The Game is My Test.

I saw a former player this past week and while reminiscing he mentioned how much he appreciated my approach to coaching in games. He was thankful that I was not one of those coaches who paced the sidelines constantly yelling instructions and / or berating players for every mistake made. "I don't know if you appreciate the confidence you instilled in me by just silently standing there watching us play."

I almost laughed out loud for many others have commented that I am too quiet and don't coach enough during games. Without directly saying so those people have hinted I don't do enough to motivate players during games. Then it occurred to me the people offering these criticisms have all been adults.  Parents, an athletic director and even my own wife, lol. 

I have explained my in-game coaching philosophy to many of those people in five simple words, The game is my test.

It is my responsibility as a coach to properly prepare my team technically, tactically, physically, mentally and emotionally during training to play the game.  If a player or the collective team is not performing well, it is my fault, not theirs. Why in the world should I be a joy stick coach constantly yelling about a players positioning, decision-making process or execution. If their play is that poor, then I have failed to properly prepare them to play and / or  have failed to place them in positions where they have a reasonable expectation for success.

Believe me, I am not calm on the game day.  I am nervous with a quiet intensity, but do my utmost to exhibit a calm and steady presence to my team, the officials, the opponents and the parents.  This is how I wish my teams to play - with a quiet confidence and poise so this is the image I seek to portray to them in my leadership.  Never too high or too low.

Look, if a particular technique is failing I cannot call a time out and hold a mini-clinic to address it.  That doesn't mean I am not noticing the problem though. I am constantly evaluating my performance in training while observing and analyzing play on game day.  I am in effect planning the next days or next weeks practice sessions while watching the game. Where have I failed specific players and the team as a whole?  What must we address to become a better team?

Some coaches choose to pace the sidelines constantly yelling instruction or criticizing players for mistakes. I have heard coaches screaming at their players during halftime. That's their choice. I choose to perform a self-evaluation of my practice and training performance already looking ahead to how we can become a better team.  If a player is not performing well in the game, it's not a matter of him failing me. No, it's a matter of where did I fail in preparing him?

Halftime of  a match can provide valuable insight to my performance as a coach. I don't like to talk much during halftime preferring instead to listen to the players discuss the problems opponents present them and the problems the players feel we are presenting to our opponents. As a coach I choose to listen and learn. I offer input largely to affirm the players observations and suggestions thereby lending my confidence to and empowering the players.  It is their team and their game to play.

So it is that I really appreciate the comments of a former player. To be honest, I never intentional thought about my in-game deportment as being confidence instilling to the players I coach although I do admit to being conscious of not wanting to destroy their confidence by being overly critical of them while they play. Receiving positive feedback from the former player is to me a signal that I passed a test somewhere along the way.   ;)


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