Every coach has a style of pep talk they prefer. Go with what works for you. Having tried many different varieties including analytical, intense, funny, etc. I can tell you it is very situational. At best I can offer some do’s and don’ts.
- Introduce new concepts – That’s a very stressful time to try to absorb new information (and it won’t be)
- Add stress – Players already know they’re in the play offs or facing a good team. Don’t heap on the pressure. Players play their best when they are calm and relaxed
- Overload with information – If you happen to have a lot of great information to share about the other team, that’s great, but don’t introduce of ton of new information right before the game. It will add to the stress level because they are trying to remember new concepts (see above)
- Review the critical datapoints of each position, especially at 12u and below. They should always be reminded of what their best 2 options are for their position when they receive the ball
- Address any elephants in the room – If the other team has an especially good player, or if the game result makes or breaks your playoff chances, or you’re missing your best player etc. make sure you bring it up and address it. It will show your players that you aren’t afraid to discuss it and that you aren’t concerned about it in either case
- Review coaching points from the week – What are the 1-2 things you want to see them execute on from practice. I’m a big proponent of having fun bounties tied to this. E.g. the player who plays the most through balls to space is captain next week. Remind them of this and keep score so you can reinforce at quarter breaks and half time
Unfortunately I can’t provide guidance on style. Some players and teams respond well to positive pressure and some benefit more from joking around and silliness before the game. Just do your best to read your players. Pro tip: Ask your son/daughter what types of pregame talks they enjoy most. In any case, do take the time before the game to come up with some talking points. That preparation will be rewarded. Also see related pregame prep: lineup, warmup, and on-field instruction.
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