I want to share insights from my 30+ years of coaching this wonderful game…My message to coaches…
1. Be yourself. Don’t imitate other coaches. Read about, observe, and learn from them, but in the end, you have to do what is natural to you. Just make sure enthusiasm is a part of it all – if you’re not excited by it, your players won’t be either.
2. Say at least one nice thing to each player each day – it may be the only nice thing they hear that day. A very wise friend once told me that, and I try my best to remind my students and players daily of the good qualities they possess. It has paid huge benefits over the years, as many of my former students and players have said I was the only person who believed in them or noticed the good in them. It has led to strong connections and friendships long after their playing days were over.
3. Control the controllable. There are only a few things you have control over – and the weather, the officials, the fans, and the other team aren’t among them. How you respond to those things is within your control, as are your effort and attitude. Don’t waste time concerning yourself with something you cannot control. Stay positive, and remember that it all balances out in the end.
4. Set high expectations for yourself and your team. Not just in wins and losses but also in how you represent yourselves in behavior and sportsmanship. If you live by your expectations, the players will follow suit.
5. Don’t allow winning and losing to define you. Practice hard, and prepare, but remember that you’re dealing with developing players, not professionals. The process is as much a part of it as the results – being a teammate, caring for each other, knowing you’ve given your best. The winning and losing take care of themselves.
6. Take lots of pictures. One day you will have made many memories for so many kids – and it’s all going to go by way too quickly. All the hours, the travel, the hard work – do your future self a favor and get lots of videos and pictures so you can relive all the joy and happiness you will share with your players.
7. Train your players as much as you can with a ball at their feet. Don’t get caught up in the “no cleats the first week of practice” rule – kids come to soccer practice to play soccer, not run in circles all day. Be creative when you plan so they can work on all aspects of the games in the exercises you prepare for the players.
8. Finally, smile a lot and make it fun. With all the ugly stuff happening in the world and our students’ demands, allow them to experience a little laughter and joy on the field. Eat meals together; sing on the bus rides – in 20 years, that’s the part they’re all going to remember anyway.
Kontributor to FUNdamental SOCCER for decades,
United States Soccer Federation “A” Licensed Coach