As a coach of a junior or school team, you should always be in teaching mode when working with your team, especially during a match. Your first aim should be to teach them the game so that enjoyment becomes a feature of every game. Winning will become more important when the players grow into their teenage years and beyond.
It is important to comment on concerning aspects of the game as early as possible, giving the players less time to forget what happened and you the time to reinforce a good aspect in the team’s or a player’s game efforts.
Don’t overload the players with too many ideas at each break. Obviously select a small number of the important issues to highlight, noting down other issues to mention after the game and discuss at your next practice. Keep a diary of the points you make to the players for further discussion later.
Obviously, there are a number of times before, during and after the game when a coach has the opportunity to talk to his players as a group or on a one to one basis with individual players. Some sports provide more opportunities e. g. Australian Football, Netball, Basketball; each having three official breaks during the game. Some sports allow runners to deliver messages during the game. In junior sport, the best results come from adult runners who have played the game and can “talk the talk”.
Below, I detail how I went about the process of giving team talks.
• I would begin by putting the playing positions on the board and discuss what the team rotations were and the rationale for any new positional changes.
• I would discuss our team plan, in simple terms.
• When necessary, I would mention opposition players to watch.
• Game playing conditions would be noted e. g. windy or wet conditions.
• Lastly, I would spell out one or two team goals for the first section of the game.
• I would comment on the things well done first.
• Then I would comment on success or otherwise in following instructions.
• Point out where the game plan was not followed.
• Give players some advice on what they need to do.
• Give them one or two goals for the next passage of play.
• Where necessary, talk privately to players who need personal instructions or advice.
• Discuss positional changes.
• Review what needs to be done to improve.
• Finally I would give instructions on what needs to be done to win or improve the performance.
There may seem to be too many things to say and do. However, many of the ideas can be combined to reduce the discussion. As well, some could be discussed as the players relax with refreshment while others are discussed just prior to the game recommencing.
• Offer praise to the team on aspects of the game that were well done.
• Comment on players who did well, particularly on players performing above expectations.
• Review the game discussing what worked well and what needs improvement.
Keep your post-game comments short, keeping in mind that tired players can’t concentrate well enough to retain ideas.
• Tailor your training to improve on the mistakes made in the last game.
• Review each game at the next training discussing what needs to be done to improve the team’s performance.
• Remember the “Kiss” principle. (KISS- keep it simple stupid)
The use of a runner:
• The runner’s chief purpose is, in junior games, is first and foremost one of educating the players about how best to play the game. It could include praise and well as ideas to improve.
• The runner might need to know the number of the player to whom the instructions are to be given to avoid mistakes.
• Kept instructions simple.
• Encourage the runner to get out to and back from the player quickly with no discussion. He/she is to just give the instruction.
It is important to understand that you may not need to do all these things every game. How much you need to do will depend on the age and experience of the members of your team. I developed my own Proforma that I had with me on a clip board during the game. This Proforma contained the team playing positions, a place for comments on each of the above subheadings as well as a place to record comments about the game and players during the game. I kept these to use in my forward planning for the team and it was useful in writing reports on games and in determining who might receive game awards and trophies on Presentation Night.