Anyone who is considering coaching soccer for the first time is going to have a lot of questions. And this is understandable.
- “How do I know where to put players?”
- “What drills should I focus on?”
…..are all normal questions to have.
With hope, this post will help to answer some of these questions and will give you a place to start building from.
One of the best pieces of advice anyone receives when trying to do something new is to just keep things simple. If your immediate plan is to run your players through a complicated series of drills, you’ll quickly find that progress will be slow in coming. By keeping that first practice simple, you’re going to accomplish a few key goals that will make the next coaching session far easier.
Know Your Players
The first thing you’ll discover is the strengths of each individual player. Players who have years of experience will stand out from novice players with none. This is important to recognize as you can utilize these stronger players to help reinforce the basic skills everyone needs to master.
Another thing you will accomplish with this simple approach is to see where individual players prefer to be. Not everyone is equipped to be a goalie and putting someone who is unqualified in that position will only hurt your team. The same can be said for any position on the field. This again comes back to knowing your players, their skill level, and their preferences.
So by now you’re probably have the intended goals of keeping things simple that first practice.
Your next question has to be, “So how do I do this?”
Make it fun! Break the team into smaller units and have players begin playing games that focus on ball handling (for keepers specifically) and mastery skills (for everyone, yes including keepers) and other fundamental skills. Don’t start them out by asking to defend against crosses from the wing, but give them a few games which highlight skills that you see as vital to success on the field.
Another benefit to playing games like this is you get a chance to build the confidence of your players. If you see players who have the ability to control the ball and can run continuously, put them in key positions on the field and build supports around them. These stronger players will do well to teach and encourage peers. Let them share in the responsibility of coaching. Many times you’ll see that players have a way of explaining things to teammates in ways that are more relatable than what you can do. Use this!
Never hesitate to look to the internet for videos or other visual means to help players understand what you are asking them to do. The clearer you communicate with your players, the easier it will be for them to follow your directions.
Other valuable advice for a coach just starting out is to never be afraid to ask questions and admit when things don’t go well. We all make mistakes. I’ve been coaching soccer for over 12 years now, and I still have sessions where I walk away and think ‘That could have gone better’
Don’t be so hard on yourself…
It’s easy to start blaming yourself in these situations. It’s easy to forget however, when a session doesn’t go well it isn’t always the coaches fault. Things such as;
- Last minute time changes
- Last minute facility changes
- Hyperactive kids
- Other coaches
- And whole host of other reasons (Such as pushy parents…)
…can affect a session in more ways than one.
It’s learning from these mistakes that makes us better in the end. Always remember the importance of being supportive and clear in what you are asking your players to do. And above all else, remember that these are kids you are working with and that this should be a fun thing they want to do again!
If they leave your training session wanting more, you my friend have just delivered an amazing session. More of that next time please!
All the best,