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I’m Stressed-Out Volunteer Coach!!!

Coach:  I’m a volunteer coach for our soccer club, having begun as a U-6 coach as a complete rookie a few years ago.

Karl:  You need to be ‘thanked and congratulated’ for making time in your life to be with your son and helping children in their developmental years. Who knows, you may become the catalyst who turns many of them into productive adults. Priceless

Coach:   While I’ve learned a lot and now hold a D license, I STILL feel like a newbie.

Karl: I have been in the sport for over thirty-years and still feel like a newbie . I believe that once you think you know it all that is when your difficulties will begin. Surely you have noticed/realized that each game and even your  players have differed from week to week. I am sure that you did not coach each game and your players the same from week to week. You adjusted and started a-new each session.

Coach: I stress out a great deal each season over being a better coach than I was the year before, never feeling like I’m doing a very good job.

Karl: The only person who can ‘stress-you-out’ is YOU and that is a fact! And if you feel like you are ‘not doing a good job’ then YOU are Right! However, if YOU felt like you were ‘doing a good job’ then, again YOU are Right! Strange how everything falls back on YOU, eh?

Coach: I only played soccer recreationally as a kid and for a very short time.

Karl:  I don’t think anyone is expecting you to perform on the field –are they? I know if many/many, even professional coaches, who did not have an illustrious playing careers yet they became great teachers of their game. The name coach John Wooden comes to mind!

Coach: It doesn’t help that we struggle to have enough players on our team (we live in a small community) and we don’t necessarily have a lot of talent on our team.

Karl: One wonders what is the reason for not having enough players for your team: Is it because you don’t have enough boys that age in the community? Is it because the boys in the community want to play for other coaches? Or, is it because you are looking for only ‘talented’ players in your community? Think about this for a moment … How would you feel if the boys in your community felt like you did not have the talent to coach them? The bottom line … work with what you are given. If they don’t have the talent then make them more talented. If they don’t have the skills then make them more skillful. If they don’t have the enthusiasm then make them more enthusiastic. If YOU don’t (fill in the blanks) then they won’t (fill in the blanks)!  

Coach: -Trouble is, I’m never coaching the same age group each year (I’m following my son’s team – which is standard protocol for this club) and so as their needs change I have to put a lot of time into reading and planning to develop appropriate practice sessions for the boys.

Karl: Trouble is YOU starting out with another negative word like “Trouble!” Here you are given an opportunity to influence/mold children’s lives and making it sound like a chore. If this is how you feel inside (put a lot of time…etc.) then your body language is/will reflect your feelings? Maybe this is part of the Trouble you are facing?

Why does it matter what age group you are coaching? Soccer is Soccer no matter the age. We attack one goal and defend another goal. We control, pass, dribble,shoot and tackle a round object and are not allowed to use our hands –no matter the age. Soccer is Soccer – No matter the age!

So as their needs change you simply increase/decrease the size of the playing area. Add/take away opponents in small sided games and scrimmages. Limit or add the number of ball touches in small sided games and scrimmages. You don’t need to do a lot of reading/planning to make these adjustments … You need to be able to Observe the players in action and adjust accordingly. It is as simple as that!!!

Coach:  It’s a HUGE time commitment, and while I love learning more and more about the game, I’m not a very happy coach and find myself quite burned out by the time the end of the season rolls around.

Karl: If you are unhappy, burned-out and feel like you are wasting your time … How do you think your players feel? I’m getting a sense that your win/loss record is not keeping you enthused. Rather than focusing on your players and their enjoyment/development. I sense that you are focusing on finding ‘talent’ and having a competitive squad to parade around your small community. Focus on your player’s enjoyment/development and you will find enjoyment/happiness and it will be impossible to fail. Focus on finding ‘talent’ and the results of games and you will find unhappiness and get that burned-out at the same time .

Coach: I know this is mostly self-induced misery, and its a product of my own perfectionism but I really do think that there has got to be a better way for me to develop as a coach to stay current with the best practices available while addressing the needs of my players for their own long-term development. 

