Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review Key Points of a Game with Your Players

   Each game, win or loss, brings with it both positive and negative moments. Inspired individual performances, outstanding team play, exemplary effort, missed opportunities, careless mistakes, lackadaisical play, and moments of good and bad judgment are examples of player performance and game elements that you can either praise or criticize.

It’s important to address these points while they are still fresh in players’ minds. But how do you go about doing so?

What to Say After the Game

After your game, gather the team together and highlight any positive points. At this time, you may also want to briefly address your primary concern—but be aware of post-game emotions and how your message may affect certain players. Always try to follow any criticism with praise. Many of your players may already be disappointed with their performance.

At younger ages, try to spread your praise to cover each member of your team. For the weakest players, pick out their contributions (no matter how small) and compliment them. In basketball, for example, I might point out how a screen helped another player score. For another kid, I might mention an excellent rebound. Many times you can simply compliment weak offensive players for their good defense.

Lastly, position your next team practice as an opportunity to overcome the more obvious problems that hurt your team’s performance. Provide hope. You want to instill the belief that the team and each of its members are improving. That practices and work is leading to better play, and ideally victory.

Analyzing a Loss

Good coaches, even at the youth level, will find it difficult to immediately let go of a loss. This is normal and an indication that you care, are competitive, and want to improve your players’ performance and opportunity to succeed. The loss represents a problem that you need to solve.

Typically, you will go through an analytical process to better understand your team’s performance. What key breakdowns and failures contributed to the loss? What good points can you further strengthen? You should find your mind weighing the individual player performances, the effectiveness of your team strategies and game plan, the missed opportunities in certain game situations, and the corrective actions that you need to take before your next game. Let it all roll around inside you for a while.

The Next Practice

Before your next practice, pull together all of the key positives and negatives in your mind, and determine what areas that you should address in the upcoming practice. Write down a practice schedule that includes drills or other activities that will help correct the noted deficiencies.

After your practice’s initial warm-up, whether you won or lost the prior game, pull your players together and again highlight the game’s key points. Congratulate your players for their positive plays and together analyze the problem areas. For the latter, ask leading questions (see Teach Like That Famous Greek Guy). Give them a chance to respond and try to elaborate on their good answers. Firmly state the corrective actions that you believe are required. At this point, begin the drills and other activities that directly relate to your talking points.

Always understand the cause-and-effect relationship for key events that occurred in the prior game. Discuss these, along with the lessons learned, with your players and implement corrective actions in the next practice.

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Wendy LeBolt said...

Another great post, Jeff. I think the meat of it you've said here, "The loss represents a problem that you need to solve."
This is where 'it's just a game' comes in. Telling kids this after they lose I have never found helpful. But addressing it as something that needs solving, like a game or puzzle that has a solution or a key move - now that gives you options. And when the older kids can treat it this way too, you'll always be heading in the right direction.

Kids have trouble lumping the loss into the "I played bad" bucket. Or sometimes the "he played bad" bucket. Helping them find the solution planted in the game is key. What didn't work out there? why do you think they couldn't get you the ball? How did that big kid keep getting so many open shots? now those are things you can try to solve.

thanks Jeff

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Thanks Wendy. Interesting twist on the "game as a puzzle motivation." To the extent that I ask leading questions in our short game reviews, I guess I'm using that approach. But my overall goal is not so much to intrigue the kids with solving a problem, as it is to show them that there's a path to success. As you mentioned, this takes the emphasis off of young players playing poorly and shifts the perspective toward the future (and provides hope). It emphasizes the development process over the outcome—something that's good in recreational play.

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