Rookie soccer coaches: practical advice for your first season

Did you get asked to coach your child’s youth soccer team? I suppose that panic levels have reached critical status and you are now researching options to move to Siberia at the moment. Bali is a much better option, if you ask me, but that is beside the point.

You are not alone. This happens more often than you would think. In fact, most veteran coaches started this way. Recreation teams are always in need of quality adults willing to pour into the children and you just so happen to be one. You have just been asked to do one of the most fulfilling and important roles you can play in the lives of our children. Embrace it and enjoy it. Ignore the temptation to panic. It really isn’t that bad. Who knows, you may end up falling in love with coaching.

I have walked in your shoes. I was 16 the first time I was asked to coach. After my mentor was able to revive me and I regained feeling in my legs, he helped me navigate the waters. He was my guide. He offered advice, support, and resources. I am forever grateful to him because I now make a living coaching and can think of nothing better for my life. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.

Let me by your guide on this journey. I promise it will be one of the greatest journey’s you have every taken. I will help you make this journey more like a Disney movie than a Joseph Conrad novel. Simply follow this 11 week guide to coaching recreation soccer and you will become a superstar coach and your players will fall in love with this game.

First things first, take a deep breath and smile. Kids have this unique ability to smell fear, so we need to get rid of that as soon as possible. Confidence is the key to gaining their trust. If the kids see you as confident and in control, they will listen and learn. If they sense fear, every training session will be like a dress rehearsal for a scene from Lord of the Flies. Repeat after me, “I’ve got this.”

Secondly, you cannot break them. Kids are mentally stronger and physically much more capable than we believe. You cannot make any mistakes that will ruin their sports careers or doom them to a lifetime of organized crime. As long as you don’t needlessly scream at them or play mind games with them, you will not be able to “break them”. Treat them as you would want someone to treat your own child and you can’t hurt their psychological development.

As far as sports skills are concerned, there is this fear that one wrong move will alter their path and turn them from sports superstar to the guy who sits on the park bench and talks to himself. Seriously, how many “mistakes” did our coaches and mentors make in our lifetimes and we turned out just fine, right? Again, they are resilient.

Just as they learn and grow through mistakes, we will too, and our mistakes will not have any lasting impact on their sports careers. If you teach something wrong, just admit the mistake, this builds trust, and correct it. No harm done.

Finally, and this is the most important and the most difficult thing to realize as a first time recreation coach: they are not pro athletes and most likely will not be. Take a moment and let that thought simmer. The odds are not forever in their favor with this. According to the media kit on the U.S. Youth Soccer website, there were more than three million youth soccer players registered with US Youth Soccer in 2014. That is more than the entire population of Chicago! Sport is a pyramid that gets smaller and more competitive at the top.

The fact is, most children go on to be successful at something other than sport, but while they are in this pyramid you have the unique opportunity to equip them for whatever success they seek. Put aside the notion of being the next Pep Guardiola or discovering the next Lionel Messi. Focus on creating an environment that is fun, exciting, enriching, and safe. Try to stoke that passion for playing the game and sprinkle in some learning moments and you will have done your job.

Let’s get started in this journey with seven simple tips to help you have a successful first season. These are tips that can be applied in every session and game. Use these as the foundation for your coaching philosophy and you will score in your first season.

You can do this! --> CLICK HERE <-- Ready! Set! Go!

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Reed Maltbie

Coach Reed is the Executive Director of STAR Soccer Club and operates the Predator Prep... View Full Bio

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