As a freelancer, I will summarize what a model youth coach should be for 6-12-year-olds. To be clear, I am talking about player development for competitive not recreational players.
They should be:
1. Patient– Since we’re focused on fundamentals and technical understanding, it should be understood that it doesn’t happen overnight. Too many are sprinting 5 and 10 K’s and never reaching the finish line. Plus, kids and their attention span are limited at the moment, so the structure can only be imposed for so long. And do not overplay them- I’m with a club imposing three nights a week for U 12 and down and cramming games in on weekends. We made changes where two nights a week was sufficient, backed off on games, and had a third-night optional session focused on the individual, and it has been a breath of fresh air. I could go on…
2. Firm and resolute– I believe overbearing parents are the scourge of youth soccer. It is sad to say you can have ten good and two bad ones, which will ruin it for all. One is a struggle, and two is toxic and cannot go unaddressed. Coaches must have club support to rectify these folks or eliminate their presence. So a coach must have the personality not to avoid confrontation or have a strong Sgt. at Arms type to handle this. Too many talented coaches are lost because of this. A similar perspective is the consideration of teachers knowing they will be subject to abuse when they work. It takes a special person to know this and still do the job right.
3. Establish an identity that facilitates joy and improvement. Again, we want to get to the finish line. Failure is likely to occur if kids aren’t enjoying themselves and/or not improving. I’m sure you agree that the best way to get a player to improve is for them to enjoy the experience. Pep says it is a game of happiness, even at the highest level, and players need to be happy. And does he have an identity…?
4. Club mentality– Realizes their efforts are a cog in the wheel, not the wheel itself. Too many who are the (3) above will take it upon themselves (and intentions here could be selfish or altruistic, and a lot of in-between), to keep this “team” of theirs in the spotlight. This approach has consistently failed, usually by the time they hit the full field. I always say I’d rather be on a continent (club) than an island (team) when the floodwaters or the fire rages.
Thank You! Coach Patrick Johnston for sharing your insights with FUNdamental SOCCER!
I also hope YOU (the reader) will join the discussion; your input may help improve some segments of soccer in the USA, and that is what this forum is all about.
Your FUNdamental, Koach Karl (Karl Dewazien)
- Emeritus State DoC of California Youth Soccer Assoc. 1979-2012
- Author – FUNdamental SOCCER Books Series
- Producer – ‘FUNdamental SOCCER -Practice’ DVD.
- Clinician at: www.fundamentalsoccer.com