I believe that mistakes are a fundamental part of learning, and creating an environment where children are encouraged for their effort, not just the result is vital if we are going to produce a player who in willing to take players on or keep control of the ball under pressure. As Albert Einstein said “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Looking at today’s England players and comparing them to players from the Brazil or Spain national team for example, there are two differences that leap out at me. The first is how uncomfortable England players are in possession of the ball, when put under pressure, compared to their counterparts from South America and Spain. I believe this is at least in part down to the culture that existed in England of ‘get rid’ and of berating players for losing the ball.
The second difference is how willing players are to take on a man. I have watched Liverpool for 36 years and have been lucky to watch some fantastic players in those decades, but one player in particular stands out as a victim of the English mentality to berate mistakes and that is Steve McManaman. He started his Liverpool career so brightly, beating players for fun with his silky dribbling skills, but as the years wore on and he got used to being berated by the crowd when he lost the ball, he seemed to stop trying. He would jink towards a player, drop a shoulder, and then come backwards and pass it. It being both the ball and responsibility. To my mind, he learned that losing the ball was bad, and thus stopped trying and thus depriving the club of arguably his best attribute.
The Football Association have made great strides in trying to help with this by introducing mini-soccer and the Respect guides, as well as running coaching course for the coaches, but I still see managers moaning at players for making mistakes too often at U7’s level and it is even worse as the kids get older.
I believe coaches should praise the effort of players who try to keep a hold of the ball, even if they lose it, because it teaches them that they were doing the right thing and gives them the confidence to try it again. With practice, they will develop and improve. Criticising the mistake teaches them that it is better to pass the ball, and the responsibility to someone else. I think it is equally important that parents are on the same page with this, but that is another story!
Do you have any views on this? Any thoughts on how this can be coached? Does anybody disagree?
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