Soccer is one of the most popular and commonly followed sports on a worldwide scale. It is played by people of all ages and skill levels and is often seen as a key component of athletic development for young athletes. Recent studies have shown that soccer is one of the most beneficial sports for children, as it can boost physical fitness, coordination, problem-solving abilities, and cognitive development.
How to be a Great Kids Soccer Coach Using 11 Helpful Tips
Because soccer cannot be effectively learned without proper instruction, it is imperative that young players have the best possible coaching and guidance in order to maximize their potential. If a child’s coach provides the best possible instruction and direction, the player is more likely to keep practicing and enjoy playing the sport for a long time.
Are you a youth soccer coach, or a parent aiming to help your child get better at the sport? We have compiled a list of our top 11 tips for coaches and parents of any experience level. Without further ado, here are some key pointers to help you coach youth soccer at a high level.
Get to Know Your Junior Players
The first step in coaching soccer is getting to know your players from both a mental and physical perspective. This means understanding their strengths and limitations and catering your coaching to meet their needs. To do this, you need to gather as much relevant information as you can about each player. This includes everything from their willingness to listen to instructions, to their physical traits which may give them certain advantages on the field. Once you have a better idea of your player’s skills and mindsets, you can start to develop tailored drills and exercises that will help them improve the weaker aspects of their game, while maximizing their strengths.
Start Preparing for Practices Early
Many coaches are volunteers; however, youth soccer coaching is a lot of work. (we believe all coaches should be compensated!) A lot of early prep work is required to excel as a coach.
Sure, you may be excited to jump right into everything at the first practice session, but don’t forget that you’ll need to devote time to prepare as well. Take some time to read up on the game, and understand the basics of soccer techniques, strategy, and rules, before you start practicing with your team.
Adequate preparation is the key to being a successful coach. By planning out how each practice session will go, there will be less wasted time figuring out what to do and more time spent getting better on the field. It is the best way to ensure that your players are learning the game, improving their skills, and having a fun time while doing so. The separation is in the preparation!
Make Sure You Fully Understand the Game of Soccer
Becoming a good youth soccer coach starts with understanding the game and how to teach it. You must be able to see and analyze the dynamics of the game and know how to use your players’ abilities to the team’s advantage. In actual games, you need to be able to read what’s going on and make timely decisions.
When your kids are competitively playing another team, it’s important to keep a keen eye on the opposition’s tactics. Try to know what their weaknesses are and how to exploit them. When you know their weaknesses, you will have a better chance to put your team in a better position to be successful.
Make sure you keep your team’s ages and skill levels in mind. Soccer can be a completely different sport depending on which age and skill level you are coaching. The rules (think slide tackling) often vary by level as well.
Stay Organized On and Off the Field
There are plenty of things to juggle when coaching youth soccer, and one of the most important is keeping track of the game. Whether you’re using a simple spreadsheet or mobile software application to maintain organization, it’s important to make the league schedule, games, and player profiles as easy to understand as possible.
One way to make things easier is to use symbols to represent different situations rather than writing things out. For example, when logging what is happening in a game, you could use various symbols to represent a free kick, a midfield battle, or a corner kick. This will make it easier to create a visual overview of how any game went.
Focus on the Soccer Basics First
There are a few basics that every coach should be aware of. Soccer coaching basics include understanding the game plan, and players’ positions, setting up offensive and defensive responsibilities, and ensuring that all junior player’s understanding of soccer fundamentals is sufficient. A junior soccer player will rarely get the chance to take a shot at the goal if they fail to understand the basics of dribbling the ball.
A player with strong basics can go a long way in the sport and the best time to teach the basic techniques is at an early age. The younger kids are, the faster they absorb information and learn through trial and error. Therefore, it is a major responsibility of youth coaches instill beginning soccer players with solid fundamentals.
Practice Communication and Interpersonal Skills
When coaching youth soccer players, one of the most vital skills to have is strong communication and interpersonal skills. This is important in managing players’ emotions and keeping the team cohesive.
When communicating with players, make sure to be as clear as possible. For example, you should avoid using ambiguous language when explaining how to do any particular drill. Rather, use clear and concise language so that your players understand what you are asking them to do, and why.
Provide Clear Feedback to Junior Players
Providing feedback is one of the most important ways for coaches to improve their players. It allows kids to understand how they are playing and how to adjust their game accordingly.
Feedback should be timely and accurate, and it should be given in a way that children can understand. Additionally, feedback should be given in a way that players feel comfortable hearing.
Emphasize the Importance of Teamwork
One of the most impactful things a good coach can do is to emphasize the importance of teamwork. Players need to understand that they are part of a team and that they need to work together in order to succeed. This is particularly important in soccer, where team chemistry and group tactics can be crucial in determining whether or not a team will be successful.
The lessons learned by kids in team sports are invaluable in life, too. Soccer is hailed as one of the best team sports available to today’s youth. This is in large part due to the teamwork and leadership skills that are naturally instilled in kids through the course of any given soccer season.
Be Patient and Accepting
As a coach, it’s important to make sure each player is developing at their own pace. This means that you shouldn’t try to push some players too quickly and try to give each player the time and space they need to grow.
Depending on the age range you are coaching, there’s a chance you will have to deal with some crying. This is completely natural and a part of all kids sports. When a crying incident occurs, remain calm and don’t raise your voice. Typically a 5-minute breather on the sideline will be the best solution.
It will take time to develop a strong coaching relationship with your players. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t exactly grasp everything at first. Just be patient, offer encouragement, and stay positive. If you’ve seen the movie “Kicking and Screaming”, basically don’t do anything that Phil Weston does.
Open Communication with Other Parents
Becoming a soccer coach is a great way to connect with your own kids while simultaneously mentoring an entire group of children. However, as a youth soccer coach, you are but a single person; it’s important to remember that parents play a substantial role in their children’s soccer development, as well.
Be aware of parents’ concerns. No matter how good you are at running a youth soccer program, if parents don’t feel like they’re able to contribute or share in the team’s success, or provide constructive feedback, then they may lose interest. Take the time to listen to what they are saying, and try to address any concerns they have.
A great way to get other soccer parents involved is to organize a team outing where parents are encouraged to bring a food or drink item and interact with other parents and their kids. We would recommend holding some kind of end of the season picnic, barbeque, or pizza party. This will also go a long way to ensuring parents enroll their kids in the league for the following season.
Keep it Simple – Let the Kids Play and Have Fun!
Youth soccer is all about having fun, so the last but not least tip is to keep the game fun and simple. Studies have shown that young children develop sports skills faster when practicing in a fun environment, as compared to a strictly results-driven one. If your team manages to win a game, be sure to celebrate in style! (while practicing good sportsmanship of course) And if you happen to lose, then treat it as a learning experience and remind your players that what matters most is getting better at soccer, and having fun!
Have Other Tips for Soccer Coaches or Parents? Let Us Know!
In addition to having extensive knowledge and know-how of the game, a youth soccer coach needs to be an effective communicator, committed to players’ development, an excellent motivator, patient, accepting, and a good role model. We hope you are able to take at least one of these 11 coaching tips, and make use of it on the soccer pitch this season.
If you have soccer coaching experience and know of any other tips to add to this list, then let us know!