Regular PDP Contributor and Founder of TOVO Institute, Todd Beane explains the importance of a ‘less is more’ approach to communicating with players on the pitch and asks: Are you at peace on the sidelines?
Johan Cruyff changed the way FC Barcelona played football back in the early 1990s. He did so in the same Camp Nou stadium that people travel from around the world to visit and in which some of the best football on the planet has been played since that time.
But what does this have to do with sidelines and coaching styles?
Johan tells the story of the way the player bench used to be before they remodelled it. The bench used to be dugout of the ground, literally, so that the substitute players and coaching staff sat below the level of the field with only their heads visible. The field itself had such an arch for water drainage that it was impossible to see clearly to the other side of the pitch.
“I could barely see my wing player,” explains Johan Cruyff.
Also the stadium could get so loud that players would have a hard time hearing anything at all from the sidelines.
Again, why is this relevant to coaching style and match management?
If you did not have the option to communicate with your players with a running dialogue from the sidelines how would that change your coaching style? In other words, if you just had to sit and watch your players perform and only speak to them at half-time would they be better or worse for that experience? The answer may surprise you. Your players just might surprise you.
…how many top professional coaches do you see running up and down the sidelines giving play-by-play instructions to players
In youth training, many coaches believe that if they are not screaming at the players constantly and directing their every move, then they are not “coaching”. Even parents start to question the coach, wondering why he is not being active.
But how many top professional coaches do you see running up and down the sidelines giving play-by-play instructions to players. Not many. And it is not just about stadiums that are not conducive to it like the old Camp Nou.
First, the speed of the game is much too quick to allow players to listen to instructions in the heat of the moment and then act upon them with pressing opponents breathing down their necks.
Second, football is a player’s game during which the athletes themselves make quick decisions and execute the game-plan to the best of their ability. It is wrought with mistakes, creative solutions, challenging options and controlled chaos.
When we as coaches coach the game as if we were playing a games console, we rob the players of the game they love. We cannot micromanage the game as a coach might in American Football where every play is mapped out and called in from the sidelines. Football is about freedom and about fluidity. Football is about the players much more than the coach and it should remain that way.
Many coaches believe that if they are constantly directing their players’ every move, then they are not “coaching”.
Trainings are for instruction and matches are for celebrating what our players have learned. A coach’s communication at the youth level should be prudent and positive.
So, sit back on the bench. Observe, observe, observe and enjoy watching your players perform. The game is theirs to play.
It may not be easy, but you can find peace on the sidelines.