Many soccer parents become soccer coaches when they want to spend more time with their kids on the field and just have a genuine passion for the game. But once you’ve got the coveted coach spot, how do you make the most of it and help the players reach their—very literal—goals?
In today’s blog, we’ll be discussing five ways you can be an effective and beloved coach—because who says you can’t do it all?
Get to practice early.
As a coach, you likely value promptness in your players—so show them what it means to be on time and ready to go by doing it yourself! Prepare your practice notes, gear, balls and other supplies well beforehand and show up to the field about a half hour before your players are required to be. We know many young players run late, but many will also arrive early as well—be there to greet them and give them something to do!
Today, there’s a near constant debate going on regarding kids sports coaching: do you sugarcoat everything and always make your players feel important, or play it straight and prepare your players for “the real world?”
Both are valid methods—to a degree. But the best coaching style is one that combines realistic criticisms with encouragement and support. At their young age, many players will often react poorly to criticisms alone, and only take away from practice that you weren’t nice (even if it’s not always that black and white!). Build players up when they’ve done well and when they need some work.
Keep track of who plays and who doesn’t.
On a similar note, it’s important to keep track (on paper or in your mind) of who plays often and who could use more time on the field. It’s true that some players, even at their young age, will perform better than others—but in a youth soccer league, everyone deserves their chance to play! Balance the playing time out in a way that suits both the player’s and the team’s needs.
Talk a little less.
At its most basic level, youth soccer is about fun. For many kids, it serves as an important social outlet they may not get at school or home, and for all the rest it’s just an enjoyable way to “kick” back and have fun. For this reason, it may be helpful to talk a little less and let them play a little more. Your coaching expertise is important, but save it for breaks in gameplay rather than repeatedly stopping plays to comment on something. This isn’t just good for the players—it will also let you observe different playing styles and possible errors more clearly, since you will be able to watch potential strong (or weak) spots as they play out.
End play on a positive note.
Finally, when it’s time to send your players home for the night, do so with a positive attitude. No matter how many mistakes were made in practice, your players (young ones especially) will want to know that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Give them something to look forward to for next practice, and you’ll have players excited to keep playing.