I recently attended a National Talent Identification Tournament for early teenage footballers. It is the 5th time I have been in a variety of roles though I have never been the Head Coach. This blog is about how my reflections on what I have learned from being at these tournaments.
When I first attended my focus was about the technical level of the players. I suppose I was being quite self-centred because I was anxious to see if some of the players I had coached in the 9-12 age groups had the necessary technical ability to play at a National level.
The more tournaments I went to the more I shifted my focus away from the players technical level. Don’t get me wrong I still believe the technical level of the players is very important but I found that the majority of the players at this level were technically proficient. Plus, I thought if they have the right attitude they can tweak or further improve their technical level anyway.
I’m not sure when but I did begin to look more at how players performed inside the team. Did they play spontaneously or did they do a job for the team. Was it clear what they were trying to do and did they do it consistently. I realised that this was not a good way to look at the players as some Coaches play with lots of structure and others give the players lots of freedom. Therefore, I had no idea if the player was doing what was asked of them in the team.
Plus, I thought if the player has the right attitude and a good coaching environment they can improve their ability to follow team structure or play with more freedom at a later date anyway.
This time without consciously meaning too I have now realised since I got back that I was looking more at what is the right attitude. With the group I was with I was noticing more who was self-motivated, who was willing to be motivated by the group, who would play when tired or who made every effort to follow the Coach’s instructions. Plus, a multitude of other things away from the pitch such as focus at team meetings, punctuality, game preparation, how they recovered, desire to be ready to compete etc.
Now finally I am getting to the point of my blog. The players physically were in good shape. Many in the group I was with had private professional help to maximise their physical potential from Physios to Strength and Conditioning Coaches back at home. All the players seemed to be from decent clubs and coaching environments so I presume their technical and tactical level will continue to improve. However the players as you would expect hadn’t developed a totally ‘right attitude’ either and this is where I am unsure about what help they will receive to develop this.
I know the way I have written this blog we can substitute the word ‘attitude’ for character, personality, mentality or a host of other words and I don’t want to get into a discussion about the definitions of each word. Please just accept attitude as their approach to how they conducted themselves as a potential elite footballer.
The more I coach the more I consider the importance of the player’s attitude and the fact that we can shape a player’s attitude as much as we can shape their 1st Touch. My problem is I’m not exactly sure how I can shape it or if what I am doing is right. I read everything I can on Sports Psychology but I suppose it is because I have never seen a Sports Psychologist in action or worked alongside one that I feel a bit like I did when I first started coaching. Basically, I am just trying things but now it is much harder to see if they work.
What I want to affect as I have seen it in all five of these tournaments is the player who is content to be injured or a substitute as it means they don’t have to compete, the player who struggles simply as it is not what they expected, the player who thinks they have made it because they have done well, the player who allows just about everything or everyone to distract them.
Just my thoughts but I would be interested to hear how many other Coaches feel the player’s attitude is important but not sure if they can or how they can develop it in the right direction.
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Till next time