Connecting with Players
Connecting with every player is so important. You see college coaches (in any sport) focusing on team building as much as they focus on team development. Partly because it's essential to have a group who are willing to play for each other in any situation, but also because connections are essential for building trust in your environment.
As a coach, how do you connect with each of your players? Not just the whole team, but each individual?
Think about it...
Now, I propose 4 meaningful ways of connecting with a player in EVERY session.
#1 - The greeting.
Start with IDP's. Include a question that explores the players personal life - hobbies, other sports, family, etc etc.
So, when a player arrives at practice your greeting is not just "how are you?" or "how was school today?", but it's connected to what you know about that player. "Where are you going next to take pictures?" (this was for a player who was a wildlife photographer in his spare time.)
The problem with greeting each player like this is that it takes time. You'll get to know the players that arrive early easily. The players that are late too. The players, and majority, that arrive on time will be the challenge, but use activation games to engage the group as you connect with individuals.
#2 - Improvement
#3 - Praise
This is all in the flow of your session.
2 points of contact with each individual for parts of their game they can improve and be praised for. If you're working on building out of the back, it'll be very easy to coach the back line, goalkeeper, and likely a holding midfielder. However, if you follow the orientation method, then you can coach the 'attackers' on how to press when to press, etc. and you can coach them individually for improvement and praise. Then you move to the building out team and coach them.
#4 - Personal goals.
This may not be relevant to each player and will be something that will likely evolve over the course of a training cycle. It means challenging specific players for their involvement and personal development goals. For example, and a classic in American Youth Soccer:
You play a 1-4-3-3 or variation of it. Your #7 and #11 (wide forwards/wingers/whatever you call them) get stuck. They end up standing next to the fullback of the opponent and waiting for the ball to come to them. These players will benefit from personal goals that encourage their involvement to improve.
"Today, we're going to work on your movement off of the shoulder of the fullback. That means, moving along horizontal lines and not just vertical (chasing the ball). So, how many times do you think we can get you the ball in this session/next 5 minutes/game after you have checked off the fullback?"
Now, that's just all in the training environment. That doesn't include off the field activities, which will only help to boost the connection you work on at each session.
Have fun with it. Be conscious of connecting with EVERY player. If you take this approach, every player will have attention and it will help you structure the feedback and coaching - stop shouting and joysticking, and work with the individuals for success.
You can listen to the podcast on this very subject here.