Youth sports should be a medium for optimizing the life skills of youth athletes through their sporting experiences. To often today we do not go further than the technical/tactical elements, and associate a players development with the trophies and level of play of a team. By measuring success this way we ignore the development of the individual, the human being. Youth development should be individual and player orientated, and not team orientated.

The psychological skills that can be developed through youth soccer are referred to as the 5 C’s, a philosophy outlined by Harwood, and Anderson (2015), in their publication Coaching Psychological Skills in Youth Football.

  • Commitment

‘Effort, engagement, self-challenge and persistence’

A committed player will:

  1. Be punctual.
  2. Strictly live by healthy habits of sleep, diet, and hydration.
  3. Disciplined in warm up and cool downs around matches and practices.
  4. Eager to engage in practices and games from the very beginning.
  5. Perform the roles and responsibilities of the playing position in both WE and THEY phases.
  6. Show a desire to regain possession, in effort to block passing channels, and if engaged in a challenge.
  7. Continues to make good runs even when not receiving the ball, is always wanting to be involved and making themselves available.
  8. Contributes to the game model with consistency in performing the game model concepts.

Encourage behaviors – effort, engagement, approach to tasks, persistence.

‘Coaches will influence a players commitment by helping to nurture their sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness through football.’

  • Communication

‘Develop a players communication skills, both verbally and non-verbally, and in varying contexts’

Excellent communication will:

  1. Give information to teammates in reference to time, space, and decision making.
  2. Listen to teammates instructions with respect.
  3. Support and encourage teammates after a mistake, praise and reinforce teammates for their efforts.
  4. Give positive and constructive criticism to players when there is a breakdown in play. However, manage frustration with teammates by what they could have done and not what they failed to do.
  5. Give encouragement and raise the intensity of the team when momentum is in their favor.
  6. Show appreciation for a teammates efforts and acknowledge the intention behind the decision.
  7. Question the coach to further understanding, seek clarification when not understanding, and pay attention to the coach to take on information.

Encourage behaviors – help others, encourage, listen, praise, accept.

‘Excellent communication fosters ‘relatedness’ in a team, this has important effects on the commitment and motivation of players.’

  • Concentration

‘Raising a players attention awareness  and educating them on the different forms of attention that can be positive and negative to performance.’

A player with excellent concentration will:

  1. Adopt good positions and show good positional awareness.
  2. Make a high percentage of correct decisions when releasing the ball, showing awareness of movements of teammates and open spaces.
  3. Track opponents, focused on their role in open play and on set pieces, even towards the end of the game when fatigued.
  4. Responds quickly to instructions from teammates.
  5. Refocuses on on their role and position after a break in play, and accurately recognizes cues/triggers to act.
  6. Anticipation of opponents movements and actions.
  7. Communicates important information to others while reading the game.
  8. Focuses intently ‘off the ball’ when not involved in play, creating appropriate spaces and opportunities to become involved.

Concentration behaviors – narrow internal, narrow external, broad internal, broad external.

‘Directing players to achieving specific attention goals off the ball and when out of possession as much as time is spent on the ball’

  • Control

‘Coaches play a key role in helping young players to learn about self-control as such skills become vital the more a player transitions to higher levels.’

A player in control will:

  1. Get up immediately following a foul, and continue the game.
  2. Maintain positive body language following mistakes and gets immediately back involved.
  3. Show respect to the referee and their decisions.
  4. Respond swiftly and positively following a battle with an opponent whether you won or lost.
  5. Influence teammates to stay in control, and help teammates with dictating the pace of the game in relation to the game situation.
  6. Control arousal levels and mentally prepare for maximum effectiveness in performance.

Control behaviors – mental calmness, coping and responding (individual and peer), energizing.

‘Start by giving attention to a players breathing, body language and self-talk, all key elements of emotional self-regulation.’

  • Confidence

‘Build a players confidence by ensuring that little successes, accomplishments and improvements are consistently acknowledged.’

A player with confidence will:

  1. Involve themselves to receive the ball under pressure, and demand the ball from teammates.
  2. Wants the ball when the team is under pressure or behind in a game.
  3. Wants the game to be played with a quick tempo, keeping the game going with a sense of urgency.
  4. Maintains positive body language at all times no matter the outcome of a situation, has a spring in their step throughout the game.
  5. Performs creative and inventive play opposed to a defensive mindset.
  6. Performs actions without fear of any negative evaluation or criticism if a mistake is made.
  7. Keeps other players spirits high through their own sense of security, competence, and optimism.

Confidence behaviors – attitude, support, accomplishments.

‘Confidence in players is positively influenced when coaches present personal, reachable possibilities to them, and credibly show them how.’

Coaching Psychological Skills in Youth Football, Developing the 5 C’s, Harwood and Anderson