One of my all time favorite quotes is from former college basketball coach Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” It’s a message that as a coach you should instill within your team. No matter what the score is, whether you’re playing uphill with the wind in your face or if you have to play down a player due to a red card, never, ever, give up. A great example of this was a World Cup qualifier match that we saw the other day between Germany and Sweden.
There are so many lessons to be learned this October 16th night in Berlin, Germany. Germany came out flying as Miroslav Klose scored two goals in two minutes to put the Germans up 2-0. Moments later Per Mertesacker scored his first ever international goal for Germany, making it 3-0. Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for the Swedes.
It got worse as the second-half started, only 10 minutes in Real Madrid starlet Mesut Ozil put the nail in the coffin after latching onto a Thomas Mueller cross, making the game 4-0. Germany could now put on the cruise control and walk off the pitch at the end of the game with three points, or so they thought. Sweden finally got on the board as Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed home Sweden’s first goal of the match. Still, you would think Germany would be comfortable up 4-1 with less than 40 minutes to go in the game. Two minutes later Mikael Lustig took advantage of some poor defending and goalkeeping and pounced on a loose ball making it 4-2. This is the time where panic started to sink in for the Germans. In the 76th minute former Bolton striker Johan Elmander had a tidy finish to make the game 4-3 with 14 minutes plus stoppage left in the game. The Sweedish poetry struck in the third minute of stoppage time when Rasmus Elm unleashed a volley to tie the game 4-4, an all important draw for the Swedes. What a miraculous comeback! More shocking was the collapse by the Germans.
Two lessons as coaches that we can learn from this game: 1. Don’t ever give up 2. Don’t ever get comfortable with a lead.
As the coach it is your job to implement that never say die attitude. If you show passion within your coaching your players will mock you in their play on the field. Your spirit within the game is something that is contagious, if you keep encouraging and stay positive, you never know what could happen. If you are flailing your arms all over the place, barking out orders and yelling at your players you’ve already lost. You are the one who dictates the culture and attitude of your team.
The majority of the time you will not see a comeback like what happened to Germany. Being down by that many goals is demoralizing and not many teams can overtake it. As a coach, if you are up by that many goals you will normally start moving players around or resting your starters. So what do you do if the other team scores a goal and decreases your big lead? Do you start moving players around back to the way it was before?
There is no clear-cut answer for this question. As the coach you must be able to read the flow of the game. Was the goal a fluke that was created by a mistake? Did they score against he run of play? Or are they starting to generate an attack and starting to build momentum? The only time this would be a concern for you is if the other team was starting to build momentum and you can see they are gaining confidence and attacking more freely. If this were the case you would have to make an adjustment. You might have to make some substitutions or move players back to how you started. If there isn’t that much time left in the game you might want to go more defensive and switch up your formation. It all depends on the flow of the game and the situation, which you must be able to read.
The truth is in sports anything can happen to those who do not give up. You need to coach your players to keep playing until the final whistle. Make sure your players come off the field at the end of the game knowing they gave everything they had. This is true in sports and in life. Miracles happen every single day. Don’t ever give up, don’t ever give up!