“What should we do?” said one of the parents, as we watched our boys 5-a-side team go 0-3 down.
“Do nothing, let them work it out, just give them time.” I replied.
The opposition coach was prowling up and down the touch-line, barking orders, whilst voicing various coaching terminology, which gave the appearance he knew what he was doing.
Meanwhile, we remained tight-lipped, although the vow of silence we had undertaken a few weeks ago was being severely tested by the opposition coach’s behaviour.
No doubt imbued by the score, he was becoming increasingly animated as the game progressed.
It reminded me of this brilliant clip below.
The easy option would be to vocalise what to do, as the opposition coach had done, but where would the learning be for the players in giving them the answers?
To get something out of this game, it would take the players on the pitch to come up with the solution. And they did.
0-3 became 1-3, then 2-3, before we equalised as the half-time whistle sounded.
What a response!
Now we had our chance to talk. First though, we encouraged the players to discuss and see where the problems lay, and how they could overcome them.
With a no subs policy in force to ensure each player gets 100% game time, we couldn’t bring on fresh legs.
The opposition team had 3 subs plus a tactic board and a coach, who had them sat down, around him, as Phil Brown did famously whilst in charge of Hull City.
Our boys didn’t sit down, which I feel is unnecessary and can be demeaning, particularly on damp grass, plus, they didn’t want to sit down.
The boys spoke, we offered a nugget or two of information, although it was mostly to say they had found the solution so far, without our help.
The challenge would be for them to find the answers again in the second half, without instruction, and with no subs to come on and make an impact.
Our team were made to wait on the pitch to start, whilst the opposition went through their tactics once more on a whiteboard.
Shortly after the referee restarted play, our boys went 4-3 up, then were pegged back to 4-4 ,before we scored twice to go 6-4 ahead.
The opposition scored two to make it 6-6, before, in the dying seconds, we made it 7-6 and the final whistle blew.
The boys were exhausted but so happy. We tried to have some form of a post match talk, but they just wanted to carry on playing in a free goal one of the boys spotted.
As we walked away, I looked over and saw the opposition sat down in a post game debrief, with a tactic board again in use.
They eventually had to be ushered off the pitch, as they were holding up the next game as their inquest continued.
One of the opposition parents offered warm congratulations on how we conducted our team and behaviour on the side.
I imagine this parent wistfully wondered about the amount of direct instruction his team faced and what good it did them.
The victory was irrelevant, it was how our boys learned through 100% playing time, with no coaching, only the odd encouragement with applause, that was the most pleasing aspect.
Our players had total freedom without recrimination, and were able to express themselves without fear of a mistake leading to them being brought off.
The turnaround was nothing to do with coach intervention or a stroke of genius by the rotation of players or positions or substitutions, only the boys figuring out the who, what and how.
Never has silence been so golden.