"just because children don't complain, doesn't mean it doesn't have a negative impact"
- F.A. Safeguarding Children and Young People in Football
The above quote emphasises the fact that there can be a lot of negative influence, much of which children ignore or attempt to deal with. Even so, they are affected by every negative comment or instruction from players on the field,
Parents and spectators as well as coaches and managers. All these parties have the responsibility to consider how their verbal feedback impacts on the child.
Football is a competitive game and playing to the highest standards requires dedication. Sometimes, the coach needs to reinforce this. This can not always be done through encouragement alone. Sometimes the coach may choose to tell off the player or isolate the player (as long as the punishment is age appropriate).
However constantly criticising players for making mistakes can have a negative impact on current and future performance as well as the player's long term development.
Coaching during open play
The affect of pre-instruction is mainly negative to the player's short term development. Pre-instruction is where a coach/spectator tells a player what to do before or just as the player is about to make the decision. It is generally the coach/spectator's intention to help the player by guiding them to the correct path. However, as football is a dynamic activity, the coach is limiting the options available to the player and instructing him/her on only one course of action. This leads to the player responding the same each time and so their actions are predictable. Instead the coach should allow the player to make the decision and give him/her a selection of alternative options with reasons for doing so once the ball is out of play or the opposite side of the field.
Pre-instruction places stressors on the athlete (Smith and Cushion 2006) which are in the form of two separate and opposing influences. The first is that the player delays his/her response by pausing to comprehend or consider the instruction. This leads to the player having less time to make his or her decision, which can result in a rushed pass.
The second influence is the rushing of the player as a result of a panicked response to the instruction or in response to having less time due to the delay caused by the pause. Either way the player's execution of the action is severely affected in the short term.
“Why should we give the solution for the children
when the children can find the solution for themselves”
Nico Romeijn (KNVB) (Dutch F.A.)
Long term Development
Evidence suggests that the long term result of pre-instruction is that the player will make a solitary response to a set position, thus becoming predictable. It also encourages him/her into following the coaches wishes in a similar situation, even though the situation may be different.
The consequence of allowing the player to make mistakes, is that the poor decisions may lead to a poor match result. However the coach/spectators should consider whether the short term success of the result outweighs the long term development of the player. We all want to win, but winning at all costs can come with a cost.
“Sometimes you can teach a player what he is doing wrong without
actually telling him or him actually knowing he is wrong”
This form of pre-instruction can come from coaches, spectators or even players. A great example of rushing is when a team mate shouts "shoot", just as the player is about to shoot. More often than not the player’s shot is rushed as a result.
There is no place in the sporting environment for foul and abusive language. Managers and spectators see their idols on television using similar language and so copy them. Often this sort of behaviour is excepted in the footballing environment, even in children's football, whereas in the players house, at school or in public, such language and abuse would rightfully be abhorant.
Football is a passionate game. It excites all though involved with it. However it is important to put into perspective. The football environment can turn very nice people off the field into bullies on the field. Irrespective of whether you win or lose, the individuals coached are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect and consideration, irrespective of their failings on the football field.
It is important to ensure that club officials, players and spectators behave appropriately towards young people who take on such roles. It is necessary to recognise that, like adults, children and young people can and do make mistakes when they are learning, and overly critical and unsupportive responses may constitute verbal and or emotional abuse.
"I am grateful to my father for all the coaching he did not give me."
Ferenc Puskas - Hungary International, Footballing Legend
Smith, M. and Cushion, C. (2006). An investigation of the in-game behaviours of professional, top-level youth soccer coaches.
Journal of Sports Sciences. 24(4), pp355-366