How to Keep Your Soccer Players Motivated off the Pitch

How you main­tain morale dur­ing remote time will have a big impact on your team’s future. Here’s some impor­tant tips to keep in mind.

How to Keep Your Soccer Players Motivated off the Pitch

How you main­tain morale dur­ing remote time will have a big impact on your team’s future. Here’s some impor­tant tips to keep in mind.

The old adage hasn’t changed. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

It’s as true now as it was when Teddy Roosevelt first uttered those words over a cen­tu­ry ago. And arguably, in these unprece­dent­ed times, it’s more impor­tant than ever.

Make no mis­take. What you do right now will impact the health and via­bil­i­ty of your pro­gram for years to come. As a soc­cer coach, it will affect your play­ers’ devel­op­ment and fit­ness, your program’s par­tic­i­pa­tion rates, and your depart­ing ath­letes who are prepar­ing for the next level.

Long after their play­ing days are over, ath­letes don’t remem­ber every box score. But they do remem­ber who was there for them at the most vul­ner­a­ble times of their lives, and who pro­vid­ed the com­pass when they were lost.

For more ideas on how to boost morale and ral­ly your play­ers, check out our Remote Coaching Guide.

Here are some steps you can take to keep morale high:

Remind Them Why They’re So Important

Whatever your pre­ferred form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is, now is the time to indi­vid­u­al­ly tai­lor that message. 

Your play­ers have heard all the plat­i­tudes by now. They know when you’re not being authen­tic. That’s why when you talk to them one-on-one, your con­ver­sa­tion will res­onate more if you can per­son­al­ize it.

That’s the the­o­ry behind what Georgia Gwinnett College head women’s soc­cer coach Mike Giuliano does with his mes­sages to play­ers. Twice a week, Giuliano will send a mes­sage to a dif­fer­ent play­er remind­ing them why he is grate­ful for them, and how he sees them as a leader in the program. 

I try to be real­ly spe­cif­ic. If you say things like, You’re a hard work­er’ or You’re a great asset’, they real­ize that that’s just lan­guage you could say to any­body,” he says.

Connect the why’ to what you do

During the fall sea­son, Marshall County (Ky.) girls soc­cer coach Andy Pagel would often tell his play­ers com­ing out of half­time to real­ly focus dur­ing the first 10 minutes. 

There was a very delib­er­ate rea­son for that. His research from Hudl Assist showed him that they sur­ren­dered a goal around the 60-minute mark near­ly once every two games. 

Everybody inter­prets the impor­tance of pos­ses­sion in soc­cer a bit dif­fer­ent­ly. But when Pagel can look to his reports and tell the play­ers if they hold the ball for at least 29 min­utes their chances of win­ning great­ly improve, that is a huge morale boost.

We try to use the math, and it’s easy to sell that way,” Pagel says. We can say, look at their time of pos­ses­sion and look at ours, that’s why we need to make this extra pass to the right-back, ver­sus dump­ing the ball into our forward.”

As we men­tioned in our blog about com­mu­ni­ca­tions, show­ing play­ers games from col­lege or pros that rein­force your game strat­e­gy can send a pow­er­ful mes­sage. But when you put sci­en­tif­ic weight behind it, you make the mes­sage even stronger. 

Remember, data tied to video bridges your tough­est con­ver­sa­tions. So as you’re review­ing the past season’s per­for­mance and devis­ing a plan for when you return to the pitch, take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to remove the gray area.

Break up the monotony and try something new (and fun)

In some ways, the world is iron­i­cal­ly your oys­ter. By now, you’ve prob­a­bly seen a slew of back­yard chal­lenges” across plat­forms like YouTube. As NWSL Players Association Executive Director Yael Averbuch men­tioned in our chat, these chal­lenges are a great tool for stok­ing cre­ativ­i­ty.

Disadvantages become advan­tages if you play them right. At OKC Energy FC, for instance, play­ers can’t access the train­ing facil­i­ties. So assis­tant coach Leigh Veidman had them run around a near­by lake (social dis­tanc­ing, of course), and it turned out to be a wel­come break from the routine.

Go ahead, see who can come up with the best trick shot. Give out a reward to who­ev­er can make the most cre­ative home gym set­up. It’s proven that how well a team gets along social­ly has an impact on how well they play togeth­er on the pitch. 

Inspire them through required reading

We often hear about the impor­tance of a sec­ond sport in a player’s phys­i­cal devel­op­ment. But just as crit­i­cal is to be bal­anced in mind, too.

Major League Soccer has some great rec­om­men­da­tions for soc­cer books to share with your team.

The best coach­es across any sport often take inspi­ra­tion out­side of sports. So should you. Here are some great books that respect­ed minds across sports dig into:


  • David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmull
  • The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz
  • The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck
  • Chop Wood Carry Water, by Joshua Medcalf

Don’t have time for a book club? Consider hold­ing watch par­ties of some­thing inter­est­ing you found on Netflix. Or even have guest speak­ers join your next Zoom call to give them food for thought. 

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When play­ers see you are as invest­ed in their well-being as they are to their team­mates, that will pay off in div­i­dends — both in the short and long term. These tac­tics will pro­duce great mem­o­ries, but they’re also great ways to see who your lead­ers are in your program.

Want to see how Hudl’s video analy­sis tools play into your new remote work­flow? Take a look at all our offer­ings, or talk to an expert about set­ting up a free demo.