Professional athletes already know how to keep their emotions in check. But young soccer players do not. That's why it is so important to keep their emotions up. The Positive Coaching Alliance calls this filling the emotional tank. If you fill players' emotional tanks, you will get the best performances out of them.
There are many ways to fill young players' emotional tanks. You can provide words of encouragement. You can be supportive. You can just be positive. As a youth soccer coach for the past ten years, I have found different ways to keep their emotional tanks full. Here are some examples.
I Got Your Back
My boys team was in a close game. They were 10 years old at the time. One of my players was called for a handball, and the other team was awarded a penalty kick. As they converted the kick, my player immediately put his head down. He blamed himself for the resulting goal. But a teammate came over and immediately told him, "It's okay. We'll get it back." He picked him up, lifted his spirits and got him feeling good about the game again. Creating a culture where players support each other is a great way to keep their emotional tanks full.
Another great way to fill the emotional tank is to make a player a leader. The best way to do that is to name them captain for a game. Players on my team earn the right to be captains each week. I evaluate what they did in the previous practices and games. They can be a captain for a variety of reasons, even for being a supportive teammate. When I announce the captains, I also say why they earned it. Rotating captains is a great way to recognize and reward players. And this really boosts their performances.
At our practices, I recognize the best individual efforts. I announce individual records in skills such as juggling, running and shooting. It's a friendly competition within the team. This gives players something to be proud of. It also gives them confidence during games.
Name a Drill After a Player
When a player excels at a particular drill, I name the drill after that player. The player owns that drill until another player performs better. This is another way to reward players in practice. And they really get a kick out of it.
Having faith in your players gives them confidence on the field. When players ask me what to do during the game, I tell them to figure it out. After all, they are the ones playing the game. They know the current game conditions. For example, my players are empowered on set pieces. They no longer look to me for strategy. They discuss the situation on the field and set up the play. I have confidence in their decisions, so they are comfortable making them.
These are some ways to fill the emotional tanks of players. This is very important for younger players who are still trying to figure out the game. Players with full emotional tanks will perform at a high level. And that will keep them playing, improving and having fun.
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