Soccer coaching is such a rewarding profession and becoming great is not such an easy task. The time and effort you put into your self-development will pay off. Soccer coaching is very much a profession where you get out what you put in. I decided to check out some ways in which you can become a great soccer coach.
How do you become a great soccer coach?
You must commit the time to your development, you must have a willingness to learn and improve, you must take time to develop your game knowledge of the individual player and team tactics. Most of all you need to get on the field and practice. You must commit to learning, practicing, and honing your skill set, there is no quick fix to becoming a good coach.
12 Tips to Soccer Coaching Greatness
Many of the skills you require to coach such as communication, leadership, empathy can only be developed by practicing regularly in front of groups who you wish to coach/develop.
This article will provide a brief insight into 12 areas you must develop if you wish to become a great coach. They are in no particular order as they all feed into each other.
1. Learn the Game
The best coaches understand the game of soccer, they have done the courses and spend time learning and developing their understanding of the individual’s needs, the game moments, and the tactics to help create success. Individually coaches must be aware of the player’s options before, during and after they receive the ball and help to coach players in these moments.
It may seem trivial preaching about scanning for the ball before a player receives it but the long-term benefit to this will be massive for the player’s composure and understanding.
Paul McGuiness a coach educator who works for the English FA suggests some of the following skills are essential to developing individuals, these skills are scanning, movement, timing, deception, positioning, technical skills and they are all things that can be coached to players.
Moments of the game. Good coaches balance the time they coach, between the various moments of the game, there are four main moments which can be coached, in possession, out of possession, regains of the ball, and losses of the ball. Regains and losses can be coaches alongside the in and out of possession moments.
The coach could dedicate a suitable amount of time to coaching the moments of the game so players get a good blend of each moment and develop an understanding of the game.
Tactically coaches must try to stay up to date with how the game is being played, are teams building up from the back, playing through the thirds of the pitch, pressing or defending deep, these are basic tactics that coaches could deploy within their teams and gain an edge over their opponent.
Always remember the individual and their needs first for the levels where most coaches work, we are there to develop players not necessarily teams, therefore, supporting player development ahead of team tactics, in my opinion, should be a priority.
2. Develop Leadership Skills
As a leader of a group/team of people, your main goal is to share your club/own values and beliefs with the players then hold the players accountable to these values and beliefs. Challenge them if they do not show them and praise them when they demonstrate them.
You need to lead the players towards success but be careful of your definition of success. As previously mentioned success for younger players is not always about winning it is about development, for example, a weaker foot pass completed numerous times in a game. A player regularly scans before they receive the ball. A defender reading the game and intercepting a dangerous pass, each one of these examples is an example of successful leadership and vision being evolved.
Yes, winning is important and yes every player and coach wants to win but be careful of the fine line between winning and development. People will not remember if your U10 team won the league but they will remember the exciting prospect who has just broken into professional soccer.
Football and leadership are journeys, your job is to identify what part of the journey you can influence most? Work tirelessly to make it happen for each player you work with.
3. Learn To Communicate
Communication is vital to the success of a soccer coach, the lines of verbal communication between players and coaches, parents and players, club management, and staff. Clear concise messages must regularly be provided so everyone comprehends where they stand, what the expectation is, and how they can achieve it. If this information is regularly shared then most people will be clear.
From a coaching perspective how and when you communicate will often determine the quality and tempo of your session if you communicate messages wrong then the practice may break down, if you are too aggressive with your communication them players will be scared to try things, you must use a range of coaching styles to communicate your message to help as many players as you can understand the expectation.
Think about your body language when you are delivering a session, do you look happy and enthusiastic to be there? Are your arms crossed? Is your posture tall? Are you actively watching and listening? Are you invading the player’s space when you talk to them? Are you towering over them when you make coaching points?
Adjusting some of these things to the benefit of the performer you are working with it can make a real difference?
On a matchday try to stay calm and neutral, if you are all tense, worked up, and jittery quite often the players will reflect this. Learn to master communication and you will be well on your way to becoming an excellent coach.
Listening is also a vital aspect of communication, remember it’s a two-way process and you are not always right so checking what people think or what people have heard can help to improve your communication.