Karl: Yes, it is ALL self-induced and Yes, there is a better way: I suggest that you spend more time in ‘getting to know your players’ rather than ‘putting a lot of time into reading and planning to develop appropriate practice sessions for the boys.’ Get to know each individuals strengths and weaknesses not just as players but as the teenagers that they are. They need a coach they can respect and identify with …not a coach who runs great practices.

Coach: I’m well aware that I don’t have to be a perfect coach (which I know doesn’t exist), but I’d sure like to feel like I’m on really solid ground and that the players and parents think I am as well.

Karl: You can’t control what the players and parents think. But, you can control what YOU think. If you think that you are ‘on really solid ground’ because you care about each individual’s progress –then you are right on the right track! However, If you think that you will be ‘on really solid ground’ once you are able to run the most ‘current and best practices’ then you are heading for Trouble! Work with the players not with concepts!

Coach: Our club uses parent evaluations at the end of each season and I was hugely disappointed in the number of gripes and complaints (and the content of these comments) that it’s taken me quite awhile to get over it. Honestly, I felt like throwing my hands up in the air and walking away from it all. It’s a volunteer position and I’m working hard at it, and yet some parents really blasted me in their evaluations. Whew! I feel worn out just thinking about it all over again.

Karl: Why not take the positive approach to these evaluations. Rather than looking them as gripes/complaints. Why not look at them as areas in which you can improve. I would rather have the parents/players tell me my weaknesses so that I can continue to improve. Rather than giving me kudos, which may not be truthful, and which surely would prevent me from improving.

Rather than throwing your hands up in the air and walking away –which means they were right! Why not reach your hands out to them and find out if they have suggestions on what you can do to improve. Work with the parents rather than spending your time reading about most current and best practices!

Coach: Ironically, our club has, the past two years, hired a college-level coach to come and work with our coaches for a week or two at the beginning of each season (our season doesn’t really get into full swing until the end of May when we can actually get outside on the fields and school is out) and each year this coach has complimented me on my style of coaching and the content. So, I get great feedback from her but I crash and burn when it comes to the opinions of the parents (and even some of the kids, actually).

Karl:  Maybe this college coach is not as honest as the parents and your players? Maybe your parents and players are attempting to help you improve but you aren’t listening? Maybe, this college coach wants to keep her job and tells you what you want to hear and you are listening? Maybe it would be wiser for you to evaluate yourself instead of having others do it for you?

Coach: At any rate, what’s most important to me is to continue to grow and learn as a coach in order to provide the best possible soccer experience for my players.

Karl: And I think it is most important for you to grow and learn to be a better: friend, mentor, teacher, etc. In other words, stop with all the studying/learning about soccer and better practices and begin studying and learning about the people around you!!!

Coach: Having read all of this, do you have any suggestions, thoughts, recommendations? 

Karl: Read all my notes above -again-. Especially about getting to know your players and parents which should be easy to do because you live in a small community after all!!!

Coach: Any special coaching schools that you would recommend that don’t cost an arm and a leg?

Karl: It seems like you have more than enough information – after all you have your “D” license, etc. Now you need to figure out ‘how to’ apply that information in a bonding manner rather than in a detached one.
Take your knowledge and put it into the following ‘9-Steps’:
1. Begin Practice by telling the players what they will learn
2. Warm-up with each individual working on their ball-handling skills
3. One + One … Add information as pairs are working with the ball
4. One vs. One … Observe if they are learning what you are teaching them
5. Take a break … Hydrate, Review and Prepare for Second Half
6. Small Sided Games … Make rules to focus on what you are teaching -Include (+) add information and (vs) competitive games
7. Scrimmage … Make rules to focus on what you are teaching -Include (+) add information and (vs) competitive scrimmage
8. Cool down … Compliments each individual for their progress
9.End Practice … Compliment team, Review and Give Homework

Follow this routine and over a period of time, with lots of player interaction, you and the players will see signs of improvement. Improvement leads to relaxation. Being able to relax, while under pressure, results in having some FUN. And all of this will obviously/eventually lead all of you to Success – and that is Guaranteed!!!

Thank you for being so interested in becoming a better teacher, friend and soccer coach

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