Hitting the ground running is important for any soccer coach. There are nuggets of detail everywhere that support successful soccer coaching. Quite often you will watch good coaches and good teachers and they make it look easy. What are the best ways to hit the ground running as a soccer coach? I decided to find out
What are the best tips for soccer coaches to hit the ground running?
A successful coach teaches age-appropriate drills and communicates their message. They have a plan of activities and the correct equipment for the players. They can maintain group control and maximize ball rolling time. Their session organization flows seamlessly and their drills promote inclusion and contain repetition of the skills players need to be successful.
Here are the 8 most crucial tips to become a great soccer coach.
1. Coach Age Appropriate Drills
Good coaches recognize that they need to coach to the ability of the group. Forget about the adult drill you just read about in a book. What do the players need? How can you give it to them? Have the players mastered the basics? This will help you to establish what needs to be worked on within the game moment you are addressing as per article 1 on planning effectively.
Once the age-appropriate drills are in place the coach must think about the way they communicate the information. This will change based on the age of the players but the concept of it should remain the same. To provide a message that is clear and easy to follow. That way the players can implement what you are asking of them.
2. Get Involved in Coaching the Players
Lots of coaches have a habit of just setting the players away and standing back, not observing the practice, and not focusing on coaching points that the players require. An essential part of improving as a soccer coach is getting your hands dirty and being ready to step into practice. You are there to coach and the only way to get better at it is to be present and focus on the needs of the performers.
Remember that there are a few things that can be coached, the individual could be coached during any drill to support their understanding. The whole group could be coached about a particular topic or you may coach a unit or small group during a session. Neither is necessarily more important than the other. Just make sure you get a nice balance between them all and try not to neglect any of them.
When you finally stop a session to make a coaching point/ask a question/set a challenge, try to keep it brief and to the point. Don’t spend more time on it than it needs, keep these interventions between 30 and 60 seconds. This way ball rolling time is maximized and players get to play.
3. Have a Session Plan
In a nutshell, make sure you come prepared with a range of activities that are age-appropriate and can be progressed or regressed dependent on the needs of the performers. Yes, you must be adaptable but never just turn up with no idea of what you are going to do with the players.
Your plan is your map to a structured session. Try to have your cones in the correct place, try to have as much of the plan set up before the players arrive at training that way you do not have to jeopardize the players learning because you could not be bothered to make a plan or you did not set up your session correctly and the players miss out on practice while you have to do it.
Find below links to other articles on this site:
- How to Design a Better Practice in Soccer?
- How to Plan a Soccer Practice?
- How Do I get Better at Planning Soccer Practices?
4. Have the Right Tools
Coaches must turn up with the correct equipment to do the job. The main job they have is to coach an effective session. A whistle for me is an essential tool, especially if you are new to the role, you will be able to stop and start the session without having to shout or know the names of the players.
Cones, disks are also essential to coaching as they are used to map out the areas in which the practices will take place.
It is inexcusable not to have clean pumped-up soccer balls for each session.
The players need the equipment to be at their best to make it easier for them to perform the skills and actions required of them in a game. Competitive games would not be played with flat soccer balls. Flat soccer balls to me, suggest a lack of care and look sloppy, players will complain and it just sends out the wrong message that you are not prepared properly for the session.
Your appearance is also important, try to look the part.
What is meant by this?
Arrive at training wearing the club’s brand, logo, and tracksuit where possible. This is important for safeguarding reasons and makes it much easier for people to identify who you are. The clothing you are wearing is also a bit like a job interview situation, in a sense that you are expected to turn up clean, tidy, and smart and present a good image of the organization.
Psychologically turning up this way suggests that you are prepared and that you take care of yourself. From an image perspective, it makes it more likely that you will care about the performers and do a good job with the players you are coaching.
5. Use Arrival Drills
What are arrival drills? They are activities that the players can quickly engage in as soon as they arrive at training. This is to get the players into action as soon as they arrive so they can practice something meaningful as opposed to just crashing soccer balls at the goal or messing around. The arrival drills can be used to gain extra technical work, work on weaknesses, or just to compete in game-based activities.
