If you’re a first time soccer coach, these are the must-read tips for having fun and learning along the way. These are a few of the tips I came up with when coaching a soccer team for the first time including getting your body in shape, how to be a better coach and ways to manage kids who don’t listen!
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BornToShred #ShredTheDay #CollectiveBias This article was originally published in 2017 has been updated and republished with a new date.
Tips for a First Time Soccer Coach
Did the call go out for a volunteer soccer coach and you thought, why not? This article includes a few tips and honest thoughts about being a first time soccer coach in a youth soccer league.
I’ve learned a LOT of the past few years of soccer coaching. I’m sharing how I pushed myself to learn and grow as much as my soccer players! If you’re wondering how to be a good youth soccer coach, follow these important tips.
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 was new territory for me. I’d never coached soccer before. In fact, I hadn’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 and let my coaching career begin!
I coached for the first time a few years ago and have coached each year after. I’m not raising athletes on a professional level at the practice field. But it’s a good time and the kids learn a lot.
Build Up Stamina
There’s no way I could have just leapt into coaching without first getting into shape myself. Before soccer practices even start, you’ll want to start getting yourself into condition. 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.
I’ve been exercising at home 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 young players!
While the kids are running soccer drills, jump in with them when you can. As a parent coach, you’ll be getting your training sessions right along with the players (while also fitting in your fitness workout).
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 wrap a Cooling Towel around your neck to drop core temperature.
One of the first things to do in the season is to seek out parent volunteers. I wasn’t unable to secure an assistant coach in my first year coaching. So it was me, all by myself, on the field at practices and games.
That was HARD WORK. It can really be a challenge to set up drills during practice while also keeping the kids in line. When you’re the only adult with 8 players, you’ll definitely be out numbered!
If you’re able to enlist a coaching staff, this will help with the player to coach ratio. Work together for warm ups and some of the drills. Break up the team into smaller groups for a little bit of the practice. This will allow extra time to work with each player at their own skill level.
Rotate groups at various stations that focus on specific technical skills like shooting and dribbling. Ideally with young athletes it’s ideal to have a 1 coach for every 3 players. Bring everyone back together at the end of practice for small-sided games or a fun team game.
Having a “team parent” help with coach/parent communication is imperative. While you’re coaching, it’s best to have another parent available for collecting money for the team banner, arranging a snack schedule and ordering trophies. Don’t let this be a one man/woman show!
Set ground rules at the very first soccer practice. Before any youth players set foot on the soccer field they need to know what is expected of them. Outline briefly what you’ll do at each practice through the lessons of basic skills at an appropriate youth level.
Young children will look up to the youth coaches as a role model. A coach’s interaction can have a lasting impact so make sure it’s in a positive direction.
A great soccer coach takes their coaching position seriously. This means setting high standards for yourself as well. Maintain appropriate sideline behavior during games including not cursing, badmouthing players (on either team) and not disparaging referees.
So be sure you’re taking the first step by learning the rules of the game. Online courses can help you improve knowledge of the sport.
Open Communication with the Parents
Now that coaches and athletes know what is expect of them, the next step is to talk to the parents! This also goes for the parents of younger players, especially if this is their first experience with youth sports. Yes, youth sports is a learning experience for both youth soccer players, first-time coaches AND their parents!
From the start, have parents get your email address and phone number so they can always stay in contact. With texting it’s so easy to send a quick reminder to the parents of my entire team about upcoming practices and games.
Even easier? Set up a group chat for sports teams in the GroupMe app that allows you to message everyone at once.
Send a weekly GroupMe message or email with details about upcoming games. During those longer emails I go over the “game focus” and bring up anything that’s too long for a text.
- Adults need to be on time for drop off and pick up at all practices.
- Parents should know that they need to contact you in regards to game or practice absences as soon as possible.
- Are parents “sideline coaching”? Request that they complete the volunteer process to help with practices as comments from the sidelines are distracting to players.
What Do You Need to Bring?
There are a few important things you’ll need to bring to the first practice.
- Request that each player bring a soccer ball. Pack a few extra to ensure you have enough balls for drills. Make sure balls are the appropriate size for your age of players.
- Unless they are provided at the practice field, coaches should supply goals for shooting drills.
- Bring small cones for dribbling practice.
- There is usually paperwork with emergency contact information. Soccer coaches will need to bring this to every practice and game, so consider adding it to a 3-ring binder.
Players are to be responsible for wearing athletic clothing, cleats and shin guards. Parents should pack water bottles for their players as well. Consider bringing a jug of ice water for players to refill water bottles.
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.
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”. Focusing on special player development allows kids to continually grow in the sport.
Our focuses have been about corner kicks, ball control 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. Incorporate the game focus into all simple drills during practice for the week.
However when teaching sports to little kids the key is to “Move More, Talk Less”. I try to keep my “soccer coach talks” to less than 30 seconds each time. Your team might have a few good listeners but for the most part, many young kids don’t want to sit and chat. they just want to play. 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! Aim to save team talks during water break or at the end of practice.
Know Everything You Can About Soccer Safety
Sports safety really should be number one when it comes to coaching youth soccer. Despite youth soccer being a volunteer position, other parents are entrusting their children in your care. These are a few of the soccer safety things to know:
- Read everything you can about what to look for in regards to injuries including concussion symptoms. My son had a non-sports related concussion and had to sit out the first two games of the soccer season.
- Bring a Team Sports First Aid Kit with antiseptic, bandages and an ice pack to every practice and game.
- If parents aren’t staying for practices, be sure to have their cell phone at hand. Make parents aware that you will call in case of emergency.
- Never leave a kid behind at the field to wait for a parent to pick up. Always verify and know the person your players are leaving with.
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 healthy breakfast together. We chat a bit about the upcoming game, talk about the game focus and then pack up the minivan with our soccer 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.
Watch player’s body language on the field to know when to rotate them in and out of the game. This is especially important when the weather is hot and children are susceptible to heat exhaustion.
Some kids will be tired but resistant to sit out for a quarter. An effective way to swap players it to stick with a rotation of players from the very beginning. Kids will realize that sitting out is part of being on a team.
It’s the coach’s job to ensure that each player on a youth team receives adequate playing time. Some leagues require that each player be in the game for 2 quarters or more. Depending upon the number of players on each team, you’ll generally be swapping positions for each quarter.
Keep a log of who plays in which positions and for how many quarters (that’s a perfect volunteer job for one of the parents!) Another great way to keep track is to work up your team roster the day before each game.
Yes, I know that each team has stronger players than others. It’s very tempting to have the star players shooting goals in every quarter. But an effective coach works to the level of each child while allowing each player to work in different positions.
By moving players around you might discover that your best defensive player is actually the strongest striker! And of course, the most important things is developing necessary skills in each level of player to continue to learn and grow in the sport.
Keep Soccer Fun
Let the game be a game and just have fun! The youngest divisions don’t usually keep score (though of course, each of my players had 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.
Yes, you want to be coaching soccer basics like dribbling, passing, scoring and strategy. But the bottom line is that the kids enjoy being at practice and on the field. A successful soccer coach wants to see their young soccer players improve their soccer skills but also grow in areas like sportsmanship.