In my first football season in Australia I feel I succeeded in some areas, failed in others and most importantly, learned immensely. We finished the season with 8 wins, 3 draws and 7 losses, 36 goals made and 33 against, 3 points under the grand finals zone.
I’m currently running the player’s assessments, something that I’ve never done before, and a few parents are very disappointed with me, mostly because I didn’t give their children enough playing time. This is probably the thing I’ve struggled the most with. To achieve a fair balance between giving the players equal amount of time and keeping a competitive team in the park at all times.
What made it more difficult is that I had an unbalanced squad. I had 9 players for the mid and attack, which would be great if the competitive level allowed me to play any of them at any time. Obviously I’m concerned about playing development, but we all have a bit of blood running in our veins and want to win games. It’s not and will never be, as a development coach, my priority, but it’s something that can’t be neglected. Maybe I could have been clearer to the players. But when you tell a parent that you have to keep a somewhat phisically strong team in the field to be able not to be smashed you are interpreted as incompetent or ignorant. I can’t blame them or don’t hold grudges, as they want what’s best for their sons, and I have to admit the complaints were very polite.
Other things I’ve struggled with were organization and punctuality. I failed to keep my gear organized at all times and to be punctual and have consistent procedures. Which was excused and understood by the players because they knew I was rushing from the Brisbane Roar job into our sessions, but sometimes I was just late, specially in games. This is slowly improving, as I’m creating the habit of arriving to my appointments at least 15 minutes early but it can, has to and will be more consistent.
Another situation I could have handled better was the problem with the goalkeeper. We had a keeper that struggled technically and costed us a lot of points, specially in the immediate comeback after being injured and I think I could have spent more time with him. It lead to the only group crisis we had, where two of the players were constantly picking at him in the sessions, and obviously that disrupts the entire environment. I also could have been clearer with him when I subbed him in a certain point of time, which became clear after the crisis was controlled. He just worked hard and improved, making important saves in the past few games.
On the positive side, we managed to keep a decent envionment throughout the season. In general the players were respectful, good listeners and keen to learn. Obviously there were moments were they spoke too much, or when it took a while for them to regain focus, but it’s something hard to avoid when dealing with 13-14 years old kids. I think they understood I was always open to listen as well. And in various moments players came to me with doubts, concerns and complaints and I’ve never had a problem acknowledging them. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever lost authority over the players. There were moments were the most influential players, such as the captain or the top scorer did say things to the players other than I did, such as to quit trying to play short corners, and I didn’t dispute it. I didn’t think it was important to spend a lot of time working in set pieces. It’s overrated and a waste of time at this age.
Plus we were just able to play very good football. We dictated every single game. We were able to keep the ball and take good care of it. Unfortunately it resulted in the creation of way less chances than I think it’s ideal. But I’m certain that it was due to the lack of physical power. We just lacked the physical capability to win the duels that would create us more and better chances. In some games in the middle of the season we did struggle to create, even considering the constraints. Specially in the games against Ipswich away, UQ at home and the Gap away. But even in those games we had clear chances that could have changed the results.
Whatever the positives and negatives were, I feel I’ve learned. I feel more prepared for the next season. I still don’t know what team I’ll be coaching. But my motivation has never been higher.