It is vital that you have a clear idea of what you want your players to learn before you step on to the training field. If you don't, you will -
waste valuable training time
bore your players as you struggle to make the transition from one unrelated activity to the next
most importantly, you simply won't enjoy your 'career' as a soccer coach
Before you can prepare for a training session or set out the framework for your season, you have to know what children should be able to do at different ages. If you don't, you may set unrealistic goals for your players. This results in frustration for you ("why don't they get it?!!") and for your players ("what is he talking about?!"). As a coach remember that the development of your players is more important than winning games.
1. Plan – Begin the session with the end in mind. Develop expectations of what you want your players to be able to perform/know at the end of the session.
2. Follow the curriculum activities - The guess work has been eliminated. Activities are developmentally appropriate and linked to end of stage competencies.
3 Understand development - Become a student of your students! Understanding the abilities of your players cognitively, physically and emotionally is essential to coaching performance.
4. Repeat and Reinforce - Have a theme for your sessions and find every opportunity to focus on 1-2 key points. Build on progress each session and ensure you dedicate time to the basics.
5. Assess players - Watch players perform in practice and in games and focus on their ability to execute the basics: dribbling, turning, shooting and beating an opponent.
6. Demonstrate - Young players need a visual example – very few do well with lengthy explanations. Stop the players and demonstrate the skill – and/or get one of the players to demonstrate.
7. Know your coaching points – 1-2 coaching points per session are just enough – don’t try to cram in too many.
8. Finish with a game based on the theme - Reinforce what you have been teaching by emphasizing the focus in the game. Add conditions and scoring mechanisms that encourage creativity and application of the skill.
9. Coach Individuals off the ball - Avoid shouting instructions to players in possession. Instead, allow the activity to flow and speak to the individual. Or, stop the game and make the point to the whole group.
10. Have a “sleever” - Have a favorite activity or two up your sleeve if your session falters.
11. Teach the rules - Young players need to know the basic rules – such as restarts.
12. Teach Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) - ensure players can run, jump, change pace and have good balance and agility. The foundation for all sports consists of fundamental movement skills – don’t leave the development of FMS to someone else!
13. Be enthusiastic - The hardest part of coaching is getting the attention and respect of the players – winning the players over is achieved with a combination of enthusiasm, empathy and preparation.
1. Treat everyone as equal - From the perspective of development the players in your group are not equal. They need individual attention and to this end the coaching needs to be differentiated.
2. Over Coach - The younger the player the less talking is needed and more action. Once the activity is established try to stick with 10-15 second points and then play!
3. Overcrowd the space - A common issue is getting in the way – being in the center of the activity. Young children find spatial awareness an issue without having a 6ft coach blocking their view.
4. Commentate - Unlike many sports in the USA, soccer requires players to make the decisions during play. Coaches must avoid telling the players what to do during play.
5. Have more than one voice at a time - Where there are two or more coaches to a group, separate the responsibilities – there needs to be one leader for each activity – not 2 or 3.
6. Set up line drills - There should never be more than 2-3 players in a line.
7. Have players watching - Avoid having substitutes - particularly in the Plus 1 and 2 stages of development. There is no development value in players standing on the sideline – create activities/games that keep them learning.
8. Assume that serious soccer starts at 9-10 years - The most important time in the development of a soccer player is 4-8 years old.
9. Underestimate your impact - Experiences children have in youth sport shape their adherence to sport and exercise in later life. Make the sessions fun and educational and the players will develop and commit long term.
10. Waste valuable coaching time - Time picking up cones and re-establishing the area during practice is time wasted. Set up the equipment before players arrive and let the players pick up the equipment for you.
11. Let team focus dominate individual development - A fundamental flaw in many sessions is lack of individual player development.
12. Set the agenda on the most talented player - Coaches who establish content on the most talented players are setting 90% of players up for failure.