JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
There are times when I wonder if the increase in paid coaches in youth soccer is a good thing for our youth players. I have observed over the years that some paid coaches train two or three and sometimes even four teams. Why? Because it’s their livelihood. Would you agree that in order to get the best out of youth development you really need to get to know the players in order to be able to provide training that fits their ability to play physically and mentally? Perhaps training more than two teams during the same season may not allow the coach to train the teams to their full potential.
John Kessel, USA Volleyball Director of Membership Development and Disabled Programs, states; “I know that kids don't care how much I know about this sport, until they know how much I care about them.” I agree with that statement what about you?
When a coach is paid there is sometimes a misunderstanding by the parents that the check is the only motivation the coach needs to get the players prepared for the match. That assumption may also support an expectation of winning every match, which can bring more pressure on the coach and players. Wining is part of playing the game of soccer, but training and playing matches are also part of learning life skills. Will the coach that focuses on winning at all cost be the coach that has your child’s best interest at heart? Will winning every match make your team a better one? Once players get to their teen years it may be more appropriate to start training towards winning, but training to win at any cost in youth soccer should never be the goal. Training should include tactics and techniques to win matches, but winning isn’t the end all when it comes to learning how to play the game. Let’s not forget about team building, how to deal with winning and losing with dignity, and how players may learn from both.
Coaches are role models paid or not, good or bad. Please understand that you have a great responsibility to know the impact you will have on your players and parents. Coaches should build on the player’s skills and understanding of how to play the game, but you must also work on what’s right and wrong. If you yell and scream at players or the referee, what message do you think you’re role modeling to your players and parents? You are showing them it’s ok to yell and scream. If you can take a look at yourself and don't like what you see when you’re training for a match or when you’re coaching a match, then you may not be projecting what could be considered a good role model. Coaches need to know how to balance fun - smiles and humor in training, with a healthy focused on being competitive.
What are some of the behaviors a coach might want to be aware of and perhaps work on to be a good role model? The coach should stay calm through every storm of competition, so the players can play through challenges with out being overly stressed about the results of the game, and still have a drive to win. Be consistent, and allow the players to rely on who you are as a coach, never have to worry about "which coach" they might be talking to. A coach should never stop learning about the beautiful game.