after a game. They are tired, and also may be dealing with the emotions of the effort and result.
- Try the "compliment sandwich." Good feedback can be both honest and nuanced. Provide both compliments and constructive criticism, but try to surround anything critical with something positive. For example:
"Great effort, we need to improve our attacking in final third and finishing, so let’s have a solid week of training,”
“Great work finishing our chances in the final third, but we still need to do a better job of playing through our 6/8/10 in the middle third. Let’s try to work on and improve that this week in training.”
- Solicit feedback from the players. Encourage your players to share any thoughts - specific or general - on the game. Make sure they feel that their reactions and voice matter. After all, what you think and feel about the game is only as helpful as your ability to align with your players! Also, the more players express themselves, and feel part of the process, the more they learn, and the more they will be invested in the team's success.
- Gauge the vibe. Get to know your team well enough that you understand how the players are feeling. How do they feel about the flow of the game; how do they respond after a game result? It helps to build a connection and trust with your players if you are in touch with their perceptions of the game before you begin sharing your observations.
Your knowledge of the game and tactics is just the foundation through which you can impact the success of your team. As a coach, you are a guide and a leader with the crucial task of impacting and molding your players. These tips can help you to be most successful in that endeavor.