This article was provided by Coaches Network
Young athletes need to take ownership over their decisions in order to mature and grow into a successful adult. Yet, this can be difficult for athletes who are constantly conditioned to follow instructions and work within a set routine. That is why Highland Park (Texas) High School Head Girl’s Soccer Coach Stewart Brown makes sure that his players are given autonomy.
Brown formerly played for England’s Queens Park Rangers F.C., and, along with being a coach, is also the Director of Coaching for the Highland Park Soccer Academy. Since coaching at the high school level, he has learned the value of giving players greater control over their decision-making. “With a high school girls soccer program, we found it very important to give autonomy to the girls, and give a lot of the program back to the girls,” Brown says in a video produced by the Positive Coaching Alliance.
By getting his players to actively make autonomous choices, Brown hopes that the team will grow closer and that players will develop confidence in one another. “With team bonding, I gave up a day every week from our practice and turned it over to the seniors,” he says.
Calling on seniors to lead a practice can be a great way for a coach to develop positive relationships and strong team chemistry. As players take on the responsibility of leading a practice, they learn to properly communicate with their teammates while also building up their own confidence and leadership skills. This fosters a more holistic learning environment, rather than players simply following the instructions of their coach.
Allowing young athletes to have more independence can actually teach them the value of teamwork. “They do team bonding just to realize that the strength of our program is based completely on the relationships they have,” Brown says. “If they have strong relationships with each other during times when there’s no stress, hopefully that will carry on to times when we’re stressed or we’re struggling during the season.”
On top of allowing seniors on the team to run a weekly practice session, Brown also accepts input from players regarding the balance between the duration and intensity of training. “I also like them to have some control over what our training schedule is,” he says.
This allows his players to take on a major role in setting goals and accepting ownership of their own progression as athletes. “We know what we need to accomplish, and if we can do that in a short, high intensity type of training, rather than having to fill a time allotment, we’ll be even more successful,” he says.
Coaches will find that there are a variety of ways to provide their players with autonomy without sacrificing the progress of the team. Having more mature, responsible young athletes goes a long way both on and off the field. All sport coaches should consider how to empower their athletes and give them the confidence and drive to keep growing. As Brown explains, giving his girls a lot of control in deciding how the team moves forward has helped make their program a success.