A soccer coach should be prepared to do much more than just design practices and help players become better at soccer. You need to constantly re-learn the game, watch the game, love the game, be yourself and develop the right culture.
What does a soccer coach do?
A soccer coach manages a group of soccer players or takes charge of a soccer team with a view to helping them develop as individuals and soccer players.
Some of the duties include:
- Planning and leading training sessions that are age and ability specific
- Educating players on soccer technique and tactics
- Promoting the enjoyment of soccer to improve players’ decision making
- Promoting the physical literacy of players
- Helping players develop emotionally and psychologically
- Helping players to socialize and work as a team
- Communicating with players
- Admin such as team kits and fees
Why I coach soccer (and you should too!)
Try as I might after 37 years of being on this planet, I struggle to imagine a better game than soccer.
So imagine being able to help others love the game as much as you do. That’s kind of what being a soccer coach is all about.
I'd love to see the stats on how much the average soccer fan thinks about the game during the day. Or how often any sports fan thinks about their favourite sport, come to that.
Soccer is fulfilling and should be inclusive, as family relationships blossom over this wonderful sport that we call soccer.
So in order to be a good soccer coach you just need to start loving the game and help other people love it as much as you do. If you can do that the rest takes care of itself.
Even if you aren’t sure about soccer, you understand the following benefits to young people and adults alike:
- Physical literacy
- Being part of a team
- Social communication
- Mastery of a skill
And there’s so much more.
It's often easier to make kids fall in love with soccer because they see adults, their friends and people they respect and look up to playing the game and being affected by it.
At its most basic level, it's the joy of throwing your foot through a round, inflatable pig's bladder.
It's hearing the ripple of the net (or the onion bag as we sometimes call it in the UK) as the ball clatters into it.
The joy of chasing after somebody and tackling them; of keeping the ball from somebody else; passing; moving; winning as a team how you deal with losing.
It's about the passion and excitement that builds up before every game or training session or even before any game that you watch on TV.
When I was a child soccer coaches used to stand on the sidelines smoking cigarettes and shouting at young players as if they were kids.
10-year old boys and girls would be brought to tears because they've been given instructions that mean nothing to them.
Good soccer coaches develop players without them even realising that they have been developed. They understand the importance of not only the technical, but the psychological, physical, social and tactical implications of what they are doing.
In order for players to develop, it's no different from other walks of life.
People progress and succeed if they have autonomy and can show signs of improvement.
Soccer coaching fits into a few categories
How much do you love the sport or how much are you prepared to try and love it if you are new to it?
Why are you coaching soccer?
There are a few reasons why you might need to become a great soccer coach. You may have started doing it when your child is young and you feel a bit like you're being cajoled into doing it.
You may be doing it because you feel like it's a good thing to do when your local sports club needs volunteers.
You may just be doing it because you love the game and love the idea of being a soccer coach.
In some cases you may also even want to be a soccer coach as a career.
Like anything in life, the more you love doing it the easier it will become.
So if you aren't already in love with soccer ( or football as we call it in the UK) then you'll need to try. The good news about soccer is that it's quite easy to fall in love with.
Beyond all the Glitz and glamour of the top flight game; the sports cars and the models and the tattoos, is often the love of a young child for this round bit of leather filled with air.
How can you start to fall in love with the game even more.
The answer to that is simple, just look beyond what you see in the medial.
Soccer has the power to create communities and tribes. It's even been known to help governments win elections historically. Like all sports it can bring mental health and physical well being to millions.
Learn about the game
There are loads of resources online via blogs and YouTube which are full of ideas of how to plan a session, how to deal with kids of all ages and how to make sure that they all fall in love with soccer and develop as people and soccer players.
Watch the game
It’ s difficult to be a soccer coach without watching the game.
Luckily they are always games on TV and you can easily find classic games to watch on YouTube.
While the idea of watching a lower division game from the UK may not be the most appealing, especially when it ends 0-0 on a wet Tuesday evening, there are always plenty of observations to be made.
You may be a defensive coach who relishes a defensive game and love a chance to see how quickly a team can shut the opposition out.
Watching multiple teams can also give you an appreciation of different styles of play and different approaches to management.
Are you a calm coach, standing on the touchline observing and encouraging or are you a mad hatter, jumping around questioning every decision? (There are many more styles in between this scale)
Ask other coaches
There are loads of opportunities to watch other coaches in action and this is useful. Watching beginner coaches, you can observe what they do and how they do things differently to you. Watching experienced coaches of all age groups means you can see how they approach things like session design and even behaviour of their players.
You can also ask other coaches how they might overcome problems which is very useful to help them solve problems that you maybe don't even see.
For example, you may struggle with how do I get my players to win the ball back faster? Or it could be how do I improve the confidence of my players when running with the ball?
Asking other coaches these questions always throws out insightful answers whether they are a beginner or an experienced Pro.
Join as many Facebook coaching communities and online Communities you can. You’ll quickly see which are useful and which are not.
Watch other coaches
By watching other coaches you can see how they react to different scenarios.
- How often do they intervene when coaching?
- How effective are their interventions?
- How do they react to individuals?
- How do they keep the session engaging and fun?
- How to make transition between each practice at training
Most importantly you have to be yourself. Be authentic and recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and how that can be applied to your soccer coaching.
There might be something you want to work on. For example you may know that Your enthusiasm sometimes visibly wanes, and your players may pick up on it. How can you keep your positivity and energy levels reasonably high or at least high enough to engage the group every week?
But of course, you have great strengths and the sessions you design and the team you create should reflect that.
You can affect the attitudes of the kids, adults and the parents by creating the right culture.
Embrace the chaos
When coaching youth soccer things can get chaotic. You could spend hours designing a session and it will go straight out of the window as soon as kids start misbehaving or spending a lot of time on the floor crying.
You should embrace the chaos. Soccer is chaotic.
It’s very rare that you run in the same line, make the same pass and dribble the same way more than once in any given soccer game.
So embrace any interference. It might mean soccer balls all over the place, kids running in all directions and the session not going entirely according to plan, but every scenario offers affordances that are similar to a soccer match.
Forget what parents and spectators think. You should always have a “why” and as long as you can give the answer then you’ll be in a good place.
Where to find coaching opportunities
You may start coaching because your own child is involved in a team, in which case that is fairly straightforward.
You may be looking for volunteer opportunities, in which case you should contact local clubs and organisations to see if you can help. This is a great idea anyway when you are first starting out as it is a chance to watch other coaches and clubs to get ideas and gain experience.
You may be looking to start a career in soccer coaching in which case it is not only a good idea to get experience through volunteering, but also to get certified.
You can understand the level at which you would like to coach and then look at the qualifications to help you on your journey.
Find out more about US soccer certificates here.