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Let Them Think!

By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer AssociationTim_Bradbury-2019_for_Web2-small

It is a drum I have beat before and one that constantly is reviewed on almost every coaching license or diploma offered. It is a drum, based on the few games I have seen this year, that I am happy to beat again.

We start that discussion with a look at what makes soccer unique and connect it to how players learn and what they like to do. The discussion ultimately evolves into a realization that soccer is a game where players being able to read and understand the game, scan and make lots of quick decisions on what they perceive is crucial. There is a further growth moment as coaches recognize that players like to make decisions on their own. Yes, they enjoy trying to solve problems and are uniquely positioned to do so as they are more aware of their bodies, athletic power and soccer skill level than anyone else. They are also at any given time in a unique position and moment in a game, on a specific blade of grass, faced by a specific problem which only they have the power to solve  AS ONLY THEY HAVE ACCESS to all the information necessary to begin to solve the problem. They grow each time they make a decision and gain experience with which to make a better decision next time around. Soccer is indeed the player's game and they must be allowed to make decisions within it. 

As a soccer fan and a teacher, this seems so obvious to me that I am staggered by the drive, passion and, at certain flash points, pure anger as I see hordes of parents and coaches determined to ensure on game day that the players are not allowed to think or make it impossible to do so. I challenge any parent or coach reading this who likes to scream orders at kids as they play to answer, honestly the questions below: 

Do you value your child’s ability to reason and think?

Do you recognize that soccer is a game where each player makes hundreds of decisions in each game?

How would you feel if your child went to school and while trying to solve a math’s problem, some adults started screaming answers at them?

What is more important to you: Your child’s growth and enjoyment or the score line at the end of the game?

By what process do you magically put yourself in their bodies, seeing and feeling all that they do so you can best decide the solution to the soccer problem you face? 

For so many educational reasons, pure enjoyment reasons and simply because its insane not to do so, this season, make a pledge to let the players think and grow!