Building a team to be fearless

It has been 3 months since my last post about starting my coaching career. These last 3 months have been up-and-down to say the least.

In this post, I will go into detail about 3 major things that I have been focusing on this summer.

  1. Building Trust
    A coach taking their post before season starts and a coach taking their post during season have to implement different methods to build their team. A coach joining their team during pre-season or the off-sesason has time to gather information about players, past results, future opponents beforehand. Thus, they can prepare sufficiently for the up-coming season. On the other hand, a coach joining mid-season has to find their feet immediately: player reports, finding the right tactic, opponent scouting reports, building trust. This last aspect is imperative.In my experience, the best way to build trust is to always communicate with players.  At every practice, I make it a habit to go up to each player and do some small talk: check their physical condition, ask about classes, talk about previous games, and talk about other random things. Unfortunately, a number of 3rd year students, who were the core of building the team from scratch, opposed to having me as head coach. I was aware of this and did talk to these young men on a few occasions, but they had lost motivation to play for a team where they were not in charge. The captain, whom I communicate with the most, also tried to get through to these guys, but to no avail. However, that’s soccer.

    I make my team selections based on effort in practice and also performance in practice and training matches. I do not select talented players who do not attend practice; however, I do select players how show improvement and also perform well. In other words, practice is no longer a mundane, go-through-the-motions event; it is an on-going rehearsal stage for players to showcase their talent, growth, and motivation.

  2. Engraining Philosophies
    I have a 3 philosophies that I am drilling into my players:
    ・Go hard or go home
    I constantly tell my players to go out of the blocks with power and put the other team on the back foot. If the other team puts us on our back foot, dig in and work to change the momentum in our favor. I want my team to play no-nonsense defense, but also be free-flowing on the offensive side of the ball. In order to do so, it takes hard work, concentration, and discipline.・Bring out the best in each other
    For players to bring out the best in each other, they must know strengths and weaknesses of all players and have a good understanding of the system I want them to play. First, for players to gain an understanding of each other, I have players explain others’ strengths and weaknesses before situational drills. This way, players will consciously make decisions which will “bring out the best” in their teammates.

    ・Have confidence
    When I first started working with my team, I noticed a lot of half-assed decisions which lead to goals for the other team. The majority of half-assed decisions come from a lack of confidence. To deal with this problem, I use constructive criticism plus positive reinforcement. During training sessions, I point out things that could be done better, but I do not give answers. I make the players solve problems on their own and when they are able to figure things out for themselves, I give positive reinforcement. This is connected to 3. Providing Opportunities

  3. Providing Opportunities
    Japan as a society, is traditionally hierarchal. In other words, you do what you are told to do. For example, let’s look at baseball as an example. Why is Japan one of the powerhouses of baseball but not soccer? The answer: the play of baseball players are largely decided by the manager.  Batting: bunt, swing away, etc. Fielding: position of the infield/outfield. Base running: hit-and-run, steal, etc. This is the type of environment where Japanese players strive under.However, when you give Japanese players too much freedom, they are unable to make on-the-spot decisions. To compensate for this on the attacking side of the ball, I do a lot of situational drills (previously mentioned) in different areas of the pitch and show players the various options that are available. Depending on the situation, for example positioning of defenders, positioning of attackers, etc., options might change or might not. Decision making is up to the possessor of the ball. To assist this player, players off-the ball need to make themselves available and also communicate where the best option is.Defensively, I have players think about which areas they cover in a certain situation, and then I let them run the drill. Even if I know they are in the wrong area, I wait and see if they are able to self-correct on-the-fly.  If a certain player does not notice their mistakes, I have another player point it out. Only if nobody has an answer, I will tell them my answer.It is a long process to cultivate decision making skills, but providing opportunities for players to think for themselves will help the team in the long run.

All of these things I have explained are helping me build a team that are fearless. Fearless of losing, fearless of making mistakes, fearless of tough challenges.

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