Many of of you will have heard many coaches and supporters using labels when describing a player. Hopefully you will have heard many ones which can be described as positive i.e. skillful, athletic, confident, tryer, worker, brave. However more often it has negative connotations i.e. lazy, greedy, selfish, arrogant, aggressive, timid, scared, emotional, domineering, egotistical, opinionated, cheeky.

There are virtually hundreds of these labels that are placed on players and once applied can be difficult to shift. As coaches, using such labels provides a great dis-service to the player and could lead to confusion. A simple example is if I ask one person to look at a player and they might see (and describe) him as arrogant where I may see him as a confident player. Messi could be described by some as too selfish while many call him a genius. Labels, therefore, are too vague and depend on the lens through which the observer looks.

Coaching needs to be clear in order to increase development. We need to deal in facts and not perceptions from labels. Instead of using a label like ‘lazy’ then why not tell a winger that in the game he tracked back a defender only twice out of the ten times the defender made a forward run. This is a 20% success rate in tracking a run. In the next game, measure it again and check if there is an improvement. By providing this pinpointed feedback it allows the player to focus on the areas that have been highlighted for improvement.

A good coach doesn’t use labels or even worse cliches. He pinpoints the area for development and agrees with the player what needs to be worked on. So next time you hear a coach complaining about a lazy or selfish player, ask him to define what he means? It may not be the player that is lazy but actually the coach should wear that label with pride!

So let’s ditch the use of labels and start communicating with our players using effective pinpoints. Yes, it is harder to do but your players will appreciate it and it will definitely aid their development.


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