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Picture the scene, a key player is injured in a particularly nasty collision and is clearly struggling. The physio enters the field of play and carries out his or her initial assessment. In their professional opinion the player is unfit to continue (they may have had a concusion assessment if a head injury) and the leave the pitch, to be replaced by a substitute.
Now consider this, the scenario is as above however the manager deems his player “too important” to lose, they are patched up pitchside (usually with a Terry Butcher style headband - for those old enough to remember) and he or she simply carries on. Several high profile footballers have been in this situation recently, often in televised games.
The player is described in glowing terms as “fearless” and “committed” by pundits and commentators alike. Brave is another word often used to describe them.Ask yourself this - in your day job were you to sustain a heavy blow to the head or a painful injury, perhaps requiring stitches are you expected to simply carry on regardless? I accept it depends on your role and mitigating circumstances, but it is unlikely.
Compare this to scenes played out across the country every weekend in youth football and how injuries are managed. How many times are coaches guilty of either playing young footballers who are carrying injuries, or asking them to carry on after suffering an injury during a game as they are deemed “too important” to miss a game or be substituted?
As players begin to mature they will experience muscle injuries. They will also face emotional upheaval and may not always be able to perform at 100% of their ability. A player should never be asked to continue if they are clearly injured, feeling unwell, upset or distressed. Use your judgement and trust your instincts. Players need to learn resilience and also to control their emotions, but this can be difficult. If a player is visibly upset and has lost his or her head it is far better for you to withdraw them from the ‘heat of the moment’ and give them time to compose themselves. Be particularly aware if you have a player in goal who is playing out of position and you are being heavily beaten - this can be particularly soul destroying for a young footballer.
Remember youth football allows “rolling” substitutions for a reason, so use them!
1) Use your squad on matchday - rotate wisely and aim for equal game time
2) Build trust in your players - ensure two way communication and understanding.
3) Accept that if a weakened side lose a game, does it really matter?
4) Teach and promote resilience, respect and composure - do not be afraid to withdraw a player.
5) Explain your decision if you substitute a player, use positive language at all times.
If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.
Coached by Phil for eleven years of my youth football - not a coincidence I also coach now. One of the best when it comes to this age range 👍🏻
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