Motivation and Common Mistakes

The CAO activities although competitive have a main focus on participation and enjoyment.  Yes we play games and wear uniforms, but the main idea is for children to learn, improve, be active, and enjoy participating in an activity.  Kids should feel they are in a safe environment to play and express themselves without feeling the “pressure” to win.  As a coach or parent it’s important that the children understand this expectation of them, and although disappointed to lose a game the positives of participation, over, winning should always be highlighted.

The best way to help motivate your child/players is to set achievable goals for them.  Goals such as getting fitter, giving 100%, being a good teammate, and trying to improve their performance.  These are all examples of goals that can be achieved win or lose.  When these kinds of goals are set kids can feel a sense of accomplishment no matter the result of the game.  These kinds of goals will encourage children to enjoy the activity and develop a healthy life long love of sports and activities.

Probably the biggest coaching mistake that occurs is the tendency to “over” coach.  How many times at halftime have you experienced or witnessed the coach telling the kids all the things that need to be fixed in the space of a 5-minute halftime break.  The reality is the kids are tired, hot, and excited.  They are only hearing about 10% of what you are telling them!  By keeping things simple and giving less instructions your players will tend to come out of the halftime break less confused and more apt to carry out instructions.  This same way of thinking will apply to your pre-game talk.  Less is more.  Pick three things that you want them to focus on, speak clearly and calmly.  Your players will respond.  When halftime comes, go back to those three things.   If you have something else to add from an observation in the first half, talk about it briefly and clearly.  Remember less is more and keep your instructions simple.

Another common mistake is constantly screaming instructions from the sideline.  This is a hard one, and one that we are all guilty of.  But most of the time it doesn’t help and will only add to the player’s anxiety in that moment.  It’s very tempting to treat the kids like chess pieces and shout at them to move from place to place, and this may very well seem to work.  The problem is when this occurs consistently you are training the kids to be like robots and not think for themselves.  If you want your defenders to step forward in the space in front of them, then tell them during training, or before the game.  Then remind them at half time.  A gentle reminder when playing is also ok, but constant screaming won’t help them.  Giving instructions when a player has the ball is also one that doesn’t help so much.  The player is concentrating on the ball when they have it, often someone shouting what to do with it will cause more confusion for the player, and more frustration when something goes wrong.

As much as you can, allow the players make the decisions on the field/court.  Let them learn to be thinkers.  In the long run this will help them become better players, and will also help them to enjoy the activity more.  It will also save your voice.  I coached swimming for one season; it took me the first two meets and a very sore throat to realize that the kids couldn’t even hear what I was shouting at them, they were under the water!

Highlighting mistakes that player makes, also occurs a lot.  This is also a tough one for coaches and parents not to do.  Often a player knows exactly what they did wrong; they don’t need reminding.  It won’t help them to feel good about it if they hear their coach or parent yelling at them.  If after the game you want to analyze the performance, you could possibly talk about it with them one on one.  But highlighting the mistakes in front of their peers will only be detrimental to their development as a player.

I have coached many different sports for many years, and I am by no means an expert.  I have made, and continue to make many of the mistakes above.  However, by recognizing them and doing my best not to repeat them, I slowly become a better coach, and in-turn a better asset to my teams.