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Over-coaching: the greatest soccer coaching sin of all?

Over-coaching is probably the most serious mistake a youth soccer coach can make. It is, sadly, also one of the most common.

What is over-coaching?

Over-coaching is excessive input from the coach during training sessions and/or matches.

In its most extreme form, over-coaching becomes a form of remote control (RC). The RC coach doesn't coach - he insists that his players respond immediately to his instructions.

You can see them every weekend - RC coaches who wear team jackets with their initials on. They play the game in their head. They pace the touchline, kicking every ball and making most or all of the decisions for their players.

Why do they do it?

  • Some coaches think their job is to make things happen.
  • Some think a coach who is loud and controlling is a 'proper' coach.
  • Some like exercising authority.
  • Some want to look like their professional coaching heroes, pacing the technical area and yelling at everyone in sight.
  • Some have yielded to parental pressure to win.
  • Some have an ego that is tied in with the success of the team.

Why is over-coaching bad?
In matches, constantly telling players to "shoot", "throw it down the line", "pass!", "look behind you", etc. stops young players from learning how to react to game situations.

In coaching sessions, over-coaching manifests itself as a constant stream of instructions, unnecessary interventions and telling players what to do instead of guiding them towards the answers by the use of open questions.

The result? Player development and learning slows to a standstill. Players are not motivated to improve and there is a distinct lack of fun and free play.

Any short-term success on match days is replaced by long-term failure as players on other teams who are allowed to think for themselves inevitably outgrow the over-coached "robots".

The game has become a game for the coach, not the players, and eventually they both lose. 

The solution
Players must be allowed to think and make decisions on their own. They must learn to solve problems for themselves during coaching sessions and during matches.

So don't talk too much. Instead, let the children play.

Spend more time watching during coaching sessions. If you have to intervene, ask questions, don't give your players the answers and never say 'you MUST do this' or 'you MUST NOT do that'.

Your players have brains as well as feet. Your job as a coach is to develop both.

I'll leave the last words to Gerard Molenaars, a respected Dutch youth soccer coach.

"Don't talk too much. Over-coaching, like micro management leads to decreased motivation, learned helplessness and disrupts the flow of play. It is better to make one or two correct and timely observations in a practice than 100 poor and irrelevant ones.

"Let your players play. A well-constructed game with motivated players can achieve remarkable results.

"Give the right advice. Stay on topic, pick the moments carefully and when in doubt remain quiet."

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