5 Crucial Tips for First-Time Soccer Coaches

The start of the soccer season draws upwards of 19 million players to the fields – many for the first time. Among these soccer warriors are the moms and dads that volunteer to serve as coaches. These well-intended surrogates, many with no soccer or coaching experience, are central to the success of the season. Here are five crucial tips for first-time soccer coaches:

1. Team Meeting

Hold a team meeting with the parents. This is an important first step to establishing dialogue with the team. You’ll figure out straight away who will be your staunches allies and who may become troubling families. During this meeting, you must communicate your expectations for the season. Explain that the kids are your central focus and that the goal is to make the season as fun and as developmental as possible. The goal is to develop players. Winning or losing just happens to be a part of this development, but is never the goal. Since you are only one person, ask for assistant coaches. These people fulfill the important roles that will otherwise distract you from coaching: tying shoelaces, blowing noses and holding a hand for a bump or a bruise. Finally, before you leave, gather the best contact information for each family as you will encounter many different situations including separation and divorce.

2. Plan your Sessions

Inexperience in the sport either as a player or as a coach means that you have to be more prepared for your sessions. Even experienced soccer players may be new to coaching young players. It is a different dynamic of holding the attention of young players that may or may not want to be at practice. While preparing:
a. Focus on the basics
b. Don’t be afraid to experiment if your plan isn’t working
c. Don’t form lines. Lines are boring, allow only one player at a time to participate and will ensure players will lose interest.
d. Have a ball for every player. Soccer is an amazing sport that everyone can play at once to grow and develop. One ball per player is critical.
e. Talk for 30 seconds or less to young players. Quick short instructions are best.
f. Give frequent water breaks. This allows you to change the activity and keep the kids interest fresh.
g. Elevate your mind to the kids’ level and talk about the game in terms they’ll understand. Use references to superheroes or relevant cartoon characters to illustrate your points. You can’t imagine the progress when you put the game on their level.

3. Praise – not Criticize

Invest some time into getting to know your players personally. It will pay dividends in motivating them. Kids at younger ages respond to positive enforcement at far greater levels than negative criticism. Use the “sandwich” technique when correcting an issue: 1 compliment, 1 critique finalized with 1 compliment. Kids will learn and grow at their own pace. Exercise patience in their skill development.

4. Make it Fun

If you make it fun, the kids will learn and grow. Why? If your players love soccer, they’ll play it in the backyard with mom and dad and sister and brother. This is where the real development happens – in the backyard. Imagine how each player will want to show off their new move each week. As a coach, be as enthusiastic and positive as possible and you’ll see the kids faces light up. Turn them onto the game! You’ll be amazed at the results.

5. End of Season Party

Hold an end of season party and recognize each player with a “funny award.” This would include things like “Biggest Hustler”, “Craziest Headballer”, “Most Enthusiastic” but should never include “Best Player” which only please one player and disappoint the rest. You (and the players) will find it extremely rewarding to see first hand the development over the course of the season. If the kids have had fun and you’ve turned them onto the game of soccer, you have successfully completed your job as coach.

Congratulations on your first (of many) successful soccer seasons!

About the Author

Jerry Macnamara, an industry veteran since 1990 and a certified expert in US soccer retailing, founded TotallySoccer.com. Revolutionizing the soccer scene, TotallySoccer never discontinues its soccer uniforms or soccer jerseys ensuring every team’s budget is safe. TotallySoccer helps thousands of teams save time, money and tons of stress.