Did the call go out for a volunteer soccer coach and you thought, why not? I coached for the first time a few years ago and these are a few of the tips I came up with for coaching a soccer team for the first time including getting your body in shape and how to manage kids who don’t listen!
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First Time Coach Confessions
In late summer I signed up my kindergartner for soccer. There was a call for coaches and I immediately started thinking about who I knew in my family that could help. My husband works full time and also goes to night school, so as much as he’d love to volunteer I knew he was out. And then it hit me, “Why can’t I be the coach?”
This is new territory for me. I’ve never coached soccer before. In fact, I haven’t played soccer since I was 12. I used to be extremely athletic but have a back injury that I’m working through therapy for. However I really wanted to push myself into learning something new and being more involved with my kid’s activities. After some consideration, I registered as head coach. Way to jump in with two feet!
Here are a few tips and honest thoughts about being a first time coach. I’ve learned a LOT in the last few months of coaching and would like to share how I’m pushing myself to learn and grow as much as my players.
1. Build Up Stamina
There’s no way I could have just leapt into coaching without first getting into shape myself. I’ve been going to the gym several times a week and walking at least 30 minutes per day. It’s been all about moving more and sitting less to build up my stamina for playing soccer with these 8 little boys!
If you haven’t been very active, consider a visit to the doctor for a physical clearance first. Then work yourself up into shape by adding in walking and stretching before you get on the field as a first time soccer coach. It can get HOT on the field! While you want to make sure kids don’t overexert in the heat, make sure you’re also safe from heat exhaustion. Bring a water bottle and a cooling neck towel to drop your core temperature.
2. Get Help
As soon in the season as you can, seek out parent volunteers. I wasn’t unable to secure an assistant coach so it’s me, all by myself, on the field at practices and games. It can really be a challenge to set up drills during practice when you’re the only adult because with 8 players, I’m definitely out numbered! Having a “team parent” help with coach/parent communication is imperative. It’s best to have another parent available for collecting money for the team banner, arranging a snack schedule and ordering trophies.
3. Open Communication with the Parents
With texting it’s so easy to send a quick reminder to all my player’s parents about upcoming practices and games. In addition I send a weekly email with details about upcoming games, I go over the “game focus” and bring up anything that’s too long for a text.
It’s also a good idea to have parents help with any team needs you have. No reason you should be footing the bill for all the things as the soccer coach! If you need pop-up goals, ask parents if they have a set you can borrow for the season. Request that a parent bring a shade cover for kids to sit under at break time. See if anyone can bring the team banner each week so it’s one less thing you have to think about.
4. Have a “Game Focus”
Each week at practice in addition to the usual drills like dribbling, passing and kicking, I have my players work on a predetermined “game focus”. Our focuses have been, “Corner kicks”, “Turning the ball around” and “Follow up”. After one week’s game when a player on the other team was taunting our players, our game focus was “Good sportsmanship”. We discussed how to handle things if another player is acting rude. Having a focus at each game reminds my players what we worked on in practice.
5. Move More, Talk Less
I try to keep my “soccer coach talks” to less than 30 seconds each time. 8 boys tend to get pretty wild and they don’t listen much after thirty seconds of talk! Showing rather than explaining goes farther. I also find that if I’m silly their ears perk up and they’re more apt to listen!
6. Keeping It Fun
Let the game be a game and just have fun! Our division doesn’t keep score (though of course, each of my players has their own tally of the goals!). I always allow plenty of time at practice after our drills to just have a fun scrimmage against each other. Sometimes we even play 8 against 1 and the boys try to score past me.
7. Healthier Body for More Energy
Just as I always insist that my little players eat a well-rounded meal before a game, I’m setting a good example as well. I need good fuel for practice and games. Before the Saturday game, my son and I make sure to take time for breakfast together. We chat a bit about the upcoming game, talk about the game focus and then pack up the mini van with our game ball and banner.
Encourage parents to always bring their player a full bottle of water (don’t forget one for yourself). Consider only having parents bring healthy foods for the post-game snack. Items like clementines, yogurt-covered pretzels and chilled chocolate milk are ideal snacks to replenish the body.
What are your tips as a first time soccer coach? Share them in the comments!