Interesting little sidenote here. My U12 Girls team recently had something come up that necessitated a short team meeting. In addition, we had recently had a tough outing at a tournament where we seemed to fear touching the ball, and despite making the semifinals, did not play well as a team. If you don’t touch the ball, you can’t play soccer or control the game. The coaches were concerned about team intensity/unity and felt that it might be good to sit down with the team for a bit beyond the initial topic. So at a recent practice we sat down – just the coaches and the team – and talked. We covered the initial reason for the meeting in like 20 minutes then spent a significant amount of time talking about what it meant to be a team, how our season was going, how we were doing as a team, intensity at practices, and so on. As part of that I encouraged the girls to talk about what was on their minds, and talk they did. We spent 90 minutes, no joke, sitting on the grass just talking. I know many of you are thinking ‘OMG – you wasted all that time they could have been touching a soccer ball!!!’ But in this case, what I discovered was communication on a team is all one way. Coaches tell the kids to do this or that and they try to do it. They may ask questions or approach coaches one on one, but it is still very one way even though I make it a point to encourage the girls to interact with the coaches during practice – we welcome questions or concerns. But the setting of the girls all together just talking was much more powerful for them. Suddenly they discovered that fears/concerns/questions they may have had were shared by others.

What I discovered was despite us generally having solid team bonds – the girls had plenty they wanted to talk about – including things that probably were holding them back as a team. I found myself sitting there with a bunch of talking points I’d drawn up and ignoring them as I acted as a facilitator for the girls. I let them steer the discussion while trying to make my points in reaction to them and led them from one main point to another. My biggest challenge was to make sure conversation didn’t turn personal (We’re doing bad because of HER!) which it never did. But I absolutely encouraged them to bring up concerns with us as coaches so they might understand why we do some things and how we might reach them more effectively.

When they finally started to fidget (and that took a LOT longer than I figured it would), we wrapped things up and a meeting I thought would take a max of 45-60 minutes had taken close to 90. As we finished up, I handed each girl a picture of the team and told them to put it up in their room somewhere to remember what they were a part of and that every time they stepped on the field, practice or match, they were part of a team and the team deserved their full effort.

I don’t know if there will be a long term impact from this, but short term it was clear it helped the team a LOT. I’ll followup later to let you all know if it had a long term effect. If it does, midseason meetings will probably become a staple for my teams. It went that well.

So don’t forget that as coaches we’re always learning and I definitely learned things from that meeting including ways I could better reach the girls when trying to teach them soccer. They learned that the coaches do want to hear what they have to say and also that their teammates are there for them more than they thought. I believe it also got them to better understand what it meant to be a team.

Have you held team meetings like this? What surprised you the most? How well do you think it worked? Do you hold them regularly or just when a team is having problems?