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Young players giving up in a loosing game

hi everyone, I coach an under 9 netball team. As usual we have a variety of skill levels in the team. On Saturday, we lost by a lot. That didn't trouble me - it was the attitude of a few girls that really disappointed me. They gave up. They stopped running, staying with (or even near) their opponent, stood still with their hands by their sides and refused to play.AAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I sat them down after the game and said that I don't care about the score board, I care about your effort. When you stop trying you let the whole team down. When you look like you can't be bothered, that leaves me feeling like I can't be bothered either!Ok, what should have I done? help please oh learned coach friends!Thanks, Melissa

Hi Melissa, 

I can understand your frustration and your team talk at the end sounded promising. I think it is not only important to set outcome goals, such as winning, but also process goals which will help towards the outcome goal but also will help keep your players focused and motivated. As a coach, I like to set my girls unit targets, for example in attack how many goals they think they can get that quarter - at your player's age, this is likely to be low, maybe 5 for example. Set this goal the whole attacking unit would discuss what they believe they could achieve (so GS, GA, WA and C). Similarly, I would let the defence decide how the maximum number of goals they will concede, this will be decided by the GK, GD, WD and C. This therefore will help increase your team's motivation, as even if they are losing they will still have their own mini unit goal to work towards. At quarter time you will tell them if they have achieved it and allow them to set another goal for the next quarter. It is important to set quarterly goals, not for the whole game, as this will seem more achievable and make each player more accountable. Due to the young age of your athletes you are likely going to need to input into these as the children may come up with unrealistic goals - if they do explain 'it is great you're so optimistic but how about X' and give an example of another target - it is important these goals are in reach and achievable.  

This method can be incredibly effective as it helps maintain children's motivation. Simply focusing on winning or losing can be negative and can harm their motivation and enjoyment. By setting process goals, this will not only contribute positively to their performance but even if your team lose they might have achieved their targets so there is still success. During the game keep reminding them of these targets in a positive way, for example for the attacking target 'only 2 more, you can do this' or in defence 'try not let in anymore now', this will help keep them on track and remind them there is still something to work towards.

Alternatively, or additionally, I am unsure if you do coaches player and players player but if not I advise you to do coaches player. You can have either 2 per game - one who you reward for effort and the other for performance or you simply choose your coaches player based on effort. Children seek encouragement and praise and I am sure this will help aid their motivation to continue.

Hope this helps.  

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