Stick to your guns

One of my strengths is my flexibility. As an educator, I choose my words and adjust my techniques based on the reaction of my students. As a soccer coach, I also give directions and tweak tactics when necessary. However, is flexibility always a good thing?

NO

If you change your ways because of:

  1. Lack of confidence in yourself or people around you
  2. Lack of preparation
  3. Lack of knowledge

The concept of flexibility becomes an escape route, which can lead to only temporary success. If you are aiming to be just temporarily successful, this definition of flexibility suits you well.

During the regular season, I experienced just one loss after taking charge. This loss cost us not only the championship, but also promotion. It was my first big match as a head coach and I decided to change tactics during the week of the match because I thought it would give us a better chance to win. After the match, I realized that I had changed tactics because I wanted temporary success. Why? Because I lacked confidence in myself as a head coach.

To put the pitfalls of my wrongdoing under the microscope, here is an analysis. We lost against a team that plays a 3-6-1: a flat back 3, 2 supporting wide midfielders, 2 deep-lying central midfielders, 2 center attacking midfielders who roam, and a lone striker. To counter this, I changed from my 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3: standard flat four, a ball-winning midfielder at DM, a roaming playmaker at CM, a box-to-box midfielder at CM, an inside forward at RW, a winger at LW, and a false nine at FW. On paper, a 4-3-3 is a standard counter-tactic against a 3-6-1 because wingers and overlapping side backs can exploit spaces behind wide midfielders. This would force the opponent’s wide midfielders to drop into defense, giving us more space to maneuver in the midfield. Everything was going according to plan until our opponent scored a goal from a corner kick and added another from a penalty kick. At halftime, I decided to go back to my 4-4-2 and we took the game to the other team. Despite our 2nd half surge, the match ended 0-2.

After this mortifying result, I decided to STICK TO MY GUNS. In other words, I now make decisions based on my philosophy as a coach, not because I want temporary results. I no longer make formational changes as a counter-tactic, I make changes to bring out the best in my players.

The match following our defeat was against the league leaders. I went with my 4-4-2 and we dominated in all areas of the pitch and won the match 3-0. We took our good form into the next match and put 7 goals in the back of the net while holding our opponents to no goals.

As a head coach, you are always judged by results.

Comprehensive League Results:
Week 1: Them 0 – 4 Us
Formation: 4-1-4-1
1st league win in history and against team relegated from higher division.
Display of team’s true potential.

Week 2: Them 2 – 1 Us
Formation: 4-1-4-1
Injury to dominant starting CB.
The beginning of team’s slump, so players in my class ask me to watch their next match.

Week 3: Them 2 – 0 Us
Formation: 4-1-4-1
My first time to watch team play.

Week 4: Them 2 – 2 Us
Formation 4-1-4-1, My 2nd time to watch team play.
Opponents get game-tying goal in the last second of the game off an own-goal.
Team asks me to be interim head coach.

Week 5: Them 1 – 3 Us
Formation: 4-4-2
First win as interim head coach.
End of bad results.

Week 6: Them 0 – 3 Us
Formation: 4-4-1-1
First shutout win since first fixture of season.
Officially take charge of team as head coach.

Week 7: Them 0 – 3 Us
Win by forfeit

Week 8: Us 0 – 2 Them
Formation: 4-3-3/4-4-2
First loss as head coach against rival title contenders.

Week 9: Us 3 – 0 Them
Formation: 4-4-2
Win against league leaders.

Week 10: Us 7 – 0 Them
Formation: 4-4-2

Week 11: Us 3 – 0 Them
Win by forfeit

Week 12: Them 0 – 4 Us
Formation: 4-4-2

Week 13: Us 1 – 0 Them
Formation: 4-4-2/3-4-1-2
5 game winning-streak, all shutouts.

Overall:
4th in the league (out of 14 teams)
Points: 28
Wins: 9
Losses: 3
Draws: 1
Goals For: 34 (4th best in league)
Goals Against: 9 (2nd best in league)
Goal Difference: 25 (3rd best in league)

Before my appointment as interim head coach and head coach:
9th in the league (out of 14 teams)
Points: 4
Wins: 1
Losses: 2
Draws: 1
Goals For: 7 (Tied for 7th best in league)
Goals Against: 6 (Tied for 6th best in league)
Goal Difference: 1 (9th best in league)

After my appointment as interim head coach and head coach:
Points: 24
Wins: 8
Losses: 1
Draws: 0
Goals For: 27
Goals Against: 3
Goal Difference: 24

This was my first venture as a head coach, and I learned a lot about myself. As a player, I always pushed limits and wore my heart on my sleeve. As a coach, I am the same. I keep pushing players to exceed their limits to truly fulfill their potential. I don’t want them to be as emotional as I am, but I do want them to be passionate.

In a few weeks, a newcomer’s tournament will be held. Teams from the 3rd division and 4th division have been put together and we were drawn into a group with two teams from the 3rd division, including the 3rd division champions. 3rd division or 4th division, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to be true to my philosophies to bring out the best in my players.

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