Ask The Experts
Model behavior

Model behavior


Q: I have a few kids on my U-10 boys soccer team that do not pay attention every time I am giving out instructions or teaching them something. How do I motivate them to pay attention without using punishment?

A: First, you should know that you are not alone in this matter, and that this type of behavior is quite common in boys of this age group. However, there are two very important sides to this issue.

When discussing behavior, I always find it best to begin my season by sharing my expectations with the players. I let them know that when I am speaking, they must show respect and listen. The same as they would do for a teacher in school. Next, it is critical that you remain firm and consistent in the enforcement of this expectation. If you are not, they will take advantage of you as much as you allow.

If you are further along in the season and the problem has escalated to the point that you can no longer tolerate it, then you need to have a team meeting. I might suggest that you include the parents in the meeting (by doing so, you now have allies working to help you). In a very serious manner, you let the boys know that their lack of respect and attention has reached a point that is no longer acceptable.  Moving forward, they will be held accountable. 

One way of doing this is to tell the boys that they will be asked to sit out for five minutes for their first transgression. For the second occurrence, you will call their parents and have them picked up from practice. This should get their attention.

Remember, it’s always easier to begin your season by being strict, but it’s critical that you remain firm and consistent throughout the entire season.

The other side of this issue that we sometimes get caught in as coaches is that we tend to over coach.  It’s a good idea to constantly check yourself and make sure you are not falling into this category. Kids don’t want to stand around and listen to us adults....they want to play!

Steve Locker is the founder of Locker Soccer Academy (2004) and Second Nature Sports (2013). He has 16 years of collegiate head coaching experience, including seven years at Harvard University. He has spent the past 10 years working intensely with young children, and has personally worked with over 15,000 children in that time. His recent book, “Playing For The Long Run” compliments his efforts in fulfilling his passion to educate parents and parent-coaches in youth sports. His websites are: & 

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