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Advice on coaching/instilling "aggression"

Discussion in 'Coaches Corner' started by DrewDawg, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. DrewDawg

    DrewDawg Dorito Dink SoSH Member

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    29,885
    I'm speaking as a parent, not a coach.

    Background: daughter plays U13 soccer (advanced level, not yet travel) and, per her coach, is the most athletic girl on the team. She's got some size (height, not weight), she can run, and she has some skill. In practice she can run faster than most, masters the drills the coach shows them, and can shoot just as hard as any other player on the team, understands the basic objectives, etc.. When the club's travel team (which is U14, a year older) needed guest players, the coach recommended her, although she couldn't play that weekend.

    In the games however, she can be timid. Not all the time, but she sometimes shies away from contact (and I'm not speaking here of wanting her to play rough, just normal contact), won't "run through" a play, etc. The coach has talked to her, I've talked to her, he's chatted with me. It's cost her a bit of PT as he's trying to get her to understand that this is the missing link to her game.

    Has anyone, either through their daughter, or coaching girls, dealt with this? Is this something that she's just going to have to master naturally if she wants to continue to play and improve. Are there ways to talk about this that I haven't thought of? Even with her timid play she's one of the best players on the team, but there seems like there could be more there if we can unlock that.

    Gracias
     
  2. C4CRVT

    C4CRVT Member SoSH Member

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    3,076
    My 15 YO son played hockey for several years. We had a deal: If he leaves it all out on the ice, 100% of the time 100% effort, I don't get to say a word to him about his play on the way home. Kids hate that half hour lecture about giving effort. Or at least mine did for me :)

    Needless to say, he won the effort award for almost all of his games. He's not a natural athlete but the coaches and other kids respected that he worked his butt off every shift.
     
  3. TheYaz67

    TheYaz67 Member SoSH Member

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    4,665
    I think "aggressiveness" can be a hard thing to teach, it will probably come with time, but you can work to build her confidence and that can start the process. Also have to ask - has she been involved with any plays (or witnessed any) like a collision between two players going for a ball that was somewhat aggressive and resulted in someone getting injured? Sometimes you have to make sure they know they can make an "aggressive" tackle and still be friends with the person you tackled (aggression does not equal "you are my enemy")...

    You could try and tap into the "team concept" - aka she needs to (together with her teammates doing the same thing) be more aggressive because that is the game plan for the team. Maybe also up the intensity when you practice with her 1 on 1, give her a few elbows/lean into her and make her only be able to take away the ball from you if she attacks/defends more aggressively.... my two cents - good luck!
     
  4. DrewDawg

    DrewDawg Dorito Dink SoSH Member

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    29,885
    C4CRVT--we've had that discussion about just giving it 100%, but I should add the reward of not talking about it after the game. Kids do hate that "debriefing".

    Yaz--I don't think she has, although thinking back on it, last season before this she had a relatively minor sprained ankle from a collision on a play where she scored a goal. I didn't remember that until answering this question. I wonder if that's in the back of her mind. She didn't miss any playing time because of it, but it was sore and a bit swollen for a few days.
     
  5. Heinie Wagner

    Heinie Wagner Member SoSH Member

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    663
    I find with the vast majority of kids, a lack of aggression is rooted in lack of confidence and fear of making mistakes. Kids don't "go for it" because they fear they won't get it and that will be seen as a failure. Rather than not being aggressive, they're really playing it safe, avoiding failure rather than going all out for success. Or they're not sure exactly what they are supposed to do, so they do less than they are able. Having a coach that points out every mistake or teammates that chastise each other for mistakes can be a huge factor in this. I've also seen in basketball and soccer when coaches emphasize plays or positions that kids get their minds set on holding their position or being in the right spot on a play so much that they lose their aggression.

    The Positive Coaching Alliance calls it filling "emotional tanks", I've seen it called bucket filling too, whatever the case, if kids know the coach and teammates believe in them, that mistakes are encouraged as part of the learning process and if they understand what they're supposed to do and what is expected of them, the aggressiveness comes. Encourage mistakes, and when a kid you're trying to foster aggression in makes an aggressive mistake - praise the effort like crazy. I believe that playing hard and being aggressive comes down to being in the right frame of mind more than anything.

    Some kids are aggressive no matter what, some it comes more slowly, but I'm pretty sure they all have it in them if it's brought out in the right way. Think of different ways to explain it to he, point out when other players are aggressive and how much it helps the team, point out when they make aggressive mistakes and how that's ok, encourage even the smallest aggressive things she does. Then always tell her how much you enjoyed watching her play.

    There are sport specific drills you can do to help with aggression - sorry I don't know any for soccer though.
     
  6. leftfieldlegacy

    leftfieldlegacy Member SoSH Member

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    646
    I attended a lecture recently given by a sports psychologist where he discussed leadership and motivation in young athletes. He distinguished between extrinsic and intrinsic factors that can help motivate young athletes. Extrinsic factors could be either positive such as parental support and good coaching or negative such as being overly critical or pushing the kid too hard. His main point was that extrinsic factors only take an athlete so far. It is the intrinsic motivating factors that are most important. Yaz 67 touched on this when he said that aggression is tough to teach. He's right. The motivation to become more aggressive has to come from within. Being more aggressive involves a willingness to inflict pain and to absorb pain. Even if you teach your daughter that she can be aggressive and still be friends with the other players after the game, at the moment of impact, aggression becomes very personal. It usually hurts. I don't think you can influence her to make that commitment.

