Make no mistake about it. The most successful clubs and countries in the game have been the ones with the best teamwork. From World Cup winners to Champions league victors, the best teams have always triumphed individual talent. So on the youth level, engraving this spirit of teamwork in the DNA of players should be a top priority. For that, the young guns need to be convinced why teamwork is important by practical methods. And that is exactly what we shall give you in this guide about the importance of teamwork in youth soccer. Keep reading!
Why does Teamwork Matter in Youth Soccer?
The fact is that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. When a group of people work toward a common cause and cooperate putting the collective interest above everything else, that is called teamwork. In youth soccer, there is always this urge to impress. Every player wants to stand out and get picked by the scouts. But if everyone wants to do the incredible, and best five players to score a goal, the team can never prosper.
Football is a team sport and can not be played in isolation. Success is a habit and players are groomed to succeed on the youth level. So it is imperative for youth coaches to instil the spirit of teamwork in the young guns. And teamwork does not mean that individual expression is hindered. Some of the best teams always had magicians but those magicians helped those around them while defending to win games.
So this spirit of teamwork helps players shine whilst maintaining the interests of the team as well.
What does a Good Team Player do?
So what is the target here? What is the kind of player you want to groom?
The basic difference between an individual and a team player is a mindset. And the difference in mindset is that a team player plays for the team and wants to win games for the team. While an individual plays for personal glory alone and feels satisfied even if his team loses if he has scored a goal.
The ideal team player is someone who respects everyone on the team and shows it in his demeanour. He cheers his teammates and is not afraid of showing affection and approval. He values the interest of the team over personal glory and works toward that and if a glorious performance happens along the way, so be it.
A team player does not need an armband to lead the team, rather he performs in such a way and encourages and helps others, that others follow him like a leader. This is the kind of player any youth academy should aim to create instead of individualistic players. A collection of these players will always win titles when they compete with a team of eleven individuals playing for their own survival.
Youth coaches should make players aware regarding the fact that this is the player they aim to create. They should start by asking players what they think makes a player good? And then if someone answers something related to teamwork, cooperation, or helping others, the coach should stress that point further.
The idea is to make the young guns crave that sort of admiration from the coach and becoming good team players in the process.
Ways to Stimulate Teamwork in Youth Soccer
It is the responsibility of the coach to encourage teamwork and collaboration in the squad. All the steps mentioned here have to start first from the coach. If the coach lacks some of these values they would never be seen in the players.
Build a Sense of Ownership
This is a great way of developing teamwork and in the process grooming leaders of the future.
The coach usually takes most of the decisions for the team. But if that responsibility is divided and part of the decision making is left to the players, that is a good team-building exercise. This could be something as little as picking the side of the goal or picking a cheer that the fans of the youth team do.
A relatively senior player may be assigned to help a new member of the team settle and become friends with him. All these simple things build a sense of ownership that motivates kids to defend the honour of the team and not just play for themselves.
Plan Activities Outside of the Game
One reason why professional teams have such good team chemistry is that they spend a lot of their time together off the pitch too. Most footballers find real-life friends from their teammates and that inevitably translates on the pitch.
It can be tough for kids to break the ice drying training as some are shy and introverted. So if you give them a retreat of sorts, that often relaxes them and gives them a chance to socialize and get to know the others.
So planning some sort of off-pitch activity with the squad is a great idea to develop teamwork in youth soccer. After all, you would always be ready to help out someone if you like them and that can only happen if you get to know them. A good outing is one that has any sort of team building activity. This could be something like paintball or other indoor sports where you win and lose together.
Applaud Performance and Encourage it
Why only embrace each other when the team scores a goal? Why not appreciate a good tackle, or winning a 50-50 where the chances of winning the ball were bleak?
All these are opportunities for showing affection and reinforcing the importance of playing for the team. But all this needs a culture to thrive. And the coach has to be the one promoting this sort of culture. Josh Wolff, a former US Olympian always emphasizes the importance of appreciating the efforts of each other.
The striker should be embracing the goalie for a great save and every single player should celebrate when a goal is scored. All this gives a sense of shared purpose which helps the team’s success.
This is especially important during the defensive part of the game. Every player needs to know what they have to do on the pitch. And when the whole thing comes together, it shows the magic of teamwork.
To build this spirit, players should have responsibilities on and off the pitch. Of course, the responsibilities have to be age appropriate. It could be as simple as collecting the balls after training or distributing the training bibs. When this training of owning up to responsibilities is developed, it translates on the pitch.
Attackers trackback to help the defenders and the defenders love to pass to their attacking teammates. The strikers pass to the midfielder in a better position and on the whole a culture of cooperation develops.
Listening to the Problems
Talking about the culture of cooperation, listening to one another is one vital part of that.
No player should feel that their input is not valuable on the pitch. To instil a sense of teamwork everyone has to be respected. So during the brainstorming sessions, if a young player raises a question or presents an opinion, the coach should listen to it and discuss it. This should reflect on the other players who then follow suit and a culture of respecting each other ensues.
Communication is all about listening and that alone can make players confident about their opinions and expressing them feeling safe around their team. On the pitch, a player that is the centrepiece of communication is the goalie. If the goalie is active and communicates with his defenders, that helps break the ice, so to speak. So a good exercise would be to give the goalie a chance to be vocal and establish communication to help others during the game.
Building teamwork in youth soccer is an essential part of the grooming of the stars of tomorrow. It is vital to know what a good team player looks like and then try to inculcate those values in the young players. A good team player listens to others, prefers the interest of the team to individual glory, applauds his teammates, and leads even if he does not have the armband.
The role of a coach is instrumental in creating a culture of teamwork. A good coach can help build team spirit in a squad by creating a sense of ownership about the team, planning ways for players to interact off the pitch. The coach should also give responsibilities to the young players and encourage them when they perform in a way that benefits the team. Finally, a coach should listen to all the problems and suggestions of the players which creates a culture of open communication throughout the squad.
Once the culture of teamwork is created in a youth team, the collective performance of the team improves by leaps and bounds.