What the Players Want
I recently came across an article that had various coaches discussing the topic “What Players Want” from the game of soccer. Looking back at the many years that I have been involved in the game, I found that players are players, that the wants and needs are still the same, regardless of the generation.
What struck a chord with me is that the central theme is that players want to experience the pure thrill of the game, whether it is an unstructured “World Cup” singles or doubles game (sometimes with 15-20 players) to one goal, to a training session that is taught through the game. In these games, the important aspects of transition, playing different positions, and the elements of imagination and creativity are quite prevalent.
Here are some of the key points that came out of the discussion:
1. Understanding the Individual
The greatest concern voiced here is that many players leave the game due to having experienced a poor coaching experience, or an unenjoyable game day environment.
The thought here was that the “Game is theirs, on their terms, so many more coaches are teaching the game through small sided games with subtle coaching restrictions (limited touches, etc.)
2. Guide and Help, But don’t Over coach
By teaching through a series of games, and limiting the stoppages and coaching, the attention span of the players is high and they are engaged in the process.
Coaching in a formal setting, technique, fitness, and tactics are usually the focus. The key element usually missing is the psycho social aspect. Showing the players that we care about them as a person is vital, and can lead to the development of mutual respect as well as trust.
4. Getting what the Players want out of the Game
In one word, Play. The players of today love the game just as much as previous generations, so we need to let them play. Look back at our own experiences as a player, and see if that is any different than what we wanted. The players want to enjoy the experience while improving their game, but in the end, we still must remember that the game belongs to them.
5. Ownership and Empowerment
Taking in points 3 and 4, the players love to see that their thoughts and opinions are being considered during the session and game. If the information is used properly, the game comes to life for them.
6. Allow for Choice
An interesting point brought up was that the players actually enjoy having input in the types of exercises and games played during a session. Having individual and team challenges were considered to be a great way to involve the players in the decision making process linked to training session themes.
To summarize, it is a player’s game, and the training should be player centered. The key take away here is that we need to invest time in them as young people, find out what makes them tick, and meet their needs.