    Your daughter is also at an age where she is going through the chaos that is puberty and she may not yet be ready to focus on taking this next step as an athlete. Give her time. My son went through this while playing hockey. He loved the game and being part of a team, but he always avoided contact where many of his peers sought it out. At some point, and completely without my involvement, he decided to "flip the switch" inside of him and he decided to become a more physical player. Each kid moves at their own pace.
     
  7. Rancho Relaxo

    Rancho Relaxo Member SoSH Member

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    I want to thank everyone for the insight here. It has been incredibly helpful, especially as I think about my own kid and her experience. Personally, my sports aggression came later in life. I wasn't wired that way initially. And I think it did stem from confidence -- not just in my sports ability, but also myself as a person (okay, maybe that's a bit corny, but I believe it). My daughter plays U12 club soccer. She was never the most aggressive kid, and a lot of that stemmed from her fear of making a mistake. That's largely innate -- it's just who she is (and, frankly, who I am/was). She's also averse to disappointing a coach/teacher/authority figure. And she hates getting yelled at.

    On the field, that initially translated to a very passive style of play. She wouldn't speak up. She wouldn't try to dispossess an opposing player (just run alongside her). She wouldn't use the footskills I'd seen her master in practice. She'd get easily frustrated when trying to practice/learn something new. She played a very defensive style of midfield (and not step up to help the attack). And the last few seasons, she had a coach who peppered his general disinterest with loud outbursts of disapproval. Under that, she withered. Compounding matters, she broke her arm last year, which deprived her of a half-year of play and made her understandably gun-shy (it was a pretty terrible break with a rather painful recovery).

    This season, a lot of this has changed. I credit two things. By pure luck, she wound up working with a personal coach who is phenomenal. She is knowledgeable, patient and encouraging. She really helped my kid break down the mechanics of how and why to do certain things (from shooting to passing to first touch with purpose to beating a defender). It is, admittedly, expensive, but I've seen the impact it has had on my daughter's play and overall confidence. The other thing, she has a new coach who is very encouraging, adept at teaching, and positively active on the sideline. And it shows in the team. The kids are upbeat. They talk each other up. They are genuinely happy when a teammate does well.

    So, is my kid suddenly aggressive? Nope. Is there a chance she'll take a step back? Sure. But she's getting there, and for me, patience was key. Case in point, she scored seven times in an indoor game last week. What struck me was not the number of goals, but the fact that she took shots in the first place. She'd never done that before (she has great vision and generally prefers passing to shooting, but the team's leading scorer was out, and she stepped up). And more than the goals, seeing my daughter's confidence blossom right in front of me is something I'll always cherish. The smile on her face as her teammates congratulated her -- priceless.
     
  8. Heinie Wagner

    Heinie Wagner Member SoSH Member

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    This is everything - being positive, patient, encouraging and knowledgeable. I read a book by Swen Nater about John Wooden's teaching style called "You haven't taught until they've learned". I used to think "some kids just don't have it", "they don't care enough", "they don't want it enough". After reading that book, I take the personal accountability that I can teach a player anything, if they're not doing what I want them to, it's not because of something they're lacking, it's because I'm not finding the right approach that is effective with that individual's personality and learning style. You found coaches who are reaching your daughter, that's golden, that's the hard part (because most youth coaches suck), be positive, patient, encouraging and ask those coaches what you can do to help.
     
  9. Rancho Relaxo

    Rancho Relaxo Member SoSH Member

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    210
    What I found interesting was that her previous coach was extremely knowledgeable. He was the club founder and head coach. His daughter is a high-profile nationally recognized player. His initial philosophy was spot-in -- coaching long-term development over immediate (and easy) victories. I think he just had his fill. He quit having parent meetings. Practices seemed disorganized. He wasn't the most attentive during the games. He just seemed done. When my daughter guest-played for her current team, the difference was night and day. Her energy level was through the roof. She worked hard.

    Maybe in some ways, it was a good lesson. If she sticks with the sport, she may not like every coach down the road. Or teacher. Or boss. But you still have a job to do. Still, things are so much better now.

    Semi-related question: She has a teammate who looks like she just doesn't want to be there. She's generally disinterested in the game and half-heartedly kicks the ball in random directions. I feel for her because she just doesn't look happy. It doesn't help that her parents ride her incessantly from the sidelines. I'm sure the coach realizes all this, but I'm more unnerved that my daughter tends to complain about the other kid. I'd prefer she set a good example, trying to encourage and be supportive without going over the top. I can just tell that my daughter (and the other kids) are kind of learning to exclude this kid and work around her. How can I help my daughter here? I know it's the coach's deal, and I don't want to step on any toes. I just don't want my daughter to complain openly about another kid or further any alienation. Lord knows, my daughter is far from the perfect player herself and will stumble now and then. Shoot, she already has!
     
  10. TrotWaddles

    TrotWaddles Member SoSH Member

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    576
    Three kids here. One essentially non-aggressive. The middle a real competitor. The last, the youngest incidentally, has a level of aggression that I would describe as malice. For my non-aggressive kid, we had some success in achievement orientation emphasis. In other words, if you want to be successful doing this, then these type of behaviors are necessary. She will never be as aggressive as the third kid but she did see more success when she focused on winning as an end state.
     
  11. riboflav

    riboflav Member SoSH Member

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    7,350
    You could just tell her to cut the crap. And if that doesn't work, you could threaten to take her off the team. You are her parent, after all.
     
  12. Rancho Relaxo

    Rancho Relaxo Member SoSH Member

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    210
    True, but threatening to take her off the team for complaining about another player seems, well, extreme or perhaps hollow if I don't follow through. Assuming that's the part of my post to which you're responding, that is.
     

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