How to Motivate and Teach Soccer Players to Win
Soccer Team Goes from Losing All Games to Winning
Teaching Soccer Players to Be Brave, Hustle and Do your Best

Following is a letter I received from a coach, and my reply. The handouts he mentions are on Soccerhelp at the Patches Navigation Page.

Hi SoccerHelp,

When I took over a U9 girl's team, they had not won a single game in the last 2 years. Not only that, the team could not score any goals. This year, we started using patches and we have won our first 2 games by comfortable margins. We have emphasized how the players can earn them (e.g., team work, skills, hustle and defense) and we've had a tremendous response from our girls (and parents). Attached are a couple handouts that we use to help us manage the patches which other coaches may find useful. Since we keep winning, we are in need of more patches ;-)

-Coach Sumer, Texas


Hi Coach Sumer,

Thanks... these are great ideas. You are definitely on the right track and have reason to be proud. I'm sure your players and their parents are thrilled, and your girls are learning to hustle, teamwork, and gaining confidence.

I want you to be successful, so I'll take the liberty of making some suggestions:

  1. Change your program to give the Lightning Bolt for Teamwork -- there's a good story for that patch about Teamwork, and it's a very cool and distinctive looking patch. Here's the symbolism: "All of our patches are in a circle. The circle has symbolism world-wide and has been an important symbol for centuries. On SoccerHelp patches, the circle represents the team. It is a reminder that the players are within the team, and that the team holds us together, and that every player should remember that he or she is part of the team. The Lightning Bolt Patch TM has additional symbolism that you can use to motivate your players and teach them the importance of teamwork. The patch has 2 �Bolts�, each identical and both equal... these symbolize offense and defense, and the fact that offense and defense are equally important. The 2 Bolts are held together by a middle, which in soccer represents the midfield, and both Bolts touch the Circle, which represents the team, so the entire design is connected, and each part is necessary."
  2. When a player scores insist she IMMEDIATELY seek out everyone who contributed to the score and give them a high 5 so everyone can see it. OR, maybe even better, do like the Brazilians do and have the ENTIRE team come together and touch hands and do a cheer (even a simple one like "1, 2, 3, Go Team"). That way it recognizes that scoring a goal is a team effort and not just due to one player. The PUBLIC ceremony aspect is very good for team moral and to keep players from being jealous of the Forwards. Do NOT let your Forwards claim all the glory -- that is NOT good for team morale and does not encourage teamwork.
  3. When a player does something during the game to earn a patch, immediately (or as soon as possible), get her attention and tell her "Great job -- you've earned a Hustle patch" (or whichever patch). This immediate feedback reinforces good behavior. THIS WORKS. YOU WILL SEE FAST RESULTS IF YOU DO THIS.
  4. Consider giving certain patches out at the end of the game or at least having a ceremony at the end of the game where you make a BIG DEAL about who earned patches and WHY they earned them -- use specific examples so ALL the players understand the type of behavior that will earn praise and a patch. Have this ceremony in front of ALL the players and parents. The ceremony and recognition is as important and as motivating as the patch. It's important for the players who didn't earn a particular patch to see the rewards of doing as the Coach wants and that the players who do are praised and rewarded. This is a presumptive, positive way of setting standards and you will find that all of your players will start to do the things you want them to do so they will be praised and win patches. Now, I always gave an attendance patch to every player who attended a game or practice (attendance is important) � but behavior patches such as a Hustle or Bravery Patch should be earned. Remember: Not every child is a great athlete, but every child can be brave, hustle and do their best.

Play the "Dribble Across a Square" game at every practice and use the "Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race" Practice Game to teach "Aggressive Receiving". Those 2 games will really help your players skills. TRUST ME ON THIS.

Here are 3 of my favorite motivational coaching quotes by Vince Lombardi. These are from (Premium "Motivational Coaching Quotes", 200 of the best motivational coaching quotes):

"The coaches who win are the ones who can motivate their players."

"The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have."

"The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall."

Please let me know how you do for the rest of the season.... I predict you will do great.

David at SoccerHelp