Irish Grassroots Football

Campaign for Positive Sports Coaching

Football Coach Mike Geoghegan wrote this article about promoting positive sports coaching. This is something I have a keen interest in and I know most of you, will also. I hope to get Mike to write some more for the blog.

What type of coach are you?

It’s being a hard week in work; your boss has really gotten under your skin. On the way out the door your wife asks you to carry a bag of coal in from her car. ‘Damn, I’m already late. Come on son get in the car now’. You rush to the meeting point for your team’s under 10 game. There are nine kids and about seven parents waiting for you. ‘Tough night last night’ your assistant Phil shouts at you. You swear under your breath but smile. Then it starts. ‘Sorry Mick I can’t go today, can you take Steven for me then the same for Rashid and Brian. You think ‘Some parents just don’t care about their kids not like me.’ Then off to the match in a small convoy.

You arrive at the park at 10.15 with fifteen minutes to kick off. Of course the pitch is the other side of the park. ‘Come on lads get a move on, I won’t tell you twice.’ Your voice even sounds loud to yourself. You run across the park with the jersey bag over your shoulder. You make it with ten minutes to spare and give a quick team talk.

’ Remember last week we put in no effort. You are good players but you can lazy, you need to try a lot harder or you will be beaten again. Now these are no good so go out and beat them’

Ten minutes in, two down. Your son loses the ball in midfield. ‘Shane you roar, how often have I told you not to dribble in midfield, Pass It. ‘Rashid misses an easy chance. ‘Rashid, Rashid the goal, hit the goal.’ The ref is coming towards you. What does he want? ‘Would you mind stepping back off the pitch.’’ I wasn’t on the pitch.’ ‘Yes you were and have being since the start.’ ‘Sorry, yeah ok.’ You step back off feeling hard done by. ‘I wasn’t on the pitch was I Phil.’

‘God, Brian is brutal today Phil says in reply. ‘Yeah your right.’ ‘Brian come off and take a rest. ‘Paul go on and see can you do better.’ It’s two one when Rashid scores. Well done Rashid I knew you could do better. Shane then tries a pass through midfield which is cut out and they score. ‘For God sake Shane I told you not to pass through midfield, down the sides down the sides. ‘Shane looks hurt but if only he would listen he could be a good player. ‘Shane head up you’re a lot better than this come on.’

Half time whistle and your team is three one down.  You sit then down and you and Phil stand over them looking down at the. ‘Have your drinks and say nothing. ‘Look lads you’ve done nothing we worked on in training, remember our passing out wide, remember our shooting. There is no point us teaching you things if you are going to ignore them. Now get on the ball and no more silly mistakes. Shane you’re the captain, you need to do a lot better’’

Second half no one wants the ball, no wide passing, no shots now five one and you have stopped shouting and stand with your hands on your hips.  ‘There number six is huge, couldn’t be under 10 looks at least eleven and the number three is not far behind him. ‘Phil says in your ear. ‘Always the same down here ‘you reply wishing the game was over. The ref finally blows it up.  Ok see you Tuesday on the astro.’ Back in the car with Shane.

‘What time did you go to bed at last night?’ ‘Half eight.’ ‘Huh you did not’ ‘I did.’ ‘Well it didn’t look like it’ ‘I did my best’ ‘Yeah.’

You catch you refection in the rear view mirror and see your own cross face. You look at your son in the mirror staring out the window looking miserable. You get home. Mary asks you ‘How did it go? ‘Terrible’ you say. ‘How did you play? She asks Shane. ‘Terrible’ he replies. Shane goes up stairs.

‘Why do you coach she asks if you don’t enjoy it.’ ‘I do enjoy it.’ ‘Doesn’t look like it to me she says and goes into the kitchen. You sit in the lounge. And ask yourself the same questions. ‘Did I enjoy it?’ No. ‘Did the kids enjoy it? No. So why are we all doing it?

You look into the mirror how have you come from being the Dad who wanted to help out, to watch his son play to the Coach who shouts gets angry at nothing has no patience. You have become the accidental Coach Bully. Sound familiar.

Bullying of all sorts is a big issue at the moment.

We mainly concentrate on child to child bullying including cyber bullying. What about Coach bullying. We see it all the time. I know bullying is a strong word and will cause offence and defensiveness. Of course most coaches do not set out to bully and are well meaning adults. It is however easy to become the accidental bully. There is so much stress and pressure in modern life. We all want our kids to do well. So when there is a match and it all boils down to forty, sixty or ninety minutes, sometimes we can get caught up in it and the other stresses in our lives can come through. Then we have the raised voices at kids and at refs and at opposing coaches. The problem with accidental bullying is it causes as much harm as intentional and more if it comes from a person the child trusts.

We see it every week.

Coaches standing on the pitch shouting at young players. Coaches using very negative phrases and harsh tones to little kids. Coaches giving half time and full time lectures to kids who cannot understand the message. The accidental bullying is not physical but can have a huge effect on the kids’ self-esteem and enjoyment of their sport. Coaches have probably the third most important adult relationship with kids after parents and teachers. Coaches have a duty of care and must remember that a single loose negative remark can be carried through life. Kids by the age of eighteen have heard 50,000 positive remarks about themselves and 250,000 negative one. We are losing a lot of kids to the game at around 13 or 14 years of age. Some say it is because kids have so many distractions, other say it is peer pressure. I suggest they give up the game because they no longer enjoy it and will no longer go just because their parents want them to. No one wants to be shouted at and feel they are disappointing someone week in week out.  Let’s as coaches help tip the scale in favour of positivity and get the kids to have fun whether they are winning or not.

 Coaches have a duty of care and must remember that a single loose negative remark can be carried through life. Kids by the age of eighteen have heard 50,000 positive remarks about themselves and 250,000 negative one.

Here are some of my ten hints to help you become a positive coach for younger players.

  • Leave your work and home issues behind you.
  • When stressed breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Get to training and matches with time to spare
  • Don’t make statements, ask questions.
  • Smile.
  • Praise the players.
  • Enjoy the matches.
  • Ignore the results.
  • Confine your coaching to the midweek sessions.
  • Do your coaching courses.

Become the Coach Guide and Friend not the Coach Bully.

Article by Mike Geoghegan: Academy Director  Kildare and District Underage League and Head Coach Naas AFC

I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary