Tuesday, April 16, 2013

LTPD, "Soccer for Life". Every stage counts.

I heard some very refreshing words  from a relatively smart guy this morning.

People shy away from coaching when players are in their teenage years. Those players need good people coaching them during a very turbulent time in their personal development.

My friend coaches an older girls team in the Niagara Region.  The team is at the NRGSL level, which is a local league, but above house league.  He took the team over a few years ago with admittedly little soccer experience.  But he does understand the principles of team sports and his personality is conducive to being a good coach for teenagers.

His wife is also involved with a younger boys team as well as assuming some admin duties for their club.

So what makes him a good coach in my eyes?

This morning we were chatting and I asked about his 2013 team.  He told me he lost 5 players who moved to teams at higher levels and has replaced them with 5 new girls.  Then he said "Hey, 5 players moved up and most of the girls made their high school teams in Grades 9 and 10 so far, so I guess I'm doing my job".

This team has had some success on the field during league play, cup games and tournaments, and yet that was what he measured his success by; the success of his players.

He then went on to say that he wasn't willing to win a game if he had to leave his weaker players sitting.  He wants them all to keep playing and is hesitant to make it unpleasant for anybody.

His points were bang on with LTPD for that age:
  • "Soccer for Life"
  • Looking to motivate them to keep playing.
  • Keeps his attitude and program consistent with level of play and age group.
  • Seeks help in giving them more info.
  • Works to keep the game and the team interesting.
... regardless of the direction they are heading in and where they came from, the fact that they are teenagers should be the most influential factor when laying out your program.
When you are a "Soccer for Life" coach, you have players in various situations all playing together:
  • Will not take their game to a level higher than local/intercity travel, yet still want to play
  • May be a late bloomer and still looking to get to the next level
  • May have been at a higher level and recently released from another program
  • Looking to play because they love soccer
  • A good player, indifferent towards soccer but loves being with friends
For all of those players, you have the same job.  Remember who you are dealing with: teenagers.  There is a lot more going on in their lives than just soccer.  And regardless of the direction they are heading in and where they came from, the fact that they are teenagers should be the most influential of factors when laying out your program.

At every stage of LTPD, the program challenges coaches to fully understand the physical, social and
psychological characteristics of the players.  This does not change for the Soccer for Life stage.

As a "Soccer for Life" coach you have several responsibilities.  Your job is to take the players from Learn to Train and shape your program to motivate them to keep playing.  Those players are our future coaches, soccer parents, sponsors, convenors and referees.

There will be players and teams at different levels with different soccer mandates in terms of personal goals of the players, but they are all teenagers and need the same basic building blocks to keep their programs productive:
  • Interesting
  • Respectful
  • Progressive
  • Collaborative
  • Structured
  • FUN!
Whether you coach Toronto FC U16 Academy boys or Wainfleet U14 girls, there are common elements to your approach.  The TFC team will train harder and more often, but if that coach forgets he's dealing with teenagers, he's in big trouble. 

The main fault of coaches who fail with this age group is they forget to maintain the adult/teenager separation.  Some think the players will relate better if they swear and act in an immature fashion.  On the contrary, teens want solid adults in their lives that they can respect and work hard for.

Don't fear the teenage player, but embrace them.  Keep your head on straight, work hard to make your program interesting and enjoyable and it will be an experience you'll never forget.