Just because you have completed a course in soccer coaching does not mean you are ready for everything the game throws at you. From my experience, there are a few pieces of advice I would like to give every soccer coach about their preparedness from the moment they arrive at practice.
How can you become a better soccer coach through your preparation?
You can take care of basics such as your appearance, punctuality, You can have the correct personal equipment such as whistles and stopwatches at your disposal, you can use arrival drills and set up the main session for minimal interruption. Finally, you can impose certain values on the players to develop a thriving environment.
This article will share some thoughts and opinions about being ready to coach. There are some important factors to consider that are basic but can enhance the overall service you deliver as a soccer coach to your players.
It Starts with You
This first section is about you as the coach and the image you wish to present to your players, other coaches, or the watching parents. It’s fair to say you should not be worried too much about what others think however you should be focused on trying to be the best you can be and have the tools you need to do the job at your disposal.
The advice I would provide to any coaches who wish to succeed would be to get some basic things in place for every practice that allow you to have the best chance of success.
Have a whistle, some coaches have a built-in human whistle but some do not have this luxury, therefore for basic session management and to support the coach to remain in control of the group, a whistle is a great tool for doing this to grab the attention of players quickly.
Have a stopwatch or a wristwatch that helps you keep track of time and allows you to know how long each practice has been going for. This seems obvious however there are large numbers of coaches using mobile phones to keep track of the timings of practices. This can look unprofessional to observe parents or other coaches. It can seem that a coach is disinterested and many professional soccer clubs have a no mobile phone policy in place when coaches are on the field of play.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression is how the saying goes therefore looking at the part in terms of clothing and footwear is important about the image the coach portrays to the players.
Where possible turn up in club colors or kit which is common to the sport you coach. This is not only beneficial from an image point of view but also a comfort standpoint too. Some coaching environments are hot, some are cold, wearing the wrong type of kit for the occasion can affect the quality of the information you provide. Many people do not make good choices or decisions if they are not focused. Being cold or too hot can cause this to occur.
Arrive early, try to be there before the players where possible, and set up all of the drills. This is not always possible nor is it essential to success but I do feel that it demonstrates care for the work you are doing and it allows you as the coach to get focused and organized before starting your practices.
Plan and Think About The Practices
Have a pre-arrival activity, the first activity to set up as you arrive should be a pre-arrival activity, what this means is a drill in which the players do while they are waiting for training to start. The players then work on it themselves while you as the coach get prepared for the planned activities.
There are several benefits to this. Firstly players will benefit from additional technical work as they will get extra touches of the ball etc. As players arrive their teammates can explain the drill to them which has a social benefit to the groups you coach. If a player is new or does not socialize that well it takes away the pressure of having to stand around waiting to be invited into a drill or activity.
As you progress with these types of drills you can make a booklet of them and the first players to arrive can set the drill up and explain it to anyone who arrives which adds element ownership to the training.
Try to set up your sessions for minimal interruptions, try to plan sessions that can all fit into a certain area, and put the goals, etc. in place before training starts. This way the coach can just work through their drills and during rest periods of the practices they can just move a few cones so the next practice is ready to.
This is instead of having practices that are different from each other and require different areas or shapes to be set up and the coach then has to take time away from the practices while they set up the new drills.
An example of doing this well could be setting up a 50 by 30 grid with goals ready for the game at the end. Then in one half of the pitch set up a 1 v 1 practice and in the other half of the pitch set up group practice.
This then allows you to have all of your activities set up within the area you are playing and helps the session to flow much better. As opposed to having to set a drill up, collect everything in then set up the next drill, and so on, each time you do this ball rolling time for the players is reduced.
You may not think that this will impose on practice time but do your research, in your next training session, have a separate stopwatch and start it each time any of the following things are occurring, coach talk, player rest periods, and drill setups, then check how much of your session was taken up by these processes, you may be surprised.
Useful Coach Values
You must care, this seems obvious but when your coaching tries to show you care, invest time into session planning, invest time into getting to know the players as people rather than just players who are playing for you, invest time into making it competitive, invest time into making it fun.
You may have just finished working or had a bad day but once you step out in front of those young people you need to be an inspiration, players will mirror your behaviors if they see you are tired and lethargic, chances are the session with being like this, if they see your frustrated and angry then the players will probably be like this within the session. Carrying out some of the tips above should put you in good stead to show that you care about your profession and the development of the players.
Offer ownership, look for opportunities within your drills and practices where you can offer ownership or accountability to the players. Examples of this could be players picking drills they wish to set up as part of pre-arrival activities, a group of players leading a warm-up activity for the others, players picking a formation for a practice, picking a tactic for a game, picking a restriction for the opponent, organizing teams, completing team talks.
Many of these things offer ownership to the players but they do not take too much time away from your sessions, they also help you as the coach establish who demonstrates leadership qualities and who needs to work on these skills, it may surprise you as the coach some of the ideas the players come up with and inspire you to listen to them more.
Getting the balance of this is a skill in itself so be cautious that players do not get excluded, the rules restrictions, etc. are not dangerous, the players do not become silly or start misbehaving try to ensure the ideas are true to the game.
If you are developing ownership your players must be ready for this. For example, trying to do this with a group of 6 years old’s could cause carnage, whereas a group of 10 years old’s may respond well to some of their ideas.
Make it competitive, players love fun competitive activities therefore something to consider for each practice you design is a way to make it competitive whether it is just keeping the scores or providing an individual with challenges to complete within the drill.
As a coach, you could write down a list of these things for each theme you plan based on either keeping the score or an individual challenge for players then try to ensure everyone receives a weekly theme-related challenge which they try to keep track of. You may set up mini-competitions for 1 v 1, 2 v 2, etc. and the winners get a reward on the weekend such as extra game time or they are guaranteed to start, these little challenges can make a big difference to the intensity of training.
This article has suggested ways to create a good coaching environment through being prepared in terms of your appearance, your session organization, and some values as a coach.
By showing you care about performance, trying to create ownership opportunities, and making the environment competitive makes for some great practices and enjoyable experiences for everyone involved, players and coaches alike.
Each of these ideas about preparing in the right way, can be a challenge to put in place, but with time and patience, it is a good way of developing young players who take responsibility. It is also a good way of becoming a better soccer coach
I have summarized the useful information from the article into a table to help you choose what changes you plan to make.
|Have the right equipment a whistle and a stopwatch
|Use arrival drills
|Find ways to show you care
|Dress appropriately in club colors where possible
|Set up for minimal interruptions
|Offer ownership to the players
|Arrive before the players to get set up
|Maximize ball rolling time
|Make it competitive
This leaves me with one final question to ask, what changes are you going to make to improve?
Where can I learn more about improving my soccer coaching? There are lots of posts on the site where you can learn about different ways to improve your coaching, two articles, in particular, maybe a good place to start, article one is about the responsibilities of soccer coaches, and article two offers 12 tips to become a great soccer coach.
Where do I start with the tips in this article? I would suggest starting with yourself, getting in control of the basics suggested then look at your session setups, once you are consistent and get these two in order the values can often naturally occur or it becomes easier to fit them in
Find below some links to other useful articles on this site. Each link will open in a new window.
- Match Day In Soccer: How To Be Prepared
- How to Communicate Better in Soccer: 8 Tips
- 12 Tips To Become a Great Soccer Coach
- Planning Soccer Practices: A Coach’s Perspective