Coaching junior and youth soccer is a tremendous honor. Watching young players develop their soccer skills and grow into confident, young people is a very satisfying pastime. So to help you and your players get the most out of your season, here are fifteen surefire ways that will help you succeed as a soccer coach.
Some of these are just common sense but they are still a useful reminder for anyone whose season has just started or is about to start. Use them as a checklist to see whether you are doing the right things for you, your players and the supporters!
#1 Ensure that everyone enjoys themselves
Winning is important but it shouldn’t be the sole reason for playing or coaching. Striving to win is different than winning at all costs. Players need to feel like they can express and enjoy themselves; by allowing this and giving them the skills to play you will create a winning team.
#2 Hold a pre-season contracting session
Getting the season underway and ensuring that everyone, players, parents and assistants know exactly what your plans are for the season is a must. This gives you the opportunity to set out your agenda, make new players feel welcome, provide policies, rules, paperwork and codes. You should ensure that nobody leaves with any shred of doubt as to what’s your plan for the season ahead.
#3 Get your paperwork in order
Make sure that all players have completed the necessary signing on paperwork well in advance of the season starting. Get parental consent for your players to participate in training sessions and matches and also to receive emergency medical aid when they are present. It is also important to know if any of your children have an allergy (especially to bee stings) or medical conditions such as asthma. Once you have this information, don’t leave it at home on match days and when you’re training – keep it with you so you can refer to it in an emergency.
#4 Brush up your own skills
Read and educate yourself on new practices & drills, tactics, formations and strategies. Brush up on key technical elements. In the US, many clubs organize their own coaching education and you should take full advantage of this. If you’re based in the UK, I recommend that you take the Football Association Club Coach course. Its good fun, easy to do and will provide you with a lot of useful information including child protection best practice, how to give life-saving emergency first aid and how to organize and run your own coaching sessions.
#5 Check over your soccer kit
What needs renewing, replenishing, mending before the season starts? Take special care to ensure that emergency aid kit is fully stocked. If you need any replacements, investigate the many different ways that you can raise the necessary funds. Get your players involved with sponsored activities, find out if parents’ employers will sponsor you or approach local firms.
#6 Set a goal for the season ahead
Can you finish top of the league? Are you going to win every game on the way? Is a good cup run sufficiently? Not every player will be a shining star throughout the season and different players will have different needs, set each player specific milestones and goals that help contribute to the wider objectives and goals of the team for the soccer season ahead.
#7 Plan your training sessions well
Terrific soccer training sessions are fun, move at a quick pace, keep the players on their toes, move from drill to drill quickly and efficiently, culminate in a small sided game that specifically practices the techniques and skills learned in the session. Progression needs to be the key, players need to be stretched as soon as a technique is learned or mastered up the level to make it harder. Plan your sessions, this makes all of the above happen.
#8 Provide good quality demonstrations and KISS feedback
Remember a picture paints a thousand words, always use demonstrations. If you can’t do it find someone a player or assistant that can. Even if they can’t do it the perfect first time, that’s ok, provide the feedback to them on what could or should have done, players will still grasp the concept. Feedback should be specific, remember to Keep It Short & Simple.
#9 Ensure all players get a fair share of the action
Parents like to see their own child on the pitch. If they turn up each week and their child is always on the side line they are going to become pretty hacked off. If this happens you’ll have some problems ahead of you. On the other hand, if you’ve followed Tip #2 and held a contracting session where you stipulate that not every child will play every week and that some players may only get bit part roles throughout the season and checked if everyone is ok with this right at the beginning of the season, then this is something that you can avoid.
Personally, I always try to provide equal playing time for all players, regardless of their ability. This sometimes leads to losing games that I could have won if I’d kept the weaker children on the bench but my main coaching objective isn’t winning games, it’s making sure all my players have fun and develop their potential. But again, this needs to be explained to your players and their parents at the beginning of the season if you want to avoid problems later on.
#10 Maintain a match log
Starting players, substitutes, minutes played, positions played in, goals scored, yellow or red cards earned all of these stat’s will come in useful during the season. Whether its to give players some feedback, assess needs or back up with hard fact any points that you need to make with disgruntled parents.
By keeping a log it’s also really easy preparing your end of season speech for the Presentation night!
#11 Keep open lines of communication with players and parents throughout the season
This isn’t just to make sure that everyone is happy and comfortable with the team, it’s about taking an interest in players too! Make time to speak to players about their development, tactics, sportsmanship, skills, position etc. By taking an interest it shows that you care and this will lift any young soccer player’s performance.
Also, give parents plenty of opportunity to have airtime too. If they do come to you with any gripes or complaints let them speak. Resist jumping in and defending yourself immediately, don’t react. Allow them to get everything off their chest, listen, demonstrate that your listening, then construct your answer so that they get your full explanation in a calm and considered manner. It might not be that they are going to necessarily agree or disagree with your points but give them airtime.
#12 Appoint a parent representative
A good parent representative can be worth their weight in gold. For me a training session should be exactly that a training session, where you put your players through their paces and develop their soccer skills. However, we see too many sessions taken over by parents wanting to discuss issues that could be dealt with by a parent rep. Instead of you getting many queries all on the same topic by different parents, have your parent rep deal with them, or co-ordinate the issues so that you only deal with them once, after the training session.
#13 Lead by example
Show respect for officials, opponents, players and parents. Develop a sound sense of sportsmanship with you players.
#14 Offer plenty of praise!
Be an uplifting coach, one that the players look up to and respect. You can do this easily by offering plenty of praise, catch your players doing things well and tell them. Yes they will need feedback when things aren’t going so well but this can still be done in a positive manner by using the praise – criticize – praise technique.
#15 Don’t over coach
Try not to over coach from the side lines during the game; give too much feedback at half time or a major run down of the game at full time. Win, lose or draw have a quick summing up after the game and then plan your next coaching session from what you’ve seen.