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Being a professional soccer coach is an ungrateful role; it is very demanding and offers little rewards. A winning team is the product of the hard work and skills of the whole squad; a losing team, on the other hand, is the coach’s fault.
The pressure is so high that many coaches prefer working with youth players. Still, coaching youths also has its secrets. Do you want to know how to be a good youth soccer coach?
A good youth soccer coach must focus on forming excellent human beings. It is not possible to be a good footballer if you’re not a genuine person.
A youth coach must teach to respect the other, honesty to play the game, integrity while competing, and respect for the profession.
Youth soccer coaches have less pressure from the media and the fans. But that doesn’t mean their job is less relevant; forming professionals is perhaps more critical and challenging than training them.
Soccer has changed; youth players are coveted like gold in California in the 1840s. Youth soccer coaches must teach the secrets of the game and prepare them to deal with professional soccer environments.
How to be a good youth soccer coach? 15 tips you need to know.
The most important and perhaps the hardest of the teachings. It is not hard because the soccer player tends to be dishonest, but the game sometimes rewards trickery and unethical behavior.
Soccer is and always has been a sport where the only important thing is winning. It doesn’t matter how; the only thing that matters is the victory.
Players try to trick the refs by diving into the box or faking aggressions to the face when the rival barely touched their chest.
In my country, there is a saying: soccer is only for the crafty.
And not only because of that, but many youth players also come from the most absolute misery; it must be hard to explain what justice is and how things work better when there is justice.
Kids that see soccer as their only way out will try and do whatever it takes to win a match.
However, regardless of how some things work in soccer, honesty, integrity, loyalty, and respect help them be better persons and better footballers.
There is no downside for teams that practice noble soccer. The ref won’t show yellow cards for diving in the box, there will be no red cards for dirty fouls or aggression, and the respect for the teammates and the sport will keep the players focused on what they are doing.
Those who prepared themselves to be good people will triumph in life regardless of their success in the world of soccer.
2. Prepare the kids for failure
Soccer is a complex sport where the best team doesn’t have the victory assured, and not every time the best player of a group makes it to the first division and has a successful career.
Soccer is an adventure where many participants seek the same goal and where the rules are not very clear. The player relies not only on their talent but on their physical conditioning and their personal growth.
Kids must know that these elements won’t grow with mathematical precision. The maturative process of each player is different.
Youth soccer coaches must have this in mind and encourage youth players to stay in school and keep studying while they train and get ready to be professional footballers.
Failure can also come as a product of external factors that affect the game, and neither the coach nor the players can control—things like weather, field conditions, luck, and so forth.
It is essential to show the kids that winning and losing are part of the game. It is normal to lose as much as it is to win. Not because of a defeat the team sucks, nor after a stunning win, they are the best in the world.
An exciting way of teaching this is to stop naming things as bad or good. Once players understand that what is considered bad is temporary, that it is just a sequence of moments that will pass, they will start seeing victory the same way.
Coaches need to de-dramatize a team’s defeat and treat it as part of the learning process. If the other team won the match, they did things better than us, or they had more luck, and that’s it. Soccer always offers a rematch.
3. Study and reading
In soccer, decisions that can seal a game’s destiny are made in a fraction of a second. There is not a lot of time to stop to think and make a consideration about a play. Still, a sharp mind makes better decisions.
Soccer is not only about talent and physical conditioning. Players must read the game properly and make intelligent moves. Reading and learning new things stimulates the brain cells, stimulating it, after all, the brain is a muscle.
The game requires intelligence to pick the better play, deceive the rivals, and understand what the team needs.
That is why it is important to encourage youth players to read frequently and exercise their minds all they can.
4. Encourage teamwork
Nowadays, when a kid is having a good season in the youth leagues, the media will show up, take some pictures and even record an interview. The kid will appear on the cover of sports magazines or newspapers under an arousing headline.
Some young players might be seduced by the epithets wonderkid, superstar, and so forth. The coach’s job is to explain to those kids that the media and the club have their own agenda.
Journalists are trying to sell newspapers, and the club is basically advertising a product to capitalize on it.
The danger of the idea of the superstar born is that the young player might think that he can solve every match and that they don’t need the team to win games.
5. Persuasion over the imposition
A good soccer coach convinces the players that their plan to win a match is the best that can be thought of. Soccer players that feel insecure about their strategy and approach to the game tend to miss more and deliver poor performances.
For youth soccer coaches is the same. As they are seen as teachers, the kids understand they have the answers for each problem. But it is different if the kid receives an explanation of why they should do things a certain way.
Convincing a youth soccer player has two bright sides. If what is intended works, the coach gets the credit, and their authority is reinforced. The other bright side is that the player’s confidence grows considerably.
6. Teach values through the game
Every collective sport is useful for teaching lessons about solidarity, generosity, and sacrifice, and soccer is no exception.
The game teaches solidarity by itself; a soccer team has 11 members, and the game is played with only one ball; all of them want to have it, but only one can.
Forwards must score goals, but they can also sacrifice themselves and run a little more to help perform defensive tasks.
7. Be a teacher and a friend
The best way to be recognized by the kids is as a teacher and a friend. As someone who will teach them new ways to approach the game, and someone who will understand them and play with them, participate in their jokes, and laugh with them.
A teacher instructs, motivates during the lessons, and educates, contributing to better personal behavior. A good friend is one who always has sweet advice and offers unconditional and constant support.
8. Vision, planning, and evaluation
It is essential to elaborate a vision of the desired results before starting the season. The second step is to plan, make elaborated processes, step by step, to reach those goals. Finally, perform an evaluation.
The evaluation must be done in three steps.
- Initial evaluation – This allows the coach to check if the final goals are reasonable or not. This includes physical evaluation, medic, and psychologic.
- Periodic evaluation – This offers the possibility to assess if the players are showing improvement or not. If some players are downgrading, the coach can make some adjustments.
- Final evaluation – As its name indicates, this evaluation shows if the planning and the final result met if the team overachieved or underachieved what was expected from them.
9. Be a role model
As the leader of the squad, the coach must inform what is correct and also demonstrate it. It makes no sense if the coach doesn’t follow their own philosophy.
The coach must act during training sessions and games in the same way. During training, the coach and their team must first show up and be the last ones to leave.
When the team is playing a game, the coach must be respectful of the match’s authorities and officials.
If the coach is yelling at the ref, protesting, and insulting the officials, the team will likely behave the same way.
10. Be consistent when making decisions
Soccer players receive the words they hear, the gesture they see, and the actions performed in front of them.
Making substitutions during a game is a conflictive moment during games. Every player on the pitch wants to keep playing, and almost all of them think they are doing it well; rarely a soccer player will admit they were underperforming.
The coach must win the players’ respect; they must trust their coach. They need to believe that every coach’s decision will have a positive impact on the team.
That’s is why a coach must keep substitutions working with consistent logic. For instance, let’s say a player has a bad performance in a game and the coach decides to include him in the next match.
If after that another player underperforms, the coach must give that player a second chance as well.
That happens a lot with goalkeepers. A goalkeeper might concede several goals with lots of mistakes; after that, the coach decides to replace them for the next match.
If the new goalkeeper has a terrible afternoon, too, the coach should replace them. Now the coach has the two goalies with their morale underground.
Consistency is vital not only to substitute players but also to congratulate and punish them. If players detect a lack of consistency, they will doubt the coach’s decisions, strategies, and planning.
Coaches must observe and know their players; they must read the kids’ mood at first sight. A big part of the game and players’ performances depends on motivation. A player who is not motivated will underperform; they will print less effort into their plays.
At first glance in the morning, the coach must detect the players who could use some motivation. Lack of motivation is contagious, and it creates discomfort in the team.
A motivator focuses on each play’s positive side, not pointing out the mistake but indicating what could have been done better to solve a game situation.
It is easier to receive constructive critics than mere critics.
It looks obvious, but it is not. The coach must be sure their players understand what they are asked to do on the field. There is no point in talking and explaining concepts for hours when the players have no idea what the coach is talking about.
There are several communication tools to ensure the message is reaching its destination correctly. One of the simplest is to ask the player to repeat what they were told.
It is quick and effective. If the player didn’t understand what they are supposed to do in the field, they would not explain it.
It is also essential when and where to communicate certain things. The coach must be careful what they comment on in front of the entire team and what they keep private, just between the players involved in the situation.
When a player commits an error that leads to a goal from the rivals, perhaps it is not a good idea to scram at the defender, pointing out what was their mistake in that particular play. It won’t help the player, and it will make them more nervous.
13. Keep the peace in the team
A soccer squad has more than eleven players. They can have two or three times that number, and still, only sixteen of them have chances of playing; the first eleven and five substitutions.
The coach’s job is to keep substitutes and substitutes of substitutes happy, motivated, and ready to play when (if) the team needs them.
This is particularly hard with kids because the game is more about having fun than winning. But it is essential to make them understand that each piece of the team is vital.
A team can’t work properly without all of its parts, and every part needs to belong to a group to have a purpose.
14. Knowing their limitations
The coach is responsible for assessing their players. They must know the team’s fastest player, the strongest, the more talented, and so forth.
Training programs and workout routines must be explicitly designed to cover the players’ needs, improve their talents, and improve shortcomings. The players shouldn’t have to adapt to the training; training sessions must be inspired by them.
The coach and their team must teach the players how to overcome their lack of consistency in some game situations.
For instance, a player who has a hard time going for headings must learn to position correctly in the field; or a player who lacks speed must learn to intercept passes and read the rivals’ movements to anticipate them.
15. Tactics and strategies
There is no point in teaching powerful tactics if the team players can’t perform well in the first fourteen points of this article; that is why tactics are at the end.
However, understanding tactics and strategies to approach the game are crucial. Smart players need to identify the different moments in the game. They need to know how to read the rival’s movements and intentions to attack and defend.
Soccer games are very dynamic; teams change their tactics several times during the same game. Sometimes they attack with one forward, then with two or three.
Defenders must know how to read these changes and, most importantly, learn how to neutralize these different approaches.
The coach can make mistakes while planning a game; they might believe the rivals will behave one way and find a completely different thing.
They must act quickly, and the players must be ready to understand and interpret what they are supposed to do.
There is an old discussion about whether the players should adapt to the team’s tactics or the other way around. Whatever the case might be, the coach must identify the tactics they would implement with the team players available.
There is no point in forcing the players to produce a style of soccer out of their possibilities.