Kids 3. Body Language

Kids 3. Body Language.

I love watching kids I’ve coached now coaching. Just sit back, don’t interfere. One of them, a kid, now young man I worshipped, was in charge of a team that wasn’t winning games. No problem, I’ve coached a spoon or two, too.

I listened to his half time and ¾ time addresses. And his after game address. Then asked, politely, if I could give some advice? “Absolutely,” he replied.

“You said all the right things. Every word. But kids aren’t stupid. Your body language, your tone was defeated. You have to speak from your ribs. You have to believe, or there’s no point at all.”

Coaching kids who are losing each week is the best challenge there is in football! Kids with a sniff of a premiership will want to do well. Want to improve. To work hard. Football is about pride. Take on the job even if odds are the team will finish last. Do it for the right reasons. Football is about habits. Teaching good ones. Tell them.


“No team stays on the bottom forever. No career goes without reward. One day you will be in a team, here or somewhere else, that is on the rise, and, if you are full of bad habits you will be left behind. Don’t. Even if they don’t work now, do these things now. Play a team game. Play with pride. Practice never giving in, running hard to the right places. Pride. That’s your victory, that’s your reward.”

I would always drag our jet if he burnt the awkward, fumbly kid who was in the perfect spot. I would always praise the hell out of a kid who did what we trained for even if it got turned over for another goal against.

We lost a few more games than we might have, I’m sure, but we bred senior footballers, leaders, and, got them believing in team ethic. In the habit of work, of doing the right thing, on thinking of others. Life lessons. Awkward kids are awkward kids. So what? If they tried to do the team things, whether it worked or not, they had won. If they tried to improve, they had won. It’s only when they learn to go through the motions they become losers.

I would tell the kids time and again, “Self motivation is the best skill you can have.” And “Honesty is your best weapon.” They know how hard they tried.






  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Great series Matt.

    I coached a lot of suburban junior softball, when I was not much older than the players themselves.

    Some things I learned from this:

    1) Teach them ingrained ways of thinking e.g if fielding, ask yourself before each pitch, “what will I do it the ball is hit to me”. This can change each pitch, so ask yourself every pitch. It can get even more complicated depending on where you are fielding, so ask yourself about “fast, slow, left, right, ground ball, fly ball, how many out?, what’s the score?, how much time left?, how fast are the runners?”

    A way of approaching the game which applies regardless of the level of competition (or beyond). They learned how to read the game. They learned to think. They felt good when it came off.

    2) They all became very good at bunting, so could get on base and/or advance runners almost at will. Other teams couldn’t defend this. I also made sure that the fielders knew how to defend the short-game if the opposition tried it against us.

    But did this make the game any more enjoyable? Did their hitting skills improve as well? Did this aspect place winning ahead of development?

    3) I once dragged a girl who was having a shocker in the field. She knew it, no-one really cared as they all knew that it could happen to them at any time. But I jokingly said to her that “she had done enough damage for one day” – I wish I could have that moment back again, it was uncalled for.

    Most important
    4) Make sure that training and weekend games were something to look forward to, not dread. Leave enough time before training for them to enjoy each other’s company.
    5) Take a genuine interest in each kid, their school, their friends, their family.
    6) Get to know all the the parents and their families.

  2. On ya, Swish!! Great minds…?

    Some dead set ripper points in here. So much of it is universal.

  3. P.S. The new coach in question, he took in what i suggested. His body language was brilliant from then on. He was an absolute ripper. One of the best.

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Speak from your ribs.
    How I love that!
    For more general use even than coaching …

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