Coach’s Corner; Motivation

by Colin Wilson, FFG Academy Manager.


The most common question I receive from fellow coaches across the different stages of the football pyramid system is:

“How do I get my players motivated for training and matches?”

In order for any team or individual to thrive in football / sports, motivation has to be in place. Without the desire to improve and be the best that you can be, it’s unlikely that you will achieve your goals and find success.

As a coach, you must understand how important motivation is, but how do you instil it in the players that you train?.

Here at Ferdinand Football Group we believe that motivation and mindset are the two biggest essentials for player development.

In technological era, where players / youngsters have so many distractions and hobbies, how to we make players put in the hours of practice (coached & self-led) required to enhance and develop their techniques.

A simple test I’ve noticed with my players over the past few years is ball juggling scores. I’ve seen a dramatic drop off in the number of players (across all ages) who can juggle the ball well. Of course, whilst this isn’t a requirement for football players to master within game (although it has many transferable skills – touch, timing, balance, ect) it is a skill that takes many hours of practice to master. And cannot be bettered without practice and perseverance which are all controlled by mindset & Motivation.

Below are a few ways I / We at FFG try to deal with this question for our players:

  1. Emphasis on the Importance of Motivation

Motivation of your players is one of your key responsibilities as a coach, and communicating its importance is vital. Your feedback, sessions and body language are all tools coaches must be aware of when preparing your players to help children become better athletes, without motivation, an individual will put less than optimal effort into these processes.

Encourage your young players so that they can enjoy their sport more and appreciate the benefits of doing well. Winning games or getting awards is a motivator for some, but simply getting better and gaining skills will motivate many. Give positive feedback and encourage continual growth even if that means rewarding small steps along the way.

  1. Know your Players

Each person / player is motivated differently, so learning as much as you can about each of your individual players will help you to keep them focused and moving in the right direction. The love of a game, seeing individual improvement, receiving praise or winning a trophy can all be factors that encourage individual athletes to perform.

Unfortunately, one size does not fit all when it comes to motivation, so you’ll have to invest some effort to diversify your tactics. Once you know what motivates each player, you can use this information to develop your motivational strategies. While one player might like being praised in front of the group, it could make another feel uncomfortable. Watch for reactions and try to modify your actions based on verbal and non-verbal feedback.

  1. Explain the “Why”

Any good motivator can answer this question. Why are we doing this? In order to get players to do what needs to be done, in order to succeed, sometimes you have to sell the benefits.
To young players, drills can feel repetitive. This can cause a drop in motivation if a young person doesn’t understand how the drill will help them achieve success. Don’t assume that all players understand why practice is important. This, like any concept, must be taught in such a way that is understandable to all young players.

When you’ve explained why something works, it’s easier to point out how hard work has paid off down the line. Once an players sees the results of their actions, they’re often motivated to listen better to instruction and work hard in practice.

  1. The Importance Of Teamwork

children we naturally seek out relationships, and forming positive ones through football can be extremely motivating. For teammates, this feeling of connection can encourage them to put in the extra effort to benefit the team. Even when you are coaching players who are more individually focused you must emphasis the importance of the group.

Messi didn’t win the world cup alone.

Encourage players to get to know one another and engage in team-building activities. Celebrate the accomplishments of the team and allow the young players that you work with to build strong relationships and motivate each other.

  1. Commend Successes No Matter the Size

Young people want to feel successful and have fun. Pointing out how they’ve improved will only encourage them to keep striving for more. Celebrating successes shouldn’t just happen during a game or competition. If players finish a tough drill, or stick out an activity longer than they ever have, use these opportunities to acknowledge your player.

It can be really hard to keep a loss from bringing young players down. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye out for improvements and bring them to light at the right moment. When working with young players it’s important to point out their minor achievements since many may not recognize them on their own.

  1. Set Achievable Goals

Achieving a goal, whether short- or long-term can be a tremendous motivator. Keep in mind that goal setting can backfire, however, if the goals are not achievable and impossible to reach currently.

Aim for realistic goals that can be accomplished, and share these goals with your young players. Setting a combination of individual and team goals can be particularly effective for motivating children.

Setting goals for improvement in certain aspects of a sport can be a more effective tactic than setting statistical or win-based goals for a youth sports team. Goals can even be practice-related in terms of attendance, drill performance, and motivation of teammates.

As a coach, how you choose to motivate the athletes that you work with will depend on the age and ability level of your players. In Football, it’s important to motivate players both on an individual level as well as the team level. With appropriate motivation and practice, you can coach young players to overcome obstacles while reaching their goals on their way to a rewarding development.


Colin Wilson