The Guardian has a really good article on how the terminology coaches use can be counter-productive to help players (and the comments from readers about some of their favourite ‘shouts’ is even more entertaining).
I’ve touched on this before about how confusing it can be for young players to get a constructive message from their coaches (we hope) and a much less constructive (boot it!) message from parents on the sideline. Cliche is the last bastion of the overwhelmed coach. Keep messages simple, consistent, positive and age/level appropriate.
The last few lines of the article remind me of one of the more memorable youth games I’ve coached. We were at the Dana Cup in 2009. We’d advanced out of our group to the knockout phase and were playing a Finnish team. As an overseas team in the U14 girls division we were a bit of a rarity so people had paid attention to our results. In our second game, we somehow held on for a draw against a very good, well known Danish team and that raised some eyebrows so the Finns went into the game thinking they would be in a bit of trouble.
Our keeper at the time was very good (and is now a strong candidate for this year’s U16 Provinical team) but prone to the odd blunder as most young keepers are. This game, however, she had several. Their sideline erupted when they went up 1-0 early in the game but we battled back to level the score. A second gk error followed by a very good goal saw the Finns up 3-1 at the break. Their sideline was going bonkers. Their pre-game nerves were gone and they were euphoric.
Second half we came out storming and scored in the first two minutes. Our sideline got into it more and then we tied it 3-3 and we were suddenly mild Canadians gone wild. We were all over them and they were scrambling to stop the onslaught.
Then with ten to go the biggest of the three howlers gave them a fourth (and I feel I should add that were it not for our keeper in the game against the strong Danish team, we’d have lost that one by a solid margin). So for the last 10 minutes it was a full on assault with both sets of sideline supporters going uncharacteristically (for us anyways) nuts and chance after chance going missing.
Naturally their coach was getting more and more animated. We had exchanged a few glances as the game went on along the lines of “Can you believe this?” but by the end he was working the full length of the sideline yelling instructions at them. I’ve no idea what he was saying as my Finnish is limited to “Sami Salo” but he certainly wasn’t calming his players with some over the top yelling.
In the last minute we had a corner that went past the throng in the middle jumping for it and one of our girls did a full ‘stealing third base’ slide at the far post, a yard off the line to try to jam it in but just missed, giving them a goal kick. Their coach ran past me all the way down the line to about the 18 yard box to yell at the girl taking the goal kick. As I said, I don’t know Finnish but I’d bet the Finnish equivalent of “Boot it!!!” was used in no uncertain terms. The girl, who in retrospect I’m sure must have been his daughter, was totally tuning him out. He persisted with her wanting some sort of reaction to be sure she was listening.
He got his reaction.
Instead of striding forward to strike the ball, she walked forward past the ball towards the sidelines and started screaming at him, fists clenched at her side, upper body angled forward towards him. She looked like an angry ski jumper in mid-flight. She fully unloaded on him for five seconds and then walked back to the ball. I think she pretty much knew that this wasn’t the time to pull a Barca and try to play out from the back off the goal kick. The ball was going to get launched and she didn’t need her dad/coach berating her with the obvious.
He shut up, well chastened, and walked past me not wanting to catch eyes (and my smirk). She took a solid goal kick and the seconds counted down leading to a victory for them, elimination and a bunch of tears for us.