How Can You Ensure that Your Team Wins the Big Game?

Pele often won the big games, including 3 World Cup finals! - (Photo: Egyptindependent.com)

While soccer teams of all ages and sizes compete week in and week out to earn victories and be the best, we all know that some games carry more weight than others.  This is the prototypical “big game”.  It may be against your cross-town high school rival, or it could be the final match of the state cup for your club team.  Regardless of the specific matchup, you certainly know when it’s the big game.  There are extra jitters during the warm-ups, and you can feel the extra energy as players feel that “win or else” mentality.  As a player or coach, these games are the ones that you never forget; so coming in with the right attitude is crucial!

When you are the coach, you control the overall feel of the team.  How you approach the big game will determine how everyone else views the match.  Try not to put too much pressure on the players.  Yes, this could be the biggest game of their entire lives, but they shouldn’t be concerned with that.  Your players simply need to play the game as best they can and give themselves every opportunity to win.  Therefore, simply go about the game like it is just any match.  Practice hard, try to inspire your team, and go for it!

Do not make an extraordinary deal about how important this game is!  Perhaps you can do this during a halftime speech if your team is struggling, but before the game this will do nothing but add pressure and make the team nervous.  A nervous team is highly unlikely to succeed, especially in a game like soccer.  Shaky play often leads to conceding goals.  You want your players determined and playing as they always do.

Another thing to do is make your players comfortable in the days and hours leading up to the big game.  This isn’t the time to make demands of your players or run them to the ground in practice.  Let the players go into the game feeling confident and at ease.  Save heavy criticism for afterwards.  Once the game starts they will surely be thrown into the intensity of such a game.

Also, a soccer coach should realize that they only have so much control in a game.  If your team is struggling, refrain from getting angry or aggressive towards your players.  Emotions can be helpful, but only if expressed in a positive way.  Make the team excited and amped up to make a difference.

During the game, make sure your players are up to the task.  Often times several players may be experiencing jitters early in the game and be prone to make mistakes.  Sub them out and talk to them to ease their pressure.  Remember, no matter what the circumstances, once the game begins it’s just another soccer match.  The best players are the ones who remain cool under pressure, so do everything you can to help your players relax.  Big games are an absolute joy to take part in.  While obviously you will want to win, be sure to embrace the moment and have a fun go in your most crucial fixtures!


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