At the youth level, a soccer coach plays an extremely important role. The difference between a good coach and a bad coach can make or break an experience for young players.
When you volunteer or are hired to coach soccer, you take on certain responsibilities.
You immediately become an important part of a young soccer player’s life.
Having coached youth soccer myself, I understand the importance of the role and how a coach can have a lasting impact on players.
What makes the responsibility of coaching soccer worthwhile?
There is nothing more rewarding than when a player you coached in the past reaches out to tell you how thankful they are for your efforts.
It is important to remember that a soccer coach does not just influence a player’s development as a player, they are important in their development as people, let’s find out more...
What does a youth soccer coach do?
Depending on the level at which you are coaching, youth soccer coaches can have varying responsibilities. First and foremost, their job is to teach the game to the kids that they coach.
Some soccer coach responsibilities include:
- Selecting a team
- Organizing training sessions
- Communicating with parents
- Scheduling practices
- Scheduling games
- Registering for tournaments/leagues
- Attending league meetings
- Administrative duties (e.g. registering players)
Responsibility to develop Players
The most important part of any soccer team is its players. No matter what level you’re at, the coach is responsible for their players.
Sometimes coaches have a choice in which players they have on their teams, but sometimes they are assigned through a league.
No matter the case, your goal as a youth soccer coach should be to oversee the development of each player.
Young players’ abilities are going to range widely. You might have to work with someone who has never touched a soccer ball before.
If that is the case, you should focus on teaching basic skills like dribbling, passing, and shooting.
As you progress through the ranks, you might end up with a high-level club team full of players that are committed to the game.
While the fundamentals are still important, you can also start to work on more detailed parts of the game such as tactics.
Should my Team play club or select soccer?
In our soccer system, there are a couple of different types of soccer. There is recreational soccer and club (select) soccer.
Club teams are usually more advanced while recreational teams focus more on learning the games.
In most recreational leagues, a parent or volunteer will coach the team. Because it is recreational play, the objects are to have fun and learn the game.
These leagues can be competitive, but most of the time is just used for learning purposes.
- They are extremely valuable for communities and a great way to get kids involved in the sport.
Club teams are geared more towards players and coaches who have a strong desire to take their game to the next level.
Teams are formed usually using a tryout process.
Coaches will have the opportunity to evaluate players and hand-pick them to strengthen their side. Club teams can often cost a hefty sum of money.
Once a coach has their team, their next priority should be to put together a coaching plan.
Their plan might include things like a coaching philosophy, goals, schedule, team rules, and expectations.
This will help the team and coach stay on track by serving as a reference guide for their season.
How to Manage Parents?
Parents can be one of the most difficult things to manage for any youth soccer coach. Sometimes it is forgotten that, at the end of the day, these are children playing the game.
Every parent wants to see their child succeed.
Some parents have an inflated view of just how good their child is. Others just want to make sure they are being treated fairly.
When players first start out, it is important to remember a few key things:
- The objectives of the game are to learn and have fun
- Every play learns the game at a different pace
- Each player deserves time and patience
- Kids will be kids. Don’t take it too serious
- Not every game is about the final result
This information can be useful for parents and coaches.
Eventually, as the players get older and start to take the game more seriously, playing time can be determined based on things like skill level and results can become more important.
Even then, an adult coaching kid has an opportunity to teach lessons that extend off the field.
Additionally, it is important that parents respect their youth player’s coaches.
More often than not, these coaches are people who are volunteering their time or working for small sums of money for nothing more than the love of the game.
I have seen many parents attempt to undo what a child learns at training.
Whether you think a coach’s decision is right or wrong, their ultimate goal is to help the players and the team.
It is important that they have the opportunity to do that without having to be approached by an angry parent after a game.
How to plan a successful training session?
Training is where coaches have the greatest opportunity to work with their players. It is important, however, that coaches make sure their training sessions are well thought out.
Youth practices, especially for beginner soccer players, should mix engagement and fun with learning and competition.
Here are some tips for planning a successful training session:
- Keep sessions short – even at the highest level training for more than the length of a game can end up doing more harm than good
- Have a plan – coming into a session knowing what you are going to do eliminates downtime and ensures you get the more out of each practice
- Mix it up – working on technical skills is important, but spending most of your time doing mundane activities can burn out players. Instead, find games that might help them learn those skills in a more fun way
- Keep it moving – being able to adjust on the fly is important. Sometimes a great drill just isn’t clicking with a team. Try to make adjustments or move onto the next thing if something isn’t working
- Stay calm – coaching a youth team can be difficult. The mind of a child can be sporadic. They want to play and they might not always be focused on soccer. Do your best to have patience, even if they aren’t interested in soccer that day
If you are coaching a youth team, you may only have a few days a week to teach them the game. Use that time wisely.
It isn’t always going to be easy, but if you keep working at it, you will find a system that works for you and your team.
How to Play a Game? – the best part
Games are where you and your team have the opportunity to put it all together. Everything that you work on in training is finally put to the test.
Whether you are coaching an under-6 rec team that doesn’t keep score or an under-17 team competing to win major competitions, actually playing the game is what soccer is all about.
How each coach approaches a game is largely a matter of personal preference.
Some coaches feel that what they do in training should be enough for the players to go off of.
- Then, they are very hands-off in the coaching process. They’ll watch and make adjustments if necessary, but largely prefer to stick to their game plan.
- Others prefer to be more involved in the game. Constantly talking to their players, almost acting more like an orchestra conductor than a soccer coach.
There’s no wrong way to do it. Ultimately, if it works for you and your team, it is the right thing to do.
Coaches can be some of the most influential people in an athlete’s life. Even if you don’t continue to play the game, the way a coach treats and speaks to you can be impactful.
As coaches, we have the power to determine whether or not our impact is positive or negative.
It is my hope that all coaches will do their best to make sure each of their players walks away with a positive outlook on soccer and on life.