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March 01, 2013
The Great Halftime Pep Talk

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

If you're watching a game on TV, and a team stages a second-half comeback, you'll likely hear the commentators speculating on what brilliance the coach imparted during halftime, on what motivational technique he used:



“They came out of the locker room fired up. … Whatever he said at halftime, it ignited them."

So I’m coaching 13-year-old girls. We’re down, 1-0, at halftime. As they get their water, I’m composing in my mind the "speech." It’s going to be concise, powerful, inspirational.

After I get their attention, I’ll pause, scan their faces, and they’ll sit silently as they eagerly await my words of wisdom … and then I'll say:

“We’re down 1-0. So what? Yesterday we were down 2-0. And what happened? We came back to win! We’re playing even better today. But after they scored we looked a little nervous and started making mistakes. We need to relax. Take our time with the ball, and pass it around like we did in the first 15 minutes. And our goals will come! I know they will! … Claudia, lead the cheer!”

Not bad, I think -- but it never came out that way.

It was actually more like this:

I finally get their attention. The silent pause lasts a half-second because a couple of girls remember something they needed to share – right now – with the teammates next to them. And I get them to settle down again ...

COACH MIKE: We’re down 1-0. So what? Yesterday we were down 2-0! We just need to ...

CAROL: No we weren’t, Coach Mike. We were down 2-1.

COACH MIKE: We were down 2-0. And then we scored three goals!

CAROL: It was 2-1 at halftime and today it’s 1-0 …

KIM: She’s right, Coach Mike, it was 2-1 at halftime yesterday.

COACH MIKE: I know, but it was 2-0 before it was 2-1. The point is …

MOLLY: It was 2-0 and then Claudia scored …

HANNAH: I thought Claudia scored the second goal?

CLAUDIA: I scored the first goal, Kathy scored the second goal. Right Kathy?

COACH MIKE: Look, the point is …

KATHY: I scored the third goal. Victoria scored the second goal.

ASHLEY: Emma set it up …

COACH MIKE: OK now, just listen …

LAURA: Coach Mike, if we win today, is the final next Saturday or Sunday?

COACH MIKE: Look, we just need to … [Ref blows whistle] … Claudia, lead the cheer! ...

Well, we scored right away and ended up winning -- and that’s now my favorite halftime ever.

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United/Bay Oaks in Oakland, Calif. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)















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