It’s game day and you know you’re playing a team that is a weaker opponent. Several other teams have been getting big results with high scores, 6-0, 7-0, 8-0. The parents are starting to get frustrated and complaining about “running up the score.” At what point do you stop trying to score and show some respect for the other team? Should you start implementing rules to your team on scoring or should you worry about picking up bad habits? How do you handle this situation?
First and foremost, put yourself in the opposing coaches shoes and imagine how frustrated you would be. Sometimes as a coach you inherit a team where there isn’t much you can do to make an immediate impact. At some point in the game you need to let your foot off the pedal but you need to do it in a respectful manner.
Do not say anything to your players before the game. Too often when you are playing a weaker opponent you play down to their level and the game plays much closer than it should. Your players should treat every game and opponent the same. Play out the first-half and get to half-time. This is where you should talk to your players and implement some kind of rule. Make sure they don’t make it discrete and obvious; this is just as disrespectful as running up the score. If your players are on the field counting their number of passes bluntly in front of the other team, you are going to frustrate them and this is where you are going to start having issues. Players will start making sliding challenges or try to hurt your players out of frustration. Instead, tell your players to count their passes in their head and give them a certain number they must get to for them to be allowed to take a shot at goal.
Another popular option is to make a rule that you can only score off crosses. This is a great way to practice getting in crosses and finishing out of the air. When you put the ball into dangerous areas good things happen. This is a great way to teach your players to get the ball wide and it get crosses into the box.
Lastly, mix up your lineup and have players try out new positions. If you have some players who play in the back all the time; give them a shot at playing striker. If you have a player who you think could be successful at another position outside of their normal position, try them out at that spot. Have fun with it but don’t embarrass the other team. I’ve seen a lot of teams take their goalie out and put them at striker. The players spend the entire time trying to get their goalie the ball to score and they make it obvious. Players are laughing, fans at screaming and cheering and the other team, they are getting frustrated. You are just asking for a player to come sliding in and hurting one of your players.
If you are in a league where you are constantly thrashing teams you should be looking for a new league. While scoring a lot of goals and winning games is fun it’s not beneficial to the development of your players. You should be looking for good competition and close matches that will make your players better and make them think quicker. As your players get older the difference between taking it to the next level and being average is being able to adjust to the speed of the game. Do some research and find a good competitive league. You will learn a lot more by being on the other side of those score-lines than winning five and six nil.