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4. Care About What You Do
If you want to be great at something you must care. What does this look like for football coaches? It means, being prepared and having a plan, it means getting to know every player you come into contact with, it means taking time to learn and develop yourself. Take an interest in the person, not just their ability.
Try to demonstrate that you care about them as the person not just them as the soccer player. Make time for others whether that be a concerned parent, a new player, a coach who wants to watch you. Give them your time, share your knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Sometimes people will agree other times they will disagree but whenever possible make sure you share your opinion of the topic under discussion.
5. Always be Willing to Learn
This is slightly different from tip number 1 in the sense that a willingness to learn about a range of topics other than the actual game itself. Try to be on the lookout for things that will help you to become a better coach.
Many sports talk about marginal gains in teams to try and help them win, well as a coach where are your marginal gains? And who is showing them? Always be on the lookout for things you can borrow and make your own, try to be open to new ideas, and not too dismissive about how others go about their business.
It could be a tip about how a coach organizes a practice or communicates with a player, it may be a way in which they praise or make practices competitive, and it could be their style of coaching. Be aware and on the lookout for these things. Try not to always just copy, it may start with you copying then once you are familiar it is really important that you evolve, adapt, and progress to make it your own.
6. Develop Your Observation Skills
The best coaches do not always follow the ball, they look away from it, they watch individuals, they identify weaknesses of the opposition, they watch the units of their team. They are aware of the pre, during, and post actions, they think short-medium, and long term, not just the present.
When coaching try to observe for a moment and get clear with what it is you want to help with, fix or develop. Take the time to know and understand what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, your coaching points should guide you as well as your players.
Keep watching and being aware of the individuals’ needs as well as the team’s needs for the session.
If you work with more than one coach at a session try to use each other to develop yourselves by sharing the workload, rather than both coaches coaching the same topic, maybe one coach could lead the main practice and provide the coaching points and the other coach could work with individuals on some of the skills mentioned in tip 1 such as positioning or movement.
Then next session flips this around so everyone gets a good opportunity to develop themselves both from a team perspective and an individual player development perspective.
7. Respect Others
This is a relatively short but important tip, respect those who you work with and value their input, this includes players, other coaches, parents, try to respect their values and beliefs.
You don’t have to agree but it is important that you at least listen with intent and acknowledge their input. Match days, in particular, provide you with the opportunity to show respect and set a good example for your players, for example, greeting the away team coaches, being respectful of the referee’s decisions, and being respectful of anyone else who may be on sight or at your ground when you arrive.
In soccer, you never know when you will come across these people again it may be for a new job role you wish to get or a team you aspire to work for.
In soccer people always talk, it is important when people talk about you it is for positive respectful things not because you have been disrespectful of a person, team, or opinion.
8. It’s Not Always About You
The best coaches understand that they are there for the players and they should put their needs ahead of their own, for example, a coach putting on a show that they think will make them look good in front of others.
Yes, it is important to be ready and organized but don’t get carried away with your development ahead of the needs of the player. As coaches we are there to develop the player, think about this before your about to stop the practice, is it helping or hindering things.
If it is hindering progress then you need to think, is it worth saying? Or stopping the session?
Don’t be making too many stoppages because you feel a need to show the parents or other people watching what you know about the game. Be genuine in your stoppages and make sure they are for the people that need them.
9. Keep the Ball Rolling
Keep the ball Rolling: Good coaches can successfully maximize the ball rolling time for the players. It can’t be emphasized enough that players will learn more from being involved in practice than they will from a coach talking to them too much about it.
Initially, it may not seem that much of an issue working off a 70% ball rolling time in a 60-minute session but 18 minutes a session would be lost which soon adds up across a few weeks of training.
If you have a 60-minute session, a good ball rolling time to shoot for would be around 75 – 85% which would equate to players being involved in practices with the ball for a minimum of 45 minutes if aiming for 75% or 51 minutes if aiming for 85% ball rolling.
A good way of measuring this would be to ask an assistant or parent to start a stopwatch each time the players are not involved in an activity or the coach is talking. The total minutes where players are not practicing can be taken off the overall training minutes to give you your total ball rolling time.
There does need to be some coach talk and guidance to the players therefore as an example the 15% of the time you are talking you have to be clear with your words and you must make it count. The concise coaching detail needs to be there and coaches understanding of the game needs to be there too.
