Soccer coaching tips for handling a side that cheats
Your players are playing the game for the right reasons and you come up against a side that is prepared to play unfair. How do you carry on coaching your side to get the best out of a tricky situation?
No one gains from cheating, because it is a shortcut to glory and so the glory is tainted. However, in the professional game this could be perceived differently.
We do not want to coach our players to cheat or even to “play the referee.” However there is a fine line between “knowing the referee” and “playing the referee".
1. He who casts the first stone
Before becoming wound up by a side that cheats, be prepared to have a long hard look at your own game. This is the most difficult medicine of all, not only to administer, but to admit in the first place. Cheating comes in such varying degrees of “acceptability” that what seems a fair part of your game, might be perceived as the worst sort of play by another.
2. Don’t get involved in the same game
If a side is cheating, it makes matters worse by indulging in cheating yourself. “He’s doing it so why can’t I” is the sort of excuse we might have heard from a naughty child, but however patronising this comment may seem, you are letting yourself become drawn in. The cynic might say that if you haven’t trained to cheat, you will probably be caught out anyway – the other side will simply continue to get away with it.
3. Play harder
Cheating makes players angry. This sort of arousal can be counterproductive unless it is channelled in the right way. The physicality of soccer lends itself to a player being able to exact some form of immediate satisfaction for this anger and by far the best way is through a skilful tackle rather than a wild act which could cause problems later. Reaffirm this with your players, using the positive aggressiveness.
4. Communicate calmly with the referee
Before any game, the referee will set out who he is going to have his dialogue with. Make sure that only these people are communicating with the referee. If other players are shouting at the referee he is less likely to act on your behalf. The captain should speak to the referee in the calmest terms possible. At half time the captain and/or the coach should ask the referee about offending incidents.
The language used should be asking the referee for clarification rather than aggressively accusing the other side. Does this make sense? The referee is aware that he is trying to be influenced by both sides, so a more conciliatory approach, pointing out possible problems may be more effective. Your problems really start when the referee is the coach of the cheating side!
5. Cool down period after the game
Once the game is over, there is little that can be done to change the result, so there is no point in taking umbrage with the opposition coaches, team or referee. This is not to say that you cannot speak to those involved, but in the heat of the moment you are less likely to make as rational a comment as when you have had a chance to gather your thoughts.
A useful soccer coaching tip to remember is that you may have the same referee for another game, so a misplaced invective might well prejudice a future match situation.
Take a long hard look at yourself before accusing the other team. If you change your tactics during a game to cheat then you may well find yourself worse off anyway.
Channel the aggression that comes from playing against a cheating side wisely and to your advantage.
Be calm in your communication with the referee – if he did not see the incident, there is not much more you can do. Don’t rush in straight after the game, give yourself time to gather your thoughts.
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