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!
Are You a First Time Soccer Coach?
Here are a few tips and honest thoughts about being a first time soccer coach in a youth soccer league. I 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 7 practical tips.
1. 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 little boys! 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.
2. Get Help
As soon in the season as you can, 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. 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!
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!
3. Open Communication with the 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 all my player’s parents about upcoming practices and games. In addition I send a weekly 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.
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.
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. 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!
5. 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.
6. 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 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.
7. 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. You want to see them improve their soccer skills but also grow in areas like sportsmanship.
What are your tips as a first time soccer coach? Share them in the comments!