The quicker you can make your coaching points the less likely you are to lose the players, a piece of advice I once received from a coach was to keep coach speak interventions during practices to under 60 seconds at a time so as not to lose the players or confuse them.
10. Develop Empathy and Patience
These two attributes are a must when coaching especially when working with young children. You must show empathy towards failure, losses of confidence adversity in whatever shape it takes for the player. Your job is to help, develop, support so you should be actively looking for moments in which you can achieve this.
Try not to be too hard on players when things aren’t going so well, try to find things they are doing well, and help to break down in simple terms what is going wrong. Thus giving the players the tools to fix it.
Patience is another key attribute of successful coaches as they understand that players learn and develop at different speeds and rates. Some players will be more long-term prospects so keep this in mind and be patient with this when coaching.
Quite often physical players dominate games at young and even teenage age groups, the lesser developed players need coaches to be patient with them, reassure them and give them time to grow into their bodies.
Similarly, if a coach is asking a player to attempt for example purposes more forward passes, don’t expect this to happen in a week, two weeks, it may take months to regularly make this a part of their game. Your patience and support are what they need and you must give them to them.
There may be times when being patient does not pay off because a player fails to make the level, but they will appreciate your support and know that you have helped them as best you can. They will understand that you at least allowed them to achieve.
11. Make It Competitive
Competition is the secret sauce that seems to propel players and teams forward. Coaches should always be on the lookout for ways to make their players and practices more competitive. A simple drill can become an excellent drill through the introduction of competition. Competition just seems to ignite something in all of us and therefore coaches must keep finding ways to make practices and games competitive.
This can be in the shape of practice conditions, double goals, points, etc.
On each practice, you deliver have a go at delivering it without competition then add a competitive element, see how much it changes the dynamics of the session.
One thing I have introduced to my sessions for a while now is competition evenings where everything in training is a competition. It has helped our players develop a competitive edge. Players thrive in competitive environments and love the challenges of practices.
Two ways a competitive edge has been created in my practices are periods where teams get double goals. Within possession practices players must hit a passes total within an allocated period and also before the defenders hit an interception/ tackling total. Play around with this to create ways to make your practices competitive.
12. Create a Safe Environment
Good coaches know and understand that you will often get more from players if they trust you and they feel safe within the environment they practice. The coach’s job is to create this feeling amongst the players and help them to develop security in the sense that they can mess things up and make mistakes without a coach giving them a hard time for attempting to take risks.
Creating this type of environment takes time because you have to build trust through your communications and demonstrate consistency in your actions, so players are clear and aware of how you can help and support them as well as how you will react to their adversity.
You need to make use of challenges regularly in training which stretches players in competitive situations. You need to praise players for their attempts and efforts to achieve their challenges not always the outcome.
Players need regular feedback so they can get a sense of how they are doing within the environment you have created. The more consistent you are with your actions, communications, and feedback the quicker players will start to thrive in their environments.
As a coach, you can control the environment in the sense that players respond positively to it.
you could also, through your actions create a negative environment where players are performing through fear of your responses. This sometimes works and has been used many times over the years, but young players placed under these pressures regularly will crack and lose their enjoyment of the game.
Players should love the game, you must question yourself as a coach if players regularly come away from your practices and they have not enjoyed it, it is one of your main responsibilities to make it fun regardless of age.
The 12 tips described above will go a long way to helping you become a great coach. It is your responsibility to find ways to utilize each tip effectively. Try to develop your style and take on each of the tips and as long as it helps or supports your session you can develop your overall coaching ability.
Each tip has been highlighted to help you identify the key messages to take away. Do not try to incorporate all 12 straight away it will only confuse you and maybe the performers who will be questioning where their coach has gone. You will have to be patient and think about discreet ways you can implement.
Take 1 – 2 of the ideas presented and run with them, adapt them, evolve them so they become part of your coaching skill set and you use them naturally rather than unnaturally. This way you will learn something thoroughly as opposed to doing something for one session then forgetting about it.
Good luck with your implementation and I would love to hear your feedback below in the comments section. Feedback helps us learn. It is an accelerator, use feedback to your advantage to progress quicker.
Find below articles on this site that relate to topics within this article. Each article will open in a new window.
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- 4 Soccer Drills That Teach Communication
- 8 Tips For Successful Soccer Coaching