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A captain on every play.

Wherever the (soccer) ball goes, the well-coached team will float mini-teams of three or four players toward it (1 v 2, 1 v 1, 2 v 1, etc.) throughout a game. The more times these duels are won, the greater your chances of victory.


To make this a reality, a coach needs 11 captains to organize, encourage and influence the play. One captain cannot do it, unless he is wearing a big "S" on front of his shirt.

Nor can Superman's dad, resplendent with cape and kryptonite shinguards, help as the all-seeing, all-knowing coaching expert on the sidelines. They are often too far from the critical plays, and this is why coaches must educate their players to create a "captain/coach on every play."

The nearest player to the teammate who is involved in the "eye" of the game action becomes the captain/coach for that vital moment. He has the best seat in the house to coach and to advise his teammates how to win the duel.

The more times you put verbal oil into the team engine, the smoother it will perform. Quality information "in" creates quality play "out."

Screaming instructions at the last moment is no way to win anything. It will probably reverse your strategy of getting ahead of the play and coaching your teammates to win. You have to develop the art of reading the play early and preparing your teammates for the next action.

Good players are like detectives--spotting clues to outwit their opponents (visual cues, body language, and habits).

For example, their last look at a play is often the first choice of what to use when play is resumed. A savvy defender might use such a clue to determine how to defend.

For example, if the head of the opposing passer goes down as he is about to pass and he winds up kicking the ball, the defense can channel the play. The information will allow the nearby defender to get ahead of the game by planning his move--maybe intercept or contain.

At that very same moment, the nearest teammate will be alerting/coaching his teammates. Sending them good advice.

The "real coach" must educate his players into this winning mode of thinking by:

1. Playing small-sided games where it's easier to spot and have many opportunities to "captain" each other.

2. Playing one-on-ones with a third player on the outside coaching one of the players.

3. Going to pro or college games. If possible, let them be ball-boys/girls.

Its vital for the coach to both highlight good examples and correct the "non-coaching" efforts of the players.

A team of captains, coaching each other, is like facing a team that's playing with 30 players--it intimidates.

As one coach said after his team had lost to Liverpool, "I'm certain they cheated. The Mighty Reds (Liverpool) seemed to be everywhere with their support play and verbal enthusiasm. To play that way, they had to have had two teams out there!"

Such was their energy level. Great teams know the power of knowledge and enthusiasm--coaching each other and encouraging each other to play brilliantly.

This is particularly so whenever things are going against your team. Too often youth or high school teams tend to clam up when the going gets tough.

Potholes, red lights and conceding goals are part of life's rich canvas. The teams and players that can rebound from these setbacks with renewed vigor are the ones to stay away from, as you know they are going to compete to the final whistle. They are mean.

When is the right time to start this black hole in the vast majority of youngsters' soccer education? The earlier the better--and keep adults far away. How can a child learn to be a captain/coach when they have a dozen parents screaming 20 pieces of expert advice per second?

We have had a generation of subservient, non-talking players because of this assault. Who can blame them? Haven't the parents been their verbal life support system since infancy?

You know the picture is wrong whenever the parents become the dominant vocal force and the players remain verbally invisible. Sadly, it should be the other way around.

For proof go out and listen or probably not listen to a couple of games. Another indicator is watching/hearing a high school game.

Most of these youngsters have played for nearly a decade and yet cannot read nor coach nearby teammates. What have they been doing all these years? It's almost as though they have been playing in their own bubble or world.

In fact, trying to correct this fault in older teenagers is almost impossible, as their habits have, for the most part, been set in stone. You cannot over emphasize the need to start creating this verbal intelligence in the pre-teenage years.


To help understand the learning process, you must understand the three main cancers in fighting the development of skillful players. They are:

1. Fatigue. Players simply don't learn when they are tired.

2. Verbal interference. Yelling names ("Carlos!") as you receive the ball is of little use.

Hopefully you've learned your name by your teens. What you do need is simple, vital information to help you and the team retain the ball--"Man on!," "Time!"

Giving misinformation or poor advice, or worse still, no verbal help whatsoever is a major soccer crime!

As one coach, upon seeing one of his starters about to be tackled hard, said: "It's like watching your girlfriend or mom about to be mugged on the other side of the street. Don't you have an opinion? Don't you care?" Can't you even shout, "Man on!"

3. Coach dependence. Where the coach dictates every play and shouts constantly. He winds up with non-thinking robots who traditionally get their speed pass and sprint out of the sport as fast as possible.

As you can see, these verbal skills, allied to "soccer savvy," are like secret weapons that very few players or coaches understand or use.

Can your team be the first in your area to create 11 captains on the field? If you can mold a squad of individuals into a real team, you will deserve a new Superman uniform for the play-offs.

Go for it!

By Graham Ramsay, Director of Soccer Development Maryland State Youth Soccer Assn.

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Author:Ramsay, Graham
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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