For Coaches
Dodging the tension trap

Dodging the tension trap


By Karl Dewazien

The tension before a dentist appointment or job interview often seems mild when compared to the stress formed by many youth coaches before a practice session.

Coaches can avoid this dramatic emotional crisis and ease their teaching tasks considerably by keeping the following tips in mind:

Your players are learners: They must be allowed to develop at their own pace. Remember, they had to crawl, walk, run, jump and hop, in that order, so also will they develop their soccer skills.

Consider their skill level: Then adjust games so that each player is challenged. If conditions are too simple they will get bored. If conditions are too complex they will be confused. Therefore, create an environment which forces the players to make decisions and learn from their own mistakes.

Technically weak players: They should always work with a ball, in large areas and against fewer opponents. The opponents are not allowed to play at full-speed but are asked to either walk or jog while playing.

Technically stronger players: Should work with and without the ball, in smaller areas and against more opponents. These opponents are asked to play at game speed.

Duplicate the excitement of the league game: By minimizing listening and lecture time and maximizing touches with the ball and playing time. This is accomplished by playing small sided games such as: 1 vs.0; 1 vs.1; 2 vs.0; 2 vs.1; 2 vs.2; 3 vs.0; 3 vs.1; etc. The coaches’ duty during these games is to observe and help! But, help only those individuals who need help and preferably one individual at a time, just like coaching a substitute during a regular game.

Two goals: One goal to attack and one goal to defend are vitally important to have for all practice activities. Players must learn to instinctively respond to ball possession which means: Our Ball – all players must take-up attacking roles. Their ball – all players must take-up defending roles.

Shots on goal: All practice activities must include or end with a shot on goal. Players must first learn from what distance they can successfully reach the goal. Players must then learn to instinctively shoot on goal, dismissing the outcome.

Children learn from their mistakes: Learning takes place from errors made. It is crucial that coaches turn player errors into a positive learning situation. The player’s self-confidence should not be affected by mistakes that are made when playing soccer.

Karl Dewazien is the retired State Director of Coaching for the California Youth Soccer Association. He is the author of the Internationally published “FUNdamental SOCCER Book Series” and co-producer of the highly acclaimed “9 Step Practice Routine DVD.” He is currently a renowned Internet Educator of all things Youth Soccer. To learn more visit

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