There is no right or wrong when carrying out an arrival drill just try to make sure it engages the players quickly and allows them to practice something before practice starts. It would make sense to link the arrival drills to the theme of the session, so if the theme was attacking then the arrival drill could be a finishing drill.
6. Repetition of Skills
Are your drills allowing for sufficient repetition? This is so the players can practice skills, techniques, or decisions enough times to begin to learn how to perform it correctly or recognize when to use it in a game.
To do this effectively try to limit drills where players are standing in line too long or they become defenders if they give the ball away. Yes, in a game if they lose it, they will defend, but remember they are there to practice.
If a player has to defend each time they lose the ball in training, when will they get the chance to practice keeping it? How will they improve keeping the ball?
A way around this is to have defenders in for a set period which gives the players ample opportunity to practice retaining it.
These are just examples, but as coaches look at your practices and check if the players are getting enough repetition where it’s needed, if they are not, do something about it.
7. Manage Player Mistakes
Mistakes will happen, the key is the players and coaches’ reaction to these moments. If you jump on every error and mistake the players will become self-conscious of this and will probably practice with the fear of errors and mistakes.
As coaches rather than trying to say who was at fault or why they were at fault give the player a little time and space before you question or approach them.
This gives you and the player some thinking time and you are responding to the mistake ideally in a constructive way rather than reacting to it negatively because you are just as frustrated as the player.
Over time this will help the players to do the same as they will know they can make mistakes as long as they attempt to rectify them positively.
8. Look for the Good
When you think about the term coaching you often associate it with improving or making something better. Quite often we miss opportunities to find the positives or the good in performance.
For each drill, you deliver have a go at trying to find the positives first before you stop the practice and identify faults. This allows the coach to see what is going well before they address what support and help are required. while you are looking for the positives it gives the players time to figure out the drill and make some errors to speed up their learning before coaching points are provided.
When giving feedback you also have a good opportunity to do find the good first. Outline what is going well, some moments from the practice where the group or individuals delivered on the coaching points. Tell them, name them, and build them up. This gives the player’s the motivation to show you again.
Keep coach talk interventions between 30 and 60 seconds. This way ball rolling time is maximized and players get to play.Coach David
Each time you coach try to ensure your activities are well planned and age-appropriate. Remember you are there to help the players so be clear with your coaching points, challenges and questions. You must plan effectively to do this.
- Having the correct equipment such as whistles to help with the control of the session, a suitable supply of balls, cones, bibs (vests) to help organize activities and ensure a seamless flow to your training. The use of arrival drills can be helpful to engage players and develop good practice habits.
2. Repetition is essential to help players learn, whatever type of practice you’re running the players must get the repetition they need to master the skills of the game which allow them to transfer it into game moments.
3. Mistake management will be essential for building trust. Players need to know they can fail without the coach dressing them down each time they mess up. Mistakes speed up learning so if you have designed your practice right there should be a range of errors occurring. Your role in managing mistakes is to help the player see the correct way they could have achieved success.
4. Seeing the good in what players are doing before you point out the negatives is an important step. This can help you recognize, effort, intensity, good play, technique, and skills.
5. Lots of great things happen all of the time in your practices, make it your business to see them, then acknowledge them.
There are so many important tips to support successful soccer coaching. This is article three of the successful soccer coaching series. Article one on planning can be found here. Article two on communication can be found here.
Average soccer coaches do enough to get by. The best soccer coaches go above and beyond expectations.
Can I just use a few of the tips? Yes, mix and match the tips based on your needs, your level of coaching, and the ability of the players. Try to know your strengths and weaknesses as a coach and maybe add the tips you like or modify some of the suggestions to suit.
How will I know if the tips are improving my coaching? You will need to reflect. Jot down each of the tips and review them in your head or write down your thoughts post-practice. This will help you see what is working for you. There will also be visual indicators that you can look out for, players will be engaged from the start, practices will flow well without too much interruption. Players will be playing for the majority of the session in decision-based practice. Finally, you will be doing more encouraging and facilitating rather than telling.