Article from CLeatBeat:
The entire game of football is divided into two-halves, with an all-important 15-minute break between the two. That break isn’t just about regaining some strength and building up energy for the second half, it is mostly about fixing out the problems that may have plagued the first half performance.
The first half is over and incidents, goals, mistakes, injuries and other events are things that need to be sorted out at halftime. With just 10 minutes to sort things out, how does a coach go about explaining their ideas and changing things around in the dressing room?
How many times have you heard a commentator state, “The coach must’ve given them the hairdryer treatment”? Fact is, no professional coach ever shouts at his players at halftime, because the occurrences of the first half are a thing of the past. No professional coach uses the past for anything but to provide constructive advice to make the future better.
If a team is down nil-4 at halftime, the coach won’t blast his players off – s/he will create a plan to try and creep back into the game, slowly, or minimize damage, depending on what the priorities are. Similarly, if the team is up 7-nil at halftime, you won’t hear a champagne cork popping in the dressing room either. As professionals, at the highest level of the game, you will only find people who know how to think under pressure – and the moment you start shouting, thinking stops.
That is why you will never hear screaming in any dressing room, at halftime.
The first and most important thing for a coach to do is get feedback from the players. The coach needs to know what is happening out there and what the players are thinking & experiencing when they go about trying to implement the plan set out for them. There needs to be clear and concise communication to determine the actual on-field success and failures in implementation of the plans, thereby giving the coach a clear idea of what needs to be done to change things around.
Every coach goes into halftime with a few changes or ideas in mind. After listening to the players, those changes or ideas are modified before the players are told what to do in the second half. Listening to players is extremely important because it can give you information, about opposition players, their behaviour and tactics.
This is also the time when you need to check for injuries or knocks that any player might have taken during the course of the first half. Give the first two minutes of this break to this activity.
Every coach needs a spotter – someone who sits in the stands, high above the pitch, and observes/looks for patterns of play. They look at what the opposition is doing and how it is affecting your team’s strategies. Tactically, the spotter is an important person to have on your coaching staff and gives you vital information that you wouldn’t get from the side of the pitch.
In most youth level games, you won’t need a spotter but if you are working with a serious team at a serious level, you will need a spotter who has an eye for the details.
Most coaches, even at the highest level, spend a lot of time in selecting a good spotter because the information this person will provide, during the course of a game, a training session and even when scoping out opposition, is absolutely invaluable.
Throughout the first half, you need to make a note of places where the opposition is causing problems. You need to come up with solutions to those problems and give your players the information they need.
It comes down to the point where you need to tell your players what you expect from them. After the self-introspection time, which you allow the players in the first few moments of halftime, you may find that they may have solved some of those problems on their own. For everything else, you need to pass on the information to the players.
Here are some of the angles you need to address through your half-time team talk:
CONDITIONS: The pitch and weather may have an influence on the game. If you think that things have changed since the start of the game and are affecting the way your players are performing, then you need to tell them how to adapt to the situation. If it’s raining, they may need to change their footwear, start passing to the feet, think before sliding in for tackles, and more. Keep a track of the playing conditions and keep your players informed on things.
REINFORCEMENT: Good habits need to be encouraged and if your players are doing something good out there, then you need to encourage it instead of only focussing on fixing the negatives. Every single bit of encouragement, especially at the youth level, makes a difference to the way your players perform on the pitch. Make sure you keep pushing the good habits and pointing out the bad ones with information on how to fix things.
PLAY YOUR GAME: You will come across plenty of coaches who tell their players how to beat the opposition rather than tell them how to play the way they know how to. When you tell your players to focus on attacking your opposition’s strengths, you stop them from working on their own strengths. While it is always a good thing to know about your opposition’s strengths and weaknesses, you should always focus on telling your players to play their own game. If you do want to exploit your opposition’s weaknesses, then it should be through your team’s natural way of play. Judge your players on the basis of how they play and not how they stop their opposition.
COMMUNICATION: Every player on your team needs to talk to the other. There are some who direct the play as well, because their position on the pitch may give them a unique view of what’s happening out there. If a player is straying from the regular plan, unable to execute it or finding it difficult to play against a particular marker, the other players need to be able to control the situation by maintaining a constantly open communication channel. Whether passing the ball, giving instructions or simply communicating ideas, every player needs to communicate efficiently and effectively.
ENCOURAGE: Not only are you not supposed to shout or criticize your players, you are supposed to encourage them. Tell them what they are doing right and praise them for it. Tell them what they need to do and that they will be able to do it.
Your plans should be made keeping your players in mind and when you convey these plans to them, they too need to believe that they can go out there and do it! You cannot avoid negative comments completely but try to give them a positive twist. Also, make sure that for everything negative you say, there are plenty of positives in your armoury.
FINALLY: The most important thing that you need to remember is that the information needs to be given systematically. For e.g. first speak to the defenders, then to midfielders and so on. This way, everyone knows exactly when to pay attention and when to focus on recuperating. Before you are ready to head out, give your players a bit of time to speak once again. This is that part of the talk where you make sure that everyone’s understood everything.
The halftime team talk is all about reinforcing the plan you had set for the game. When playing at the youth level, your primary objective should never be to win the game. Sure, children love winning too but parents & coaches tend to like winning more. Always focus on objectives that will help the players grow as football players and human beings.
Make sure you don’t end up in meaningless monologues like Hollywood stars with rallying speeches. Try to be motivational but make sure you give your team meaningful information that will help them perform better. Be clear and precise in your instructions, encourage your players and focus on your team’s objectives and try to help the team work their way towards them.