If I had to do things over when I started coaching soccer, I would have spent more time on developing a sense of team and striking a balance between healthy and unhealthy competition within the team.
What’s unhealthy competition within the team?
When players are more concerned about where they rank on their own team than in beating the opponent.
I see this hurt the team in a few ways. It prevents working together as a team, supporting each other and learning from each other.
Prevent working together as a team: Players might avoid making a pass to another player that is especially big-headed or they feel is beneath them.
Not supporting each other: Players are reluctant to give teammates praise for making good plays. They explain away the good things as ‘luck’ and only tend to remember those players mistakes.
I’ve even seen those receiving praise reject praise from players they feel are beneath them. “I don’t need your praise!”
Learning from each other: Players simply don’t give each other credit for making progress or trying different because their own ego can’t acknowledge that someone did something they haven’t figure out yet.
What would I have done differently?
I would have reinforced a few things a lot more:
The primary competition is on the other side of the field and to beat them, we need to be together as a team.
You should want all the players on your team to be as good as possible. So, be open to seeing their strengths and weaknesses and helping each other get better. For example, giving praise when they do something good. Good pass. Good talk. Nice run. Good recovery. Good effort. Good thought. And so on.
Take the praise from anyone. Thank them and look for way to return it when they do something good. If you think you are too good to receive praise from someone, then go to another team.
If we are all praising each other for doing the right things, we will get more of the right things, and as a team, that’s what we want and need in order to beat the other side.