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Things Some Coaches Do That Help Opponents Win
Few coaches ever win the highest level competition their sport has to offer 10 times in 12 years, but John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach between 1964 and 1975 achieved this by teaching his players in practices and not distracting them with non-stop instructions during games.
In 1956 George A. Miller published a study suggesting humans can only handle a limited number of things in their short term memory (aka working memory) at the same time. Since 1950, studies confirm short term memory is improved when information is presented in smaller chunks that do not exceed the total limit of short term memory. Most experts agree humans can't handle more than 3 or 4 items in working memory at the same. Bibliography - Psychological Review, 1956, March: 72: 89-104.
When a player is given too many instructions by their coach, assistant coaches, parents, spectators and/or teammates their short term memory is overloaded and the player is not able to play up to their full potential.
To prevent information overload:
Prior to a game players should stay on the player's sideline and warm-up with their team. Often self appointed experts want their player to come to the spectator's sideline so that they can tell them what they should be doing. Most club's eventually pass rules that put a stop to this type of parent behavior.
Half Time Instructions
To prevent player information overload the same routine and instructions that apply to pre-game instructions also apply to half time instructions. (see above)
At half time players should stay on the player sideline. Often self appointed experts want their player to come to the spectator's sideline so that they can tell them what they should be doing. Most club's eventually pass rules that put a stop to this type of parent behavior.
Instructions During A Game
The coach and ONLY the coach should give instructions during a a game, unless they tell everyone that another individual will be giving instructions before the game or at half-time. Tasking Captains, an assistant coach, the goalkeeper, etc. can provide these individuals with invaluable experience in learning the game and decision making.
Periodically a head coach should ask the Assistant Referee on the spectator sideline if anyone is instructing their players, especially if they are giving bad instructions. If they are have an observer on that sideline identify the responsible spectator or parent.
During the Run of Play (while everyone is moving)
Instructions during the run of play:
An alternative to instructions during the run of play is making a quick note and teaching your players what they need to know and understand during practices or at breaks during the game.
Better yet, ask a volunteer or an assistant to video tape games for review in peace and quiet at home or in the office well after the game has ended. Review the tape with a view of finding the simple and most effective things that will enable your team to play at a higher level consistently.
During A Restart in Play (throw in, corner kick, kick off, etc.)
When your players are trying to restart the game quickly before their opponents are ready for the restart your giving instructions slows the game down, gives your opponents time to move to be in the best possible positions and "helps your opponents" have more opportunities to win.
When your opponents are ready for the restart but your players are not, then there is an opportunity to give one simple clear instruction to your players. The risk is information overload, so keep it to just one simple very clear instruction.
The Best Time For Instructions
The best time for instructions are during practices, but remember to keep all instructions short, simple and clear so that you players do not suffer from information overload.
Remember that coaches and parents can't focus and do as well when they are constantly being interrupted by others. And players, like the adults, can't focus on playing well under game pressure when they are constantly being interrupted.
The objective in practices is to break learning down into easy to understand and remember chunks. These are the building blocks on which knowledge and understanding of the game are built. When players are well taught in practices they become capable of reading the game and making decisions, under pressure, in games.
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