11 Essential Questions for Every Youth Soccer Coach


soccer coach lede
photo credit: Imperium via photopin (license)

So, you’ve volunteered to coach soccer.

Your life will change. How much depends on you. It’ll force early hair loss, or high blood pressure, perhaps. Or, it will reveal character and strength you never knew existed.

Seriously, few things in this life will stir your soul like coaching your kid in soccer.

Seriously, few things in this life could scar your kids like coaching your kid in soccer.

Probably I’ve stomped my last sideline for a while. It’s not over for sure, but … I’ll call it an involuntary coaching walkabout. Well-timed, though. Grace will play 30 minutes away, Marie 45, and Elise a two-hour drive away.

I’ll roll up too many miles on my Pontiac this fall to coach anyone.

I’ve coach champs and I’ve coached against chumps who drain the love of the game out of a kid. I’m not the greatest coach who ever lived. But every man or woman who takes up the clipboard? I’d love to have 20 minutes with each and every one of them.

I’d ask a few questions.

What are you doing here?

It’s for the kids. Don’t get that crooked. No one cares if you win on Saturday mornings. Look your players in the face after practice or games. Are they enthralled – or confused?

What’s your plan?

It’s essential. Create a random, equal plan for playing time, and stick to it. An extra 15 minutes of playing time for your least-focused kid means more than a 2-1 win no one even writes down.

How will you practice?

No lectures. No lines. No laps. Every kid with a ball. Tag isn’t bad. Your job is simple: Play games that teach the kids to play and love soccer. It’s not at all easy. But it’s fun as heck.

What about gameday?

Anxious? That’s normal. Ticked that you lost again? Not cool. The kids will remember your joy when the score. They’ll never forget how you treat them when they get scored on.

What about parents?

You’re in charge of their kids; respect them and listen. You’re in charge of their kids; don’t let them push you around. Smile at the praise, forget the harsh words, and concentrate on the kids.

How will you coach your budding stars?

Some will dazzle you with signs of greatness. Do not ride their coattails. It’s your job to teach the concept of team. Every player needs every player. Show them this.

How will you coach those a step or 10 behind?

Some will baffle you with signs of indifference. Do not leave them behind. It’s your job to teach the concept of team. Every player needs every player. Show them this.

How will you foster a team?

They’ll begin to learn that the team is more than the sum of its parts. Kids will rally around a cool team name or favorite color of jersey. If you believe, they’ll believe. Want a glimpse of your character? Look at your youth soccer team. They’ll reflect it.

How will you win?

Some days, you’ll roll. You’re not Jose Mourinho. When your star forward scores three, put him on defense. Or in goal. Play a player down, quietly. Win with humility.

How will you lose?

Some days, you’ll get rolled. You’re not a clown. When your keeper gives up three, put him at defense. Or forward. Play on, and try your best. Lose with dignity.

What do you want for these kids?

Ever feel like the kids let you down after a loss? You never, ever should. They’re not there for you. You’re there for them. If you get it, you know what I mean.

Every kid who wears your jersey matters.

One kid who masters a simple soccer move on your watch counts for 37 Saturday victories.

Every kid who scores her first goal on your watch will remember your team forever.

Every kid who sits on your bench will think of something you said 10 years from now.

All of them will infiltrate your soul. Your kids, and your new kids.

See, when a kid plays for you, they’re your kid, too. Even when a girl’s mama runs into you at Target to tell you her daughter’s graduating from college, and that she never played again after you, because you were her coach.

So, you’ve volunteered to coach soccer.

Your life will change. How much depends on you.

pele quote

 

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32 Replies to “11 Essential Questions for Every Youth Soccer Coach”

  1. This is exactly why I coach and teach. We have the ability (and duty) to make the star player feel like the new kids on the team and the new kid on the team like a captain. They don’t remember the games, they remember how we made them feel. Cheers coach!

    1. once, one time, grace asked to come out of a game. she couldn’t be tired, could she? i didn’t want to take her out. my first reaction was, ‘we need you! suck it up!’ i’m glad it didn’t last, that feeling. i took her out. who cares what happened in the game.

  2. You know I feel very much that I can take this some advice and apply it to my Girl Guide Troop. It’s about Them; not me. Or any of the Type A we must do it this way no exceptions and no we don’t need a meeting because I’ve basically already decided without you just do what I ask sorts. Because, that’s fun!

    TEAM – yeah that! I need to forward this to some people.

  3. Beyond beautiful Eli. So well put. As I was reading, I remembered a softball coach I had for a few years way back when. He was a great coach and was always encouraging. Thanks for bringing that good memory back to me.

    1. Thanks Sue. It’s my unofficial “bye for now” speech for coaching, I suppose. I love that you remember that coach.

      No matter what his record was, he’s won because of the impact he’s had on you. Well, you’ve won, really, and those who know you have.

  4. While I was never a soccer mom, I witnessed a coach or two that could learn so much from you as well as met many like you.

    Great post Eli!

  5. A great read, Eli. My son-in-law coaches junior soccer. You and he would get on well. For him, the important thing is that the kids have fun while learning to play the game honestly and with all their hearts.

    1. Thanks Lyn. I’m glad to know your son-in-law feels this way, too. Honestly is a big part! I would rather lose with honor than compromise the game in the pursuit of victory.

  6. Wish you were around when my dad was coaching my soccer team! I always wanted to have a dad who was like all the other dads – one who I could do daughter-dad things with, who would coach my sports and teach me to do fun stuff like launch model rockets or play chess… without turning into an unpredictable, raging, out-of-control, tantrum-throwing, object of terror. I made the mistake of convincing my dad to coach my team once when I was still pretty young, before I realized that he really *couldn’t* control himself. I learned some valuable lessons, but they weren’t about teamwork or sportsmanship or soccer.

    1. I so appreciate your perspective on this. I feel like of all things in life, I had the most control and confidence when I led a team into battle.

      Every one of my kids, even though they’ve advanced beyond my ability, sat on my knee in a team huddle and, for a moment at least, seemed to enjoy our bond.

      You’re right – so many lessons we learn in soccer have little to do with the game, but more with life.

  7. Stumbled on this and it is spot on. I coached my son’s team for several seasons, and it was life changing. There were times we’d play games and I’d be dying to pull aside the other coach just to find out what on earth they were doing there — you can always tell the players being taught to love the game from the players being taught to win the game.

    1. Thanks, Laura. I love that you had a similar experience. I feel bad for the children who have to play for coaches who suck the love right out of the game. So right about telling the difference between those taught to love and those taught to win.

      Winning takes care of itself, when it’s time.

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