In the U.S., approximately 284,000 boys and 209,000 girls play high school soccer. If you want to pass on your love of the game to young players, soccer coaching is often a great way to go about it. But coaching doesn’t come naturally to everyone (even great soccer players), and every soccer coach will make mistakes early on.
Want to avoid some of these pitfalls when you first start to coach soccer? Sign up for a soccer coaching clinic and be aware of these common beginner mistakes:
1. Being too lenient on bullying behavior
Bullying has no place on the field or on the sidelines. It’s important to set clear expectations from the start. Otherwise, poor sportsmanship will only increase as the season goes on. If you observe bad behavior from a team member, address the issues with the entire team (without singling anyone out) and make them understand that it won’t be tolerated. Likewise, talk to your team leaders and captains about how important it is to treat every player with respect, even kids who may not be as talented or popular as them. You should also discuss your expectations with parents who attend your games. As every soccer coach learns quickly, parents often behave more poorly than the young players! Some organizations have even embraced a strict “three strikes” policy when it comes to jeering or sideline bullying. While that may be extreme, it’s important for you to set boundaries and make everyone understand what’s appropriate on and off the field.
2. Trying to fit too much into one session
Even certified soccer coaches will sometimes miscalculate how much they can feasibly fit into a single coaching session. If you spend too much time talking or try to fit too much into one practice session, players won’t be able to absorb concepts or hone their skills as well as they might. Err on the side of caution and give yourself time to extend a drill if needed. Moving on from a topic too quickly will only result in confusion. Attending a soccer coaching clinic will help you determine the amount of information you can cover at once. This knowledge will make you a much more effective coach and will allow young players to build on their existing skills.
3. Treating every player the same
If you don’t already know it, you soon will: not all players are created equal. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses, and they’ll all play at different levels. The first practice should probably be devoted to ascertaining individual abilities; this will make individualizing practices a lot easier. While it can be a challenge to give each player the one-on-one attention they deserve, doing so will allow them to recognize what they do well and what they need to work on. If you treat each player the same, the best players will quickly lose interest or become frustrated with the entire process. Try to recognize each player for their contributions and help them identify where they need improvement.
Learning how to become a great soccer coach takes time and effort. But with the information you’ll learn at soccer coaching clinics and through your own experience, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the coach your kids deserve. The more you learn yourself, the better your young players will be able to learn from you.