Soccer Coaching Tips: It’s Not Brain Surgery

The best way to coach youth soccer is by providing training sessions that are fun. The only way you can provide this as a coach is through planning. Before you arrive at training you should have your training session already planned out and designed with the bigger picture in mind.

Before you create your training session, you need to take into account the players you will be coaching. Player’s age and capabilities are extremely important factors that need to be considered. However, most sessions should have the following structure.

Before you can commence any training session, you need to allow the players to warm up and stretch. This will allow the players to increase their heart rate and prepare their muscles for training. Also allow some time for the players to stretch before commencing the heavier loads of the session. The extra time will also allow your players to get focused on the session.

Once your players have warmed up and stretched, you can proceed with the session. Depending on the drill, you should personally show them a simple demonstration of the drill. That’s right, show them. If you can’t give a simple demonstration of a new drill or skill, should you be coaching? How do you expect young kids or players to perform the drill if you can’t? Is your training session suitable or too advanced?

Always try and make your drills fun and entertaining. Train hard but make sure all your players are smiling and enjoying themselves. Also provide adequate breaks between drills to allow for drinks and player feedback. Most of the times the players will let you know if the session or drill is too easy or too hard. At the end of the day you’re not Guus Hiddink are you? So listen up and try and understand the youth and respond accordingly.

  • Once you’ve completed the technical side of training, always remember to try and incorporate the new skills learnt in a game situation. Always try and end the session with a small sided game that will allow your players to experiment with their new found skills.
  • Never make your training sessions or plans too rigid. Your sessions need flexibility because some players might not be able to adapt to the new drills. Can you tell me what usually happens on those cold winter nights? That’s right! Half your team will not attend so you always need Plan B.
  • Have you ever heard the saying, “variety is the spice of life”? Keep training interesting by mixing it up and using different variations of the same drill. By changing things you keep your training sessions fresh and eliminate players becoming complacent. Keeping your players on their toes and continually learning will guarantee you a hassle free and mischief free session. If you want trouble and problematic players make the training sessions boring and allow for 5 minutes. It’s your choice.
  • The greatest mistake you can make as a youth coach is to starve them of the ball. Your role is to teach by showing and allowing your players to practice. Don’t preach or lecture them otherwise you might as well send them to school. But most importantly, allow your players to play without you trying to coach every second of the play. Also remember that more doesn’t necessarily equate to better. Don’t pack too much into your training sessions and concentrate on a few fundamentals at a time.

Okay, let’s use a scenario to illustrate the next point. You’ve carefully planned the next training session and you feel that it will serve your team well. Training begins and you can clearly see that your session is not productive. What do you do next? Most youth coaches will persist and try and enforce the session. After all the coach knows best, right? It’s not brain surgery, don’t preserve a plan or session that isn’t working. So the question still stands, “what do you do next Guus?”

The fact that you’ve planned the session doesn’t necessarily make it a good one. Always make sure you have Plan B and even Plan C. By observing with your ego-free hat on, the session assesses itself. Can you honestly judge yourself and your coaching abilities? I don’t think so! If you asked me to judge my own coaching abilities I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that I’m the best. See what I mean.

Have you stopped laughing yet?

Another important aspect of youth coaching is respect. Treat all your players with respect! I don’t care if his the worst player in the world or the most frustrating. If you cannot guarantee respect as a minimum you have no right to coach. As far as I’m concerned you shouldn’t even be allowed on the green pastures to watch. Enough said.

Last but not least, don’t train your team on your own. Always get the services of an assistant. This doesn’t imply that your not good enough, but it sure is nice having those extra set of eyes, don’t you think?


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