When I first began taking coaching education courses, there was a popular phrase repeated at almost every opportunity:
“Practice is where you prepare, and the game is the test. You wouldn’t shout out answers during a test at school, so don’t give your players the answers in a game either.”
I always understood this as meaning “don’t coach at all during games” and have spent many seasons quietly sitting on the sidelines not giving any feedback to my players until halftime. I was under the impression that I was allowing my players to make their own decisions, learn from their mistakes, and take ownership of the game, and I was right. However, I was also hindering my players’ development by remaining completely silent throughout every game.
COACHING SOCCER IS UNIQUE
Soccer is unique to other team sports. There are no timeouts, and only one stoppage of play for the coach to pull their players aside and give them feedback about how the game is going. It’s one of the beauties of soccer: it’s the player’s game. Their decisions change the outcome of the games they play in, not the coach’s. Due to this, we must teach our players how to think through problems and find desirable outcomes through our practices, as we can’t tell our players exactly what to do in every situation – soccer is too dynamic. If you would like to learn about how to teach decision making in players, view our article about the benefits of keeping soccer practices dynamic.