One thing the off-season does provide is an excellent opportunity to meet with your players individually and as a group to discuss their situation and goals. As we have discussed ad nauseam in other parts of this website, communication is an extremely important part of effectively managing a team. It is very difficult to have too many meetings with your players. These can take the form of a chat during or after practice, a quick word during the warm-up for a game, up to a scheduled interview-style meeting before and after each season.
With fifteen players having 15-20 minutes each this process can take several evenings, so it is better to organize meetings during the off-season. We tend to use meetings to find out how happy the player is and whether there is anything we can do about it. Some players will want to talk about their own agenda items, others will prefer that you ask the questions, so we recommend having a set list of questions to use if necessary. Questions could include: –
- Why do you play soccer?
- Are you enjoying the game at the moment?
- Do you like going to practices? (which ones did you like or dislike?)
- What plans do you have for the off-season/high school season/college?
- How do you keep fit? (Have you set any goals?)
- Do you remember which goals we set for you to work on this last season? (How did you do with the goals?)
- What goals do you want to set yourself for the next season?
- What can I do to improve my coaching?
Some of these questions are easier to ask (and answer) than others. Any coach who is trying to improve should be open to feedback from their players. Not only will this help you to improve your coaching, but it will show your players that you are approachable and willing to listen to what they have to say. For more information about these, check out The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches, by Greg Dale and Jeff Janssen (particularly the communication chapter).
For goals, we encourage you to read books and thoroughly understand the psychology behind setting goals, their importance, and how to set goals that are realistic. A good book to read about this is Soccer The Mind Game, by Steve Bull and Chris Shambrook (p.24-44). Goals should be exciting for the player, achievable (but not too easy), measurable (how do you know if you got better at them?), and have some benefit to the ability to play soccer. During the meetings we encourage our players to find ways to stick to their goals. Some put notes on their mirror or other places so they are reminded about their goals every day.
Off-season goals are often fitness or technical in nature, as these can be worked on without the need for other players to help. You can set targets for them to achieve with their fitness and discuss the ways that they will work on maintaining or improving their fitness over the weeks ahead. With technical goals you can set out activities for them to practice every day to improve various aspects of their game.