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Halftime Talks That Scramble the Brains

By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer AssociationTim_for_Web

Having spent more than 30 years coaching and educating coaches in both formal and informal environments, I can honestly say that I have seen many highlights and many lowlights. I wish that the nature of these clips that play through my mind had evolved and that we were making new mistakes in teaching youth players. 

One of the areas of greatest concern is that of the halftime talk. I am not sure why, perhaps it is the emotion of the game, perhaps it’s the inability of the coaches to remember what teaching and learning look like or perhaps it’s their inability to manage their emotions, whatever the reason, the result is always the same.

You will have to go a long way and search carefully to find a halftime talk that is not:

  1. Filled with so many points and observations that the players remember none of it.
  2. Is so confusing in its layout that the players go out more confused than when they came in.
  3. So full of emotion and anger that the joy of going out in the second half is diminished.
  4. That the kid’s ability to think and solve the problems of the first half is truly diminished due to the volume and number of words that have just been asked to follow.
  5. So full of commands and orders that players stop thinking at all.
  6. That present no time for players to discuss their thoughts. (Which it should as they are the ones playing the game after all.)
  7. That is frequently augmented as the players go out with a contradictory point of view offered by a parent.
  8. Often has contradictory thoughts presented by adults desperate to make a point who don’t listen to what the previous adult said. 

So, to try and bring a bit of clarity and hope to the halftime pantomime, I urge coaches try the following process:

  • Throughout the first half, observe and record key statistics connected with style of play.
  • Employ subs to help such as consecutive passes in a row, times we switched point of attack and created overloads, times we played passes that broke lines, numbers attacking the area.
  • Use the rule of three plus one. Make a maximum of three clear and concise team points and use statistics to support. Example: We need to work harder to support the player on the ball so we can possess to form attacks – most passes in a row was three… (These should be announced in pre-game speech)
  • Plus, one – after three clear team points made, give each player one simple and clean technical focus. Example: Tim work on a first touch that takes it away from pressure. (These should be presented in pre-game chats)
  • Start halftime talk with players discussing problems and successes from first half (have them do this in units of the team) and let them report to rest before you talk. 
  • Try to get around to each individual player and give progress on the goal you presented pre-game.
  • Get into the habit of the players speaking first and last. After all, it is their team.