Choosing a Quality Coach Involves More Than Counting Trophies
Youth soccer leagues have more influence on a child’s emotional and psychological development than most people think. Additionally, in these days of parental violence in youth sports and youth violence against each other, the right coach can make the difference between fostering good relationships between parents and children or contributing to the chaos of a game gone too far.
With so much pressure on the coach, it is imperative that you pick the right personality to lead a youth soccer program. In fact, it is extremely important that you find out, before the season begins, if the coach is able to create a learning environment that is also fun for the children. When evaluating your potential candidate, ask these questions about their personal background:
What is the coach’s playing/coaching background?
How many years has he/she been involved in youth soccer?
Why/how did he or she get started?
What age groups and genders have they coached?
His or her feelings on winning and losing?
His or her position on development vs. winning?
How he or she plans on improving each player?
Cover everything from practice rules and regulations to playing time.
What about his or her thoughts on sportsmanship, technical development, tactical development, practice results and season results?
“Coaches need to become more knowledgeable in how to deal with children and then become more educated in the sport of soccer,” said Mehdi Siadat, recipient of the US Youth Soccer’s “Coach of the Year” award. “I have found that the simpler the approach the easier it is for me and the players.”
For more than 20 years, Siadat, has spent his free time crafting creative practice sessions and inventive game plans. As a player, he enjoyed the game for more than 30 years. He currently coaches three different youth leagues in San Jose, Calif. Known for his extensive understanding of the game, Siadatprovides his coaching services for free. “You need to have passion and heart for the game and the children,” he says. “One needs to observe and watch the action/reactions of the children as they are participating and adjust their training methods accordingly.”
It has become a common belief that someone with an accent or college playing background is automatically a potentially good youth coach. Nothing can be further from the truth. Many of the finest and most successful youth coaches never played the game. They started their coaching career when their child wanted to play and the team was in need of a coach. These individuals, however, became successful because they took the time to attend coaching courses, read books and watched home instructional videos to gain soccer knowledge. But, they had one characteristic that the other coaches did not have. They truly enjoyed being around children and they wanted each and every child to become the best that he or she could be.
Just because someone has coached for many years does not make him or her a good coach. There are many homes in this country filled to the brim with trophies of individuals who never developed a single player. Sure these people are able to find/recruit the talented individuals around the area, but those players seldom improved beyond what they came with.
More important questions to ask, besides the number of years coaching, are:
“What are the number of players who want to be coached again by an individual who may have had a losing season?
” How many parents are sad that a certain individual no longer coaches their child?
“How many graduated players wish that a certain coach was still coaching them?
Yes, listening to others will give you a good indication as to the popularity and abilities of certain coaches.
Why/how did they get started in coaching is another good indicator as to the type of coach you are going to get. Most get their start with their child wanting to play soccer and the team not having anyone to coach them. In many cases the first child bears the brunt of this individual’s mistakes. So, it may be wise to find a coach who is now coaching his/her second or third child. More than likely he or she will empathize more, and allow for the players to experiment their way to success rather than talking (yelling) their way through practices and games.
Then we have coaches who simply started because it looked like a lucrative occupation. What could be easier money; outdoors on a field, tanning while telling a bunch of kids to run around the field or go chasing after a ball on the field. These individuals can easily be spotted under some the following scenarios:
Showing off their ball-handling skills by juggling when he or she should be observing the players;
Becoming players in small sided and scrimmage games rather than observing;
Making comments after every mistake rather than allowing the children to learn from their mistakes;
Yelling instructions during games, which shows they did not teach something in practice; and
Constantly talking to the parents on the sideline rather than observing the players.
A winning coach is someone who may not have the best win/loss record, but has players clamoring to be part of the team. A losing coach is someone who wins all the trophies and has players who hope their parents do not force them to play for this team again. It is wrong to think that a coach with an outstanding win/loss record is a good coach.
Winning coaches, as mentioned before, help players improve both technical/tactical through the course of the season. This improvement may not be detected or that obvious, but the attitude toward wanting to improve can be observed in players. Winning coaches create a drive in players ‘to want to’ work hard and constantly improve. Winning coaches are also disciplinarians who insist player’s concentrate from the beginning to the end of practices. They establish a routine in which players know their roles. The players are treated equally in successful and unsuccessful situations, and they show an eagerness to have the coach help them because they know the coach is there for their improvement.
The final criteria in which to judge a successful coach is to ask his or her child and team players what they think of the coach. If their child and the players on the team believe the coach is a success, then they are surely a BIG success.
Even if you do everything right in choosing an appropriate coach to lead your soccer program, he or she may have hidden agendas that will not surface during your conversations and evaluation. Sometimes, you might have to ask yourself:
Does this person have any control over his or her temper? Can he or she really destroy a game?
Does this person have any control over his or her emotions? Can he or she really destroy a season?
Does this person have any control over his or her habits? Can he or she really destroy a child?
Meet and Greet
The real test does not begin for the new coach with the season, but with the introduction to the parents. Wary parents are usually skeptical about coaches, so the best way to begin the pre-season is with the “mandatory parent introduction night.” During this function the local soccer board members introduce themselves, describe their duties, give their interpretation of the goals for the organization and give parents instructions on how to communicate with them throughout the season. During the meeting, pay attention to the types of words used. How often would a coach say ‘children, fun and development’ versus ‘winning, trophies and travel’?
Make sure to also allow for a brief Q&A following each board member’s introduction and job description. This will allow you to field questions from parents regarding the program. After the Q&A is the time to introduce your coach/director—the person you spent agonizing months finding to lead your soccer program. This is truly the biggest test and ordeal prior to the start of the season. Most parents make their decision about a soccer program based on the coach/director.
Again, choosing the right words is important. The director must decide whether to talk about ‘the development of the players; ‘a sequence of technical before tactical training’ and ‘teaching the players to love the game’? Or the Director might want to focus on ‘the potential success of the teams;’ ‘the size and number of trophies that can be attained’ and ‘the number of trips that are being planned’?
Even if the meet and greet goes well, it is just one brief way to get acquainted. However, because parents are concerned if this individual will affect their children either positively or negatively, they will not be satisfied with this brief encounter. Therefore, you must decide whether to offer a ‘team parents’ meeting or a personal ‘one-on-one meeting’ with the parents in the near future.
Of course it would be unreasonable to think that these events alone would prevent children and their parents from dropping out of soccer. Yet, if agencies use the practices mentioned, the soccer program will surely be a successful experience for most parents and players.
Children who have a positive introduction to any sport and who build a passion for that sport will continue to play the sport longer. And what better scenario can we establish than to create an environment that allows our children a healthy childhood?
Koach Karl (Karl Dewazien)
State Director of Coaching: California Youth Soccer Association (1979-2012)
Author: Internationally Published “FUNdamental SOCCER” Books Series
Producer: Highly acclaimed ‘9-Step Practice Routine’ DVDs
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.karldewazien.com