Touchline dilemma

There’s a break late in the game. The opposition winger is deep in your team’s half. Your left-back has tracked back and has the winger in his sights. Your centre back is heading in the same direction. The rest of the outfield players are distant, with one exception: an opposition striker is making rapid progress into your penalty area.

I’ve described my approach to following my kids’ sporting ventures: the art of supporting, while not supporting. Bellowing at the players has no part in this policy. But there’s policy and there’s practice.

The game is close, a 2-1 advantage to your team. A cross from the winger will find the striker with just the keeper between him and the winning goal, unless your centre back stops his run towards the corner flag and marks the striker lurking behind him.

Junior athletes learn best from experience. A reliance on instruction from coaches can create a dependence that stunts players’ development. The importance of not getting caught upfield and of being aware of opponents making runs are important lessons.

The winger stops, looks up and sees his teammate enter the penalty area. Your defenders have their eyes focused on the ball – your keeper does, too.

The match is a semi-final. Victory would take your team to a final at a semi-pro ground. What a learning experience that would be. Or the match could be a relegation decider. A draw would send your team down to a division where most of the opposition are of a standard that wouldn’t stretch your team – a whole season of marking time.

Your team’s coach has seen the threat. But he doesn’t shout and the wind whipping across the pitch would carry his voice away from the centre back who’s continuing his run towards the winger, alongside the left back.

The centre back is your son. He takes defeat hard, getting upset and remaining down for the rest of the day if he thinks he’s had a bad game. You’ve also heard some of his teammates complaining about him after matches.

One shout from you and he could check his run, intercept the pass, save the game, get the team into the final (or escape relegation), earn the praise of his teammates.

What would you do?



Filed under individual development, parenting, winning and losing

11 responses to “Touchline dilemma

  1. sarahmo3w

    Shout! Every time! Only at my own son, not at any of the other kids.

  2. Ciaran

    Ask him where’s the danger? see if he spots it then it’s his decision & his problem to solve. .

  3. Stevie

    Doesn’t way what age. If its uncompetitive, let him make the mistake. In competitive play, coaches should have ‘trigger calls’ so one i use is ‘runners’ which would indicate someone arriving lane unmarked. The kid should’ve been more aware to protect his goal and let the full back deal with it 1v1 if he is any older than 10.

    • I like the idea of trigger calls. Does it work? Can the players pick out your call in the hurly-burly of a match? Thanks for contributing.

    • Ciaran

      Not sure about letting him deal with the 1v1. Who’s on that wing/ how good is he/she? How close are you to the endlines don’t get bogged down in the technical advice on this cuz you don’t have enough information about the situation/players to make that call.

      • Ciaran, many thanks for the comments. I can see that you and some of the other commenters are approaching the question from the technical/coach’s perspective – a valid view and quite different to mine which is as a Dad. It’s good to get a mix of those perspectives.

      • Ciaran

        Sorry that’s what I meant by the last comment to the other coaches. You don’t have information to say from a tactical point of view wether he should go across or stay. The question is simply “would you shout?”

  4. The central defender may not have checked over his shoulder and seen the danger. Or maybe he has and chose to double up on the winger. What about the goalkeeper? He can see all the players. Has he communicated to his central defender about the danger lurking?

    Encourage players to be self-aware and help each other by communicating. Armed with that knowledge, repeated experience will help forge good decision-making.

    If the awareness and communication isn’t happening at the critical moment in the game, as the coach you might have a keyword you can shout that triggers those responses in your players.

    Coaching in the form of occasional questions, whether whispered quietly 1-to-1 at half-time or shouted across a windy pitch in the dying seconds of a match.

    • Graham, it’s interesting to read the thoughts of a coach. Are you able to be as reflective in a match situation, with the game on the line? Maybe it’s just a more emotional experience for a parent. Many thanks for the comment.

  5. phil parker

    Whatever happened to the bannerposts that touchline tech were going to show us, in the respect program?

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