With young teams, all players must be given an opportunity to play in every game and the coach should make regular substitutions.

The substitutions should also give players the opportunity to play with each of their team mates, not have a “first five” that play together and a “second five” which play when the game is either won or lost.

Instead, the coach should make regular substitutions (every few minutes) and if they have an assistant coach it is a good idea to have him/her keep track playing time to make sure everybody gets to play.

Some parents may complain to the coach that they are not winning games because they are not playing the “best” players all the time. The coach should explain (at the start of the season) that they will be making sure that all players get to play.

Providing Feedback

Particularly with young teams, games are not the time to teach new ideas and the coach’s feedback should refer to what has been done in training.

Feedback should also be given constructively, by acknowledging what the player is doing well, making a correction by instructing them on what you want them to do and then finishing with a positive comment.

This method of giving feedback is sometimes referred to as the “sandwich” method, for example:

“You’ve done a great job of keeping vision of the player you are defending.”

Constructive Instruction:
“Remember, when the ball is passed you need to jump to the ball to make sure you stay between your player and the ball.”

“You did this really well at practice.”

The use of “cue words” (like “jump to the ball”) can help the coach give the feedback quickly and also reinforces to the player what was done in practice.

Some coaches like to use a whiteboard to provide feedback to players. If the coach wants to do that during games (particularly with young teams) then they should also do it at practice, so that the players get used to that method of communication.

Importantly, each of the statements in this example are worded positively. The coach should not focus on what the player is doing wrong and instead must focus on instructing them on what to do (the second statement).