“I will not quit” says Gus Poyet, current manager of Sunderland Football Club. “But something is going wrong. We’re bottom of the table and I need to find solutions.” Whether you’re a coach or a player, quitting needlessly is a catastrophe. Poyet is right – when the going gets tough, the tough find solutions. Here is my short and sweet guide to finding coaching solutions.
Have a Confidential Audit
By and large players are afraid to tell a coach exactly what they think. They are afraid to spell out where they think the problem lies and what they think needs to be done. Why? Because you, as coach, are a key decision maker. Players will always believe that telling a coach what he or she needs to do better will damage their chances of playing or will jeopardize their relationship with the coaching staff.
It’s useful to give them a ‘safe’ platform to vent or to lay out exactly where it is they think the team can improve. They may have some great ideas – they are your customers after all.
I wrote about the advantages of developing a confidential audit in my football psychology book Soccer Brain and I want to reinforce the idea here. Give players the space to offer up their ideas. Allow the process to be completely confidential. In that way you get to become a better, more accomplished coach – and some of their answers may provide immediate solutions that you may never have thought of.
Hold an Appreciative Inquiry
A slump in form is usually accompanied by players rehearsing failure and predicting poor performances. This debilitative form of collective thinking can destroy individual confidence and team cohesion.
Get your team together. Deliver a session where you brain storm team strentghs. What has been working? What has been outstanding? What has mirrored excellence? What things do you need to keep repeating as individuals and as a team?
Such a process re-invigorates. It builds energy and confidence. It gets your team talking amongst themselves about what works, what’s strong and what great things need to be repeated. It’s a great team building exercise.
Develop a Team Script
From your appreciative inquiry you can start to put together a team script – or as I call it in Soccer brain, your team script.
This is a set of team goals or processes that help your players to work cohesively and play confidently. It helps their noses point in the same direction. It helps them cope more effectively with the adversity they are under.
Pick three plays for your team script. Let them inspire and use them to help your players aspire to where they want to be.
Have One to Ones
Finally, take the time to speak to all your players on a one to one basis. Help them plan their own personal way forward so they can be the very best individuals they can be and the very best team mate they can be.
One to one’s help you foster great relationships with your players. It shows you care and it’s one of the fastest ways out of a slump. Help them set their individual goals and you demonstrate that you can help them improve. Help them improve and they’ll be loyal for life!
Great football psychology. Great team psychology!
Image courtesy of George Green/Shutterstock.