How elite soccer coaches can build stronger relationships with players 

When coaches start their careers, many “lack the confidence to create our own philosophy and plan based on our own environment and constraints”, says Ivi Casagrande, an elite U.S. Women’s soccer coach. 

Ivi Casagrande is the Women’s & Girls Sports Scientist at Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club (in the UK), and acts as a FIFA consultant, had an interview we found interesting. In this interview with Freelap USA Ivi talks about the most effective ways coaches can improve relationships and training programs for soccer players. 

In this XPS Sports Series article, we take a closer look at her experience, and advice for coaches who are either starting out, or struggling to get the most from their players. 


What are some of the most common challenges elite soccer coaches face? 

One of the biggest challenges Ivi notes is that, “most of us coaches, especially when we started our careers (myself included), tend to have a very myopic view on physical preparation.” 

This usually means, “spending most of our energy in creating the perfect periodization plan as well as the most effective strength and power programs so we see our players getting faster and stronger”, said Ivi in the Freelap USA interview. 

Making players faster and stronger isn’t a bad thing. Players need to pay constant attention to strength and speed. But at the same time, that’s not the only thing coaches should focus on. 

Ivi also says that: “We also try to get the best bits of every successful coach and every research paper and then copy and paste to our own programs.” 

As a result, too many coaches lack the confidence to “create our own philosophy and plan based on our own environment and constraints.” 

Let’s break these challenges down: 

  • Focusing too much on strength and speed; 
  • Borrowing from other coaches, research papers, rather than creating a personal approach/philosophy; 
  • Thinking the only way players will perform well and achieve what coaches and managers want is through the creation of the perfect periodization plans. 


This is how the elite Czech soccer coaches use XPS Network to develop young talents in their regional academies project.


How can soccer coaches overcome these challenges? 

Ivi Casagrande, an elite Football Association’s Women’s Super League (FAWSL) soccer coach, and former U.S. National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) coach (and a and member of the U.S. Youth National Teams Sport Scientist Network) says that “the biggest impact I had on my players was the ability to connect with them on a personal level.” 

Connecting with players makes them part of the process. It empowers them. Improves performance, and helps coaches work with them, rather than making training top-down. 

Athletes in every sport need autonomy, competence, and a sense of relatedness. All of this improves motivation, performance and the outcomes coaches want to achieve. Providing a coach puts in the time and work to get to know them. 

Coaches have the power to raise up, increase confidence, and impress on players their own skills, abilities, and strengthen coping mechanisms. 

When coaches get to know players, they can support them more effectively with learning and deploying new coping mechanisms. As every coach knows, especially those who have been professional players, learning to cope with the challenges of the sport doesn’t come easily, or naturally, to anyone. 

Coaches need to give players the autonomy and ability to cope with the following: 


  • Position quality, strength range, motion, speed and stamina. 
  • Breathing: A big one, but often overlooked. Not only on the pitch, in training and matches, but when it comes to handling physical and mental strength and health, on and off the pitch. 
  • The demands and strain of being in the public spotlight, especially with the amount of online bullying/trolling that happens now. 
  • A sleeping better strategy, including meditation and mindfulness. 
  • How to see player performance differently, especially when something hasn’t gone well in a game. 


When coaches and sports scientists work with technical coaches, one of the most important challenges to overcome is to align the most effective work-to-rest ratios. Training drills need to improve “decision-making and technical skills, but also to develop their physical qualities.” 

Soccer players can perform well in training, but that doesn’t always translate into the outcomes managers get in games. Why is this, and how can coaches overcome this match performance deficit? 

Ivi recommends the following approach: “comparing match intensity metrics to training metrics, we can make sure we are exposing them to the right intensity in training, so they are able to effectively perform during game day.” 

With XPS Network, coaches can track and manage training and match intensity metrics. Benefit from insights from every coach and sports scientist they work with. Use video collections to review performance. And then take these insights into the planning process for revised training sessions, to ensure soccer players are getting the most effective training possible. 

Would your team, club, youth association, or sports association benefit from XPS and its wide range of features? Contact XPS Network if you want to find out more, or Sign-up for a Free Trial today.

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