For most of my career as a soccer coach and coaching educator, I have been committed to requiring that coaches be qualified or certified to coach at the level they choose. In examining the soccer coaching education landscape, there is a significant array of courses and programs designed for the advanced player. The focus is on player development for early teens and beyond. There are now dozens of organizations that provide coaching education for soccer coaches. While some provide diplomas, licenses, certificates, and even academic degrees, there is no mandate that any coach must have any specific certification to coach. This is especially true at the youth level, which I define as players aged 12 and under. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of youth soccer coaches have had any coaching education to prepare them for developmentally appropriate activities and games. This is a problem.
There are courses that help prepare coaches at the grassroots level, but education is not mandated, and few organizations provide any coaching education or require any for the coaches working with players ages 4-12. We need to be better. United Soccer Coaches has a variety of courses and resources for the youth coach. U.S. Soccer has similar courses. The challenge is making sure that coaches are prepared to work with those young players who want to play and have fun.
An area of focus for me and many colleagues is creating a better soccer-playing environment for our youngest players. The largest percentage of soccer players in the US are those aged 12 and younger. This age group also has the largest percentage of coaches. Programs for youth coaches must be mandated, and soccer organizations must demand it. Without qualified coaches, especially at the early stages of development, we will continue to lose nearly 70% of these players by the time they become teenagers.
United Soccer Coaches works to ensure that all of our programs support these goals. Coaching education is essential to meeting the challenges we face as we work to grow the game, we all love. Our priority must be to enhance the well-being of our athletes. Many of you have pursued different coaching education pathways and are committed to life-long learning. Others of you are sorting out which coaching education pathway will best serve your personal and professional development. United Soccer Coaches needs to be a leader in not only defining coaching education mandates but also in creating mechanisms to make required education readily available to all coaches. Soccer players of all ages deserve a competent, player-centered coach. It is all about the love of the game.
Over a decade ago, The Sports & Society Program of The Aspen Institute created Project Play (www.projectplay.org). Their mission is one to develop, apply, and share knowledge that helps build healthy communities through sports. This program helps create a foundation of social trust and network building. Project Play addresses issues of children being left out, pushed out, or burned out by a youth sports model that has gotten expensive and exclusionary. Rising injury rates and fewer free-play opportunities are major concerns. This program provides research on the “State of Play,” opens a dialog among leaders who are helping build healthy children through sport, helps build partnerships, and shares knowledge. The three frameworks that makeup Project Play are: improve youth sports, improve school-based sports, and promote the Children’s Bill of Rights (www.fcdc.org). These are woven into the Mission of United Soccer Coaches. Our programs and services strive to enhance, contribute to, and advocate for the development and recognition of soccer coaches, players, and the game we love.
The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) was developed by Jim Thompson in 1998 (www.positivecoach.org). It is a national organization whose mission is to “change the culture of youth sports so that every child, regardless of social or economic circumstance, has access to a positive youth sports experience.” The PCA believes that all children can benefit from a positive, inclusive sports culture that develops social and emotional skills, molds character, and prepares them for competition and life. They advocate for qualified coaches. Their programs have helped reach 20 million youth.
Koach Karl’s Komments:
A sincere ‘Thank You’ to Dr. David Carr for prioritizing coaching education, ensuring qualified coaches for our young players, and fostering a positive soccer environment for those aged 12 and under.
Dear Reader, Please join the SOCCERevolution! Share your thoughts, actively engage, and let’s inspire coaches to pursue education. Together, we can genuinely impact the future of youth soccer. Your participation matters: Let’s collectively make a difference in the beautiful game we all love.