Can I Be a Soccer Coach Without Playing?

So, you have decided that you want to coach soccer. The only potential problem is that you have never played in your life. Maybe your child is interested in playing soccer and you want to participate to spend more time with him. Or maybe you discover your love for this beautiful game late in life. Can you still be a coach?

The short answer is yes. There are few requirements to be a coach on the recreational level. This is where most kids start playing. Every organization and club is different. First step would be to contact your local clubs on their requirements. In general, you will find many clubs are in need of more coaches.

For some inspiration, there are several very accomplished professional coaches that never played soccer professionally. Coaches such as Vitor Pereira (FC Porto), Leonardo Jardim (Braga) and Pedro Caixinha (Nacional) never played professionally, but found success in coaching on the most competitive stage. If this isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.

Below you can find some resources to get started on your journey to becoming a top soccer coach.

How Do I Get Involved?

The next logical question is: how do you get involved? This is where the real fun begins. As with everything in life, it is best to get closest to the action. There is no replacement for spending time on the pitch coaching. If you feel you are at a disadvantage, then you can take these steps below.

  • Join a league in the area. Get experience with playing soccer. If you understand what your players are going through, you can be a better coach. This will help when you demonstrate drills to your players as well. Furthermore, this is a great networking opportunity. People who surround themselves with others involved in the sport will make more connections. These other players are likely coaches as well.
  • Speak with your child’s current coach or club. Ask to assist with practice and games. With 12-15 young players, it can be difficult to keep all of their attention. Having multiple coaches can better manage the team and parents. Being a head coach can be daunting. A head coach has a lot of responsibility. This way you can learn the ropes with someone to field your questions along the way.
  • Find a mentor. Regardless of your level, someone else has been through what you are going to experience. There are over seven billion people on the planet. You are not alone. Find another coach online or in person to communicate with. In today’s world of technology, the amount of opportunities to connect is endless.
  • Take some education or certification with US Soccer.
  • Purchase great books to help with your soccer knowledge. You can buy them here, here, and here (links to Amazon).
  • There are many great free podcasts available for you to listen at your leisure. Check iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play for your available options. One of my personal favorites is Coaching Soccer Weekly with Tom Mura.
  • Volunteer at soccer camps. Soccer camps can be long, grueling days, but you get exposure to a lot of different players. This is great for sharpening your coaching toolkit.
  • Reach out local clubs and organizations. Ask if they are in need of coaches for the upcoming season. Find out what they need. Provide them value. They will be grateful for someone to come in to help.
  • Watch and analyze soccer games. It’s surprising how much you can learn from others. Few coaches watch game film of their team or others. This is where you can set the standard and take your coaching game to the next level. Where you lack in playing experience, you can make up in observational analysis.

As you can see, there are many ways to get involved with coaching youth soccer. If you focus on where you can provide value, then you will find plenty of opportunities. Take action today, and your life might ever be the same!

Why People Care About Playing Experience?

Imagine someone comes to your workplace and tells you to do your job. However, this person has never spent time in your industry. They might make some great points, but you will be skeptical of their suggestions since they don’t understand the nuisances of your position. Same goes with soccer coaching. If you haven’t played soccer competitively in your life, there will be things that you fundamentally don’t understand. Some of the best lessons can only be through experience. As the old adage goes, experience is the best teacher.

People are tribal by nature. We like to stay close to people we are like. If you are an outsider comes in then coaches put their guard up. In a lot of industries, there are qualifications and certifications to weed out those that aren’t committed to the craft. This is human nature. Accept it. Work towards becoming apart of the tribe to earn the respect of those you work with. In youth soccer, you will be surprised that you can make great strides in a short period of time.

One way to overcome this is hard work. It’s simple. Soccer needs competent, diligent coaches. At the youth level, you will find there are many coaches that don’t put much energy into their coaching regime. You can impact your child’s team or local area through a disciplined approach. It doesn’t hurt to join an amateur league in your area to earn your stripes. Once you mention that you play soccer, people tend to trust and accept your opinions more quickly.

Is There a Ceiling?

As I mentioned above, there are several notable coaches who perform on the highest level without playing at that level. For most of your ambitions, I’m here to tell you that you can coach some level of soccer especially at the younger ages. But, there is some context that I need to provide.

If you have never touched a soccer ball in your life, and you aspire to be the head coach of Real Madrid, then you might run into some issues. The successful coaches on the highest level at least played amateur level for an extended period of time. In other words, they played for years and their playing experience translated into their passion for coaching. I’m one of the first people to acknowledge that human potential is greater than most expect. However, there are a lot of factors that come into play when talking about the elite level including relationships, luck, financial backing, and skill. Not everyone has the skill set to coach at the highest level.

While you may not be coaching your home country for the World Cup, you can have a rewarding coaching career. Status shouldn’t replace impact. Without playing soccer, you can still coach at a high level. I’d argue that you can make a bigger impact on the youth. The youth defines the future of the sport. We need great coaches at the younger levels to keep players engagement and motivated to continue to play. Many coaches go through the motions. You can be the difference. Change the lives of thousands of youth is goal worth pursuing.

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