So you are now a brand-spanking new volunteer coach for a youth soccer team? Congratulations!
This is going to be a great experience for you and all those kids who have been entrusted to your leadership, skill, mentorship, coaching and values by their parents. You have effectively been made the custodian of a part of their childhood. The experience they have with you will help shape their confidence in themselves, their resilience, ability to handle adversity, grow their technical, tactical, physical and psychological ability and their love of the game.
You should be very excited…and be doing a fair amount of freaking out too. If this feels like a big deal it’s because it is. You have quite a few children under your wing now and a lot of things to accomplish. You might not have ever coached before. Maybe not even played soccer that much or at all!
It’s OK. You can do this.
Whether you enthusiastically jumped into this role or the only reason you “stepped forward” is because everyone else took two steps back. It doesn’t matter. It’s easier to sit on the sideline than it is to be on the field and you didn’t take the easy road. You are a volunteer coach and you rock.
So let’s get started. These are the things you need to start working on as a new volunteer coach for youth soccer in no particular order.
- Get some help. Assistant coaches to help run training sessions, games and give you different points of view. Team managers can help with the logistics and administrative stuff for the team – clears your plate to focus on trainings and the players.
- Write out your coaching philosophy. Sure you might have it in your head, but you want to get it onto paper (or a Google Doc). You’ll want to share it with parents. It’ll also help you focus on what’s important throughout the season.
- Take stock in your own strengths and weaknesses. Figure out where your gaps are. Try to be honest here. It’ll be important to identify what can frustrate you and what can make for less effective practices. If you know what to look for you’ll be able to plan for it or work around it.
- Set your development goals. For the season or the year if you play in Fall and Spring. These should be age appropriate and specific around the technical, tactical, physical and psychological. At the younger ages, it’s going to be a long list of technical, followed by shorter lists of the other three.
- Map out your training topics for the season. You don’t have to detail each training plan. Simply having an outline of what you will focus on each week will help guide you through the season.
- Start building your coaching network. The only way to get good at anything is to practice it and you’re freshly minted. Learn from the experience and, more importantly, the mistakes of others. You will want to begin reaching out to other coaches that have been doing this for a little while. They will be able to give you advice and perspective that will be invaluable.
- Look for ways to get coaching training and, ultimately, certified. The more I coach the more I realize that the “how” to coach is much more important than the “what” to coach. You can have a training session laid out with wonderful things to teach, but if the kids are bored, getting frustrated and you’re white-knuckling through then it’s not going to be a very effective session.
- Schedule a parent meeting. Set parent and player expectations up front and in person. When will practices be? When should they be at games? How will you be rotating players through positions? How will substitutions work? What type of behavior do you expect from them on the sideline? And more. Do this at the beginning and your season will go much smoother.
- Build out your bookmarks, and bookshelf, for resources to pull practice plans from. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Unless your club has a well defined training program mapped out, you will need to come up with these yourself. There are plenty of resources online and in print. Too many, actually. You’ll want to find age appropriate ideas. As I build out this site I’ll begin adding some of my favorites.
- Prepare to be patient. There’s no way to cover everything for your first game, fourth game and even seventh. Soccer is a complicated game and the only way to learn it is over time. A long time. And these aren’t mini-adults – they’re kids. Make it fun and take the long view.