How/Why did you become a youth soccer coach?
I primarily became a youth soccer coach because my son loved soccer, even when he was just a toddler. But why I became a youth soccer coach is probably less interesting than why I’ve stayed a youth soccer coach. My good friend Oliver Germond (Fresno City College Women’s Soccer Coach) and I started coaching our kids together when they were about 3 years old. We loved getting to watch them run around, seeing them learn the game, and having fun. Oliver’s passion for teaching the fun and the fundamentals of the game got me hooked. Oliver and I stopped coaching together when our kids aged out of the co-ed groups, and I began coaching with my friend James Hill, who’s coached with me for the last 6 years. Getting to do life with the families on our team, getting to watch our kids develop their skills, and seeing the kids grow in their love of soccer keeps me coming back year after year.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
My favorite thing about coaching is watching how much the kids (and parents) on our teams have learned about soccer, using soccer and its lessons as tool to develop character, and teaching them to love the game. Many of the kids have gone from “just playing soccer” to “soccer being their favorite sport” – which is one of the most satisfying parts of getting to be a coach.
What do you like the least about coaching?
The thing that I like the least about coaching is the way many of the adults around the game act. Too many people have a win-at-all-costs mentality, not just in their tactics, but in the way that they treat their players, and the referees. I love the competitiveness and the passion that soccer brings out in people, but too often I’ve seen adults lose their perspective and lose sight of the reason we play.
What “words of wisdom/advice” would you like to give to:
Players: To love the game, love playing the game, compete & work hard, and always have fun.
Experienced Coaches: To teach kids to be great people first and also to be great soccer players, and to never stop teaching the love of the game.
Beginning Coaches: To focus on foot skills and fundamentals first, to have conviction in the skills you are teaching (which will sometimes mean losing games), and to always be supportive of the kids – even when it is hard.
Opposing Coaches: Take a deep breath, make sure you are having fun, and don’t lose perspective when things get tough.
Parents: The fundamentals are key to building long-term player success. The tricks you use to win at the U8 level, are not how you develop players who will be successful in the future. Be patient, be supportive, and the wins will come.
Referees: We have a lot of young referees in our league who have to manage a lot of adults (who act like kids). My advice to them is to trust their eyes, be confident, and be decisive in calling the game. Adults can be like sharks, and indecision smells like blood in the water.
If you had a magic wand what major change(s) would you make in youth soccer? I’d change the money and time that youth soccer is starting to require. The opportunity to play, especially at higher levels, is getting further out of reach for people, and the single-sport specialization is beginning to happen at younger and younger ages. It’s certainly not an issue that is exclusive to youth soccer; in fact, it’s something I wish would change throughout all of the youth sports. Kids shouldn’t lose out on the opportunity to play because their families can’t afford it, and they shouldn’t be encouraged/forced to pick a single sport at a young age.