At USL, all coaches are volunteers, and their time commitment should be appreciated by all of the players and families of the teams. Because our coaches are volunteers, they all bring different levels of experience and knowledge about the game and how to coach it. "Coaches Corner" will hopefully answer some of the basic questions a USL coach will have and help serve as a guideline as to how to go about the task of coaching a team. If a coach does not see a topic covered here that they would like to see, please e-mail us and we will try to cover it here in this section.
What is expected of a coach in USL?
As a soccer coach, you will be expected to do and be a little of everything, from being a role model for your young players, to tying shoes, to comforting them and encouraging them to get back out there and play after they get kicked "real hard" for the first time (and not the only time if they continue to play this sport) in their lives. This has nothing to do with X's and O's, but is just as important to a 6 year old child.
A coach at USL should be expected to be on time for all activities that his/her team is involved in. If they can not be on time or make it to an activity, parents should be notified and if possible, another parent can begin or take over for that activity. On time for the coach is earlier than for any of his/her players. If game time is 11:00 am, the coach should be at the field 20-30 minutes before game time. This will allow for the coach to organize his/her team before the game, have them dribbling or other warm-up routine, and give a time cushion in case you "hit all of the red lights on the way to the field." By being early to practice, the coach can lay down their cones, and get a better feel for how much space you will have to practice and adjust your plans for the day, in case unexpectedly there are 2 other teams practicing at the same time.
What is the role of the coach during a game?
During the game, the role of the coach will be to:
Ensure that all of his/her players get the opportunity to contribute to the success of the team. This means everyone should get equal playing time. Players will only get better if they are given the opportunity to play, and remember this is Recreational Soccer, not the World Cup Finals!
Make sure that the parents on the sideline are behaving like the ladies and gentlemen that they want their children to become. They should shout encouragement to their children, but not instruction, which should only come from the coach. Under no circumstances should the coach or the parents yell at the referee. Abusing the officials will only end up with people being banned from watching their own children play the game and sets the wrong example to all of our young players.
Give instruction to your players. This begins with a pre-game talk, where positions are talked about so everyone knows what is expected of them. Different topics can be gone over, such as what to do when your team has the ball and what to do when the opponent has the ball. For the older age groups, how to defend a corner kick, or free-kick can be discussed (hopefully this has also been addressed at practice). During the game, instruction should be given, but the coach should not sound like a "play-by-play" announcer. Players with the ball must learn to make decisions on their own, and should be told which option would have been better (should have passed instead of dribbling). As a coach, you need to see the entire field and not just what is happening around the ball. An example would be to instruct your defenders to get back and cover the open player at the far post, not the player who is defending the ball in the corner. Play-by-play instruction has immediate results, and may help in the short term, but in the long-term, players will begin to wait for instruction before they do anything and will not learn to think for themselves.
At half time, players should be given a minute to get their drink, and then sit by the coach to receive instruction. This should be done away from the parents, in the middle of the field or under a tree if it is hot outside. This will ensure your players are focused on you (tell them your ears don't work if your eyes are not on me) and not on their parents or siblings. Your talk should begin with asking questions about what worked and what did not, allowing the players to come up with the answer. Then ask what we should do to make it better. Lead the group, and then give the right answer only if the group does not come up with it. Be as positive as possible, even when talking about how to correct mistakes.
An example would be, COACH "what happened when our team lost the ball by the other teams" goal?" TEAM "the other team ran down the field and scored". COACH Why? TEAM "They had 3 players running down the field and we only had 1 player back." (If the team cannot give you the answer, then you can say, "Did they have 3 players running down the field and we only had 1 player back on defense? TEAM "Yes") Then ask: COACH "So what do we have to do better? TEAM "Get back on defense faster."
By asking the team for input, you make the soccer problem their problem, not yours, and they have to solve it on the field.
After the game, talk briefly with the players about how the game went, and what they can do in the next week to improve (at home as well as at practice) such as working on controlling the ball, dribbling, passing, etc., so that we will be better for the next game.
Simply put, the more touches a player has on the ball, the better the player will become.
For example: 2 new Under-8 teams begin in the Fall with equal talent.
Team 1 team only gets together for the 9 fall games and the tournament, which last for 50 minutes (two 25 minute halves), they only play the game for 550 minutes during the season.
Team 2 Practices two times a week for 1 hour 2 weeks before the season begins, and two times a week for 1 hour after the season begins. The players on Team 2 will had many more touches on the ball and had more than triple the exposure to the game as Team 1.
This is the reason why some teams are better than others by the end of the season. They began with equal talent, but one team was given more opportunities to develop and therefore learned more than the other. Even if the coaches were both novices, players will improve if you follow the advice from the links below.
Remember: THE GAME IS THE BEST TEACHER, THE MORE A PLAYER PLAYS, IN GAMES AND SCRIMMAGES, IN PRACTICE OR AT HOME, THE BETTER HE/SHE WILL BECOME.