In youth sports, the pre-game, time out huddles are so important to the psyche of your young players. It is a time for direct communication using eye contact, giving praise, teaching by critiquing in a positive way, and using humor.
- Always make sure you smile at the kids, giving each one eye contact, letting them know you enjoy being in the gym or on the field with them.
- Being so easily distracted by the anticipation of a contest, make sure they are listening. I recommend using the "Listening Drill", by clapping a series of claps and having them repeat what you've done in unison. This is a great way to get their attention and put all of your players on the same page.
- Remind them of a few important aspects of the game, such as getting back on defense, spacing, sharing and valuing the ball.
- Make sure every player knows what position they are playing and who they are defending.
- And always, incorporate giving good effort and having fun into your thoughts.
- Close every huddle with a player hand in the middle of the huddle and use a "Focus Word" in unison. For example: "On 3- defense... 1,2,3 DEFENSE!"... You can change the Focus Word... Teamwork, Effort, Sacrifice, Pride, etc...
- Know why you are calling a time-out and have your thoughts organized when players come to the bench or sideline.
- When you greet them coming to the huddle, look at them confidently using positive body language and eye contact. They need to know you are there to help them succeed and have fun.
- Begin with a positive comment like: "I really like our passing so far". Or, "You guys are really playing hard".
- DO NOT yell at the kids or embarrass a player in front of his peers with negative comments. Stay positive, constructive and reaffirm when needed. "Joey, do you know who you are guarding?" "I forgot, coach"... "That's alright, Joey, but ask me if you don't know because its kind of important that we know who we're guarding, isn't it?" Or, use humor: "It's important that we know who we are guarding because we don't want anyone from the other team feeling lonely!"
- Although it is easier to do in basketball or volleyball than in soccer, try to end the timeout with a positive comment directed at each kid.
The huddle is the place where kids can feel like their coach is looking out for their best interests, sometimes creating a long lasting memory.