Naming the Team

When it comes to naming the team to play each game, how do you do it?

I’ve had quite a few conversations with my fellow coaches about this subject over the past few months and one thing I do know is that everyone does it differently.  Each coach likes to name the team in their own way according to their style but is there more to it?  How important is it?  What impact can it have on your environment and on your players?

Is there a right way to announce your selections to the players?  I would say no there isn’t, if there was every coach across the globe would be doing it the same way. Does Sir Alex announce his name the same way as Arsene Wenger or Harry Redknapp.  I don’t know but I’m sure there are probably differences.  It’s a fascinating subject for me because I love looking into the impact it has psychologically on players, it’s intriguing and isn’t very often discussed.

Lets look at a few options on how to name the team…

  • You can decide on who is starting and who will be on the bench, write it up on a piece of paper and pin it up on the dressing room wall.
  • You can gather all your players around after a training session and announce the squad for the weekend, then once the players arrive in the dressing room you can announce the team to start.
  • You can talk to every player individually before the game and tell them if they are starting or not in the next game.

There are also probably many subtle differences or changes to the examples above and it probably depends a lot on how much access and time you have to your team and the players.

If you are a part-time group who just train Tuesday and Thursday night and play Saturday’s then time is a constraint.  If you have access to the players in a training camp environment where players are staying in a hotel then you have more time and opportunity to discuss things 1on1.

This is my way of announcing the team before a game, and take into account when I have my team together for International games we are staying as a team in a hotel or training camp environment, it’s live in and so I have complete access to everyone at any time.

Firstly, of course my technical staff and I will discuss the selections of every position and go through all our options until we reach a conclusion that we are all happy with and I am totally confident in.  Then the evening before the game we will have personal 1on1 meetings with each player.  My assistant coach and I usually split the team in half and spend 5-10 mins with each player.  In these meetings we will inform the player if they are starting the game the next day or not.  If they are starting we give them some information on what we want to see from them personally.

We set them a script:

If the player isn’t starting we give them the reasons why not and some feedback on what they need to do to get their chance to start at a later date, we also discuss the importance of their potential impact on the game from the bench.

Once all the personal meetings are done and everyone knows their individual situation we have dinner as a team and allow a bit of time for players to digest the information given to them.  Then later that night we have a team meeting and formally announce the team using a PowerPoint template we have designed (see picture above).  We then present our set play routines, who has what responsibilities etc and then leave them with 3 key points to focus on in possession and 3 key points out of possession.

The players then get to sleep on it and wake up the next morning knowing exactly where they stand and what their role is that day for the team.  You might be thinking I’m being a bit extreme or over the top but it has worked well for me this method and I’m happy with the responses I get from the players.  It can be quite time consuming as well but the effort is worth it in my opinion because it’s all about the players.  I’ll explain a bit my rationale behind my process.

I believe the players need to know where they stand the night before the game, everyone wants to play and start the game so you’re always going to have disappointed players in the squad on a match day but it’s about managing that process to get the most effective outcome.  With young female players I also believe it’s better to be open and honest with them, teenagers are clever, they know when they are being taken for a ride and if you try taking your players for a ride and feed them lies, you will get found out and in an instant lose any respect you might have had so I always try and earn their respect (or keep it) by being truthful and open about my selections.  So the staff will tell them face to face if they are playing or not in a private setting, we do this by having another female member of staff present and away from their team mates.  This gives them the chance to ask questions if they don’t understand anything and it also allows them to show emotions if they want to.  It also allows me as a coach to connect with them on different levels, I want the players to understand what I like about them as players, what I want them to improve on and that we will work on it all together to make them better.  So for me it’s important to have a chat with each of them before we play.

I then also believe once decisions have been made and communicated the team needs to come together again and be as one, re-focus on the task ahead and be given some simple detail to think about before they go to bed.  When everyone wakes up game day morning there is now no awkward silences or issues, everyone has slept on their emotions (high or low) and there is a more even emotional charge in the environment, players have all come to terms with their roles (if they agree or not) and the atmosphere is good.  The other advantage of announcing the team the night before is if there are any big problems you can sort them out there and then rather than anything arising on game day when the starters are trying to focus.  You don’t want negative distractions on game day if you can help it.

In my humble opinion how a coach names the team is hugely important.  It’s the most important decision you have to make and so time and consideration of how it should be done are equally as important.  If you name your team aloud in the dressing room before the game and one player isn’t happy and that creates a negative vibe or that player doesn’t give 100% then that could be the difference between winning or losing, between playing well or not.  So why risk it?  I personally want all my players knowing where they stand and a pleasant vibe in the changing room before the game.

If you put yourself in the players shoes they want to know some simple things before a game.  Am I playing? If I am then what do you want from me?  If not, why not? If not, what do I have to do to play?  The chances are if you can answer all these questions openly and honestly for all your players in the squad you’ll have a team that respects you as a coach and also knows where they stand.  That will in turn lead to them being happier and more accepting of your decisions.  I’m not convinced that reading the team out and your reasoning for leaving a player out is “it’s my decision, accept it”.  The modern player and modern game have moved on, coaches need to have sound reasoning for decisions they make and if you have sound rationale the players get the truth and the coach has a much easier time explaining it.  Coaches can win players over or lose players trust and respect in they way they handle these types of things so it’s important to put lots of thought into what suits your team best.  How can you do it most effectively in your situation and in your environment.

You may agree or disagree but the way you name your team each week might just be one of the most important things you do as a coach.


One comment on “Naming the Team

  1. Pingback: The ‘C’ Word: Culture | PowerPoint Coaching

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