June 12, 2012
Over the last decade, I have spent most of my time on the soccer fields of Massachusetts trying to determine the best formula for creating a comfortable coaching environment for those parent-volunteers new to the sport of soccer and/or new to coaching in general. I have observed and studied different models of how to engage coaches. Many of those models focus on what to teach so the players have a positive experience versus creating learning sessions whereby novice coaches acquire the tools needed to actually “coach” effectively.
I have watched as youth soccer associations pay (large sums of money) to outside groups to come in and demonstrate sessions and then expect these volunteer parents to replicate that same session in a matter of minutes to their team. These volunteer parents may not even know the outcome of the practice session or how to set up the field space, yet the expectation is that they can do exactly what that expert coach just taught them (less than an hour ago).
Those are some high expectations and may lead to many coaches who will drop out because of the stress of being underprepared to run practices. Instead of just showing them what to do at practice, let’s prepare these coaches by sending them an email with an overview of the session with detailed coaching points that need to be made and videos that show how the session should effectively be managed. Let’s start providing teaching tools to our coaches which will last throughout their coaching career instead of quick fixes or gimmicks used to coach for one season. Now, use the paid coaches to walk around the practice sessions and give parent-volunteers pointers on how to get the attention of players, or how to teach the team how to spread out. We want the expert coaches to show these novice coaches how to become better teachers of the game.
Why not empower our coaches by providing them strategies to coach basic skills or games, concept knowledge about positions on the field, and solid methods to engage our soccer players? We need to share the terms that work for explaining soccer’s most used skills and we need to coach our coaches so that our children have positive learning experiences.
Check out the series I put together on Coaching Tips & Drills focused on helping youth soccer coaches with practice plan development and getting players moving on the field.