The line between a player and coach is drawn by the painted lines on the soccer field. Coaches can influence a player off the field, but can only beg/implore a player on the field. Consider these two options:
A. "Allison, cover #33 so we don't give up a goal"
B. "Allison, you've got your zone locked down"
Neither is a great idea because the player is distracted by the coach during the game and it communicates your strategy to the opponent. The difference is that option B is more leading and encourages the player to use their own knowledge of what to do vs. direct orders in option A.
Assume you didn't give any instruction/advice to Allison. She has a striker run past her and score an easy goal that gives up a lead. Spice up the scenario and say it's a rival town game. Your team is even more deflated to give up that lead. What do you do in these three instances:
- Immediately after the goal as your team walks back to the center of the field - I don't believe in singling out a player when a goal is given up. Allison already feels responsible (but shouldn't). The whole team (including the coaches) win or lose games and each individual play. Say nothing. The parents will likely bark out, "get it back white/green/black/etc" or something positive. As a coach, remain calm and shift your attention to the bench. Your players on the field will build their own confidence as a group if they handle it themselves collectively.
- On the sidelines for players not in the game - Talk to these players about the strategy the opponent is using to succeed. They will likely keep doing it until you stop it. These players will be more prepared when they re-enter the game and can deploy what they have confidence to do. Be positive and don't name names. It's a team win or loss.
- When Allison comes off the field - Let her get to the bench and regroup/hydrate. Every player dreads walking past the coach after a bad play. This should be a goal for you to eliminate on the team. As she is ready to re-enter the game take a moment one on one to discretely talk about the play and reinforce what you've worked on and how she can use it. As a coach, you put Allison in that spot. Show her that you believe she can succeed. Don't expect her to miraculously improve though. Show her that hard work pays off over time. Focus on these skills as a group in practices.
If Allison or her teammates never learn the skill, they will always know that you believed in them and invested the the time to give them a chance. Find that balance where the sideline ends and where you can be more than a game coach.
The players need to know that on the field, it's their game.