Here are a few general principles of coaching rec soccer you may find useful.
1) Soccer is fun. Your players will love the game if you make it fun.
Funny team names, cheers, an official mascot stuffed animal, streamers, hoops, matching socks, lots of game activities, tiny rewards, etc. Your main job as a coach, in addition to ensuring the health and safety of your players, is to help players build a love of the game.
2) The first day of practice, spend some time welcoming players and getting them to learn each others names.
Passing games or tag games in which players must yell out each other's names helps with this.
3) Come up with a practice plan before you get to the field.
Jot down a few ideas about what you want to emphasize before you get to practice, and then link up a couple activities or drills that would accomplish those goals for the week.
4)The beginning of practice can be a bit crazy. Kids are coming from school, parents are running late, etc. Let the kids burn off some energy by running around.
As kids arrive, it's best to have them *do something* - to have practice begin with a rolling start rather than just having kids sit there waiting. This is part of a principle US Soccer is emphasizing called 'play-practice-play' - it's based on something good classroom teachers have been doing for years.
It is a good idea to have an opening activity where the kids arriving jump right in. A 1v1 on a small goal that becomes a 2v1 and then a 2v2 is one way to do this. Opening with a game like 'sharks and minnows' or an 'egg toss'-type long passing activity in pairs works too. Having a dribbling race with cones set up to start is good too. Be creative!
5) Small- sided games allow kids to get more practice with the ball.
It's great to get into a scrimmage or a game with one ball and all your players at some point. But remember that the fewer balls on the field, the less opportunity a player has to practice dribbling and passing.
6) Repeat your activities/drills from week to week - introduce just one or two new ones a week.
It takes time for kids to integrate a new drill and its rules. So as much as you might have learned seven cool new drills this week, roll them out slowly, one at a time. Let your players get confident at the ones they already know.
7) Use line-up activities/drills sparingly.
Every moment your players are standing around waiting to get into an activity is time they could have been working on their drilling, passing, moving, or shooting.
8) Be supportive, affirming, and positive. Always.
If you see a player doing something good, tell them! Say it loud! Your players will notice it and want to figure out how to earn that same praise. Players feed off encouragement, while often responding very poorly to words like 'no' and 'wrong'. When you see something you like, say so. And you should find a way to find something you see that you like from every one of your players, at every practice.
Coaching games is really fun! It's also pretty wild - you'll be asked to do about a dozen things at once, all while maintaining a cheery attitude. It can be tough. Here are some tips to remember:
1) Let 'em have fun!
Game day should be a blast for everyone, and that means players should mostly be encouraged to really enjoy the game. Some kids might feel anxious or nervous, or may feel external pressure. Reassure them that really, they're there to learn and have fun.
2) Get 'em all on the field, and all over the field
It's always a bit of a challenge, but do your best to get every player roughly equal amounts of time on the pitch. It is also best for the growth and development of players that they get to experience a variety of positions of the field, from goalkeeper to defense to midfield and forward. Of course you may feel a desire to put a particular player in particular spot - players and parents may even appeal to you that they want to play a certain position. And their input is valid. But a good soccer player develops their skills best by playing a variety of roles and spots.
3) K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Sigi)*
Kids can only absorb so much information before a game or at the half. Think of maybe two or three things you want to reinforce - ideally something that came up in practice - for the second half. It's unlikely that introducing whole new tactical concepts or a half-dozen 'focal points' will be a benefit. Let 'em play, and help them to tweak and focus on a few keys.
*Sigi Schmidt is a beloved legend of American soccer, and that other 'S' word is a bad word in our house anyhow.
4) From the sidelines: Encourage! Encourage! Encourage! (Maybe a tiny instruction). Encourage!
Mostly, the coaches role from the sidelines to encourage all the good things they see. Kids feed on this. "Great pass!" "Way to dribble with your head up!" Good idea!" "Way to close down the ball!" "Nice shape!" Every so often, if you see a tactic or some positioning that might benefit a player, and can include it in a positive comment, that's great. But in general, tell the kids all the stuff you like to see, and they'll do more of that. I cannot tell you the number of times I have yell "OK, good spacing, let's do a little more of that!" while trying to break up the dreaded 'swarm'.
5) The score is irrelevant. The winning coach is the one that grows a players skills, confidence, and fun.
That's the Dynamo way.
The United Soccer Coaches website has *hundreds* of drills/activities, videos, and coaching ideas for every age and level of player.
You can select the right activity by clicking the dropdown menu on the left side of the page to filter results.
In particular, the 'Give and Go' series and 'Training Activities' sections are fantastic.
You will need to register as a member to gain access to the library, but even once your free 30-day membership has expired, you retain your access privileges. :)
To access the USC online resource library, click here.
If you want some specific ideas or support as a coach, Dynamo also has an amazing in-house resource - Technical Director Miguel Hoyos.
The veteran A-license coach can help you with ideas and plans. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with Miguel.
To become a better soccer coach, there are lots of opportunities for training and learning about the game. Pittsburgh Dynamo encourages our parents and coaches to get better and learn more in order to provide the best quality of coaching and the most positive experience for our players. To that end, Dynamo will reimburse any volunteer coaches for any soccer courses they take. Contact [email protected] before you sign up for the class for more information on reimbursement.
Grassroots: Introduction and Age Group Specific Courses
INTRODUCTION: Regardless of the age level you are coaching, your first stop in your coaching journey should be this brief online 20 minute introduction course hosted by US Soccer. The course is free; you only need to create a login name to register.
AGE GROUP SPECIFIC COURSES: Different age groups have different team sizes because we want younger players to get experience 'on the ball', and older kids need to start learning principles of passing, formations, and space.
- U5 and U6 players in Dynamo play 3v3 soccer, and U7/8 players play 4v4 soccer. The special training course for this level focuses on individual skill development, and is called the 4v4 diploma. This course is offered online by both US Soccer and United Soccer Coaches. Both are great. PA West, our regional soccer organization, offers blended online/in-person courses too.
- U9/U10 players play 7v7 soccer. The training course for this level is a balance of skills, off-ball movement, and positioning/spacing, and is called the 7v7 diploma. This course is offered online by both US Soccer and United Soccer Coaches.
- U-11 and U12 players play 9v9 soccer, in which skills are still important but understanding more complex ideas in soccer regarding attacking, defending, positioning, and transition are the emphasis. It is (I imagine you get the idea now) the 9v9 diploma is online and is also offered by USSF and USC, and PA West offers a blended online and in-person 11v11 course as well.
- U13+ play full sized 11v11 soccer, encompassing all the skills and practices of the lower levels. The 11v11 diploma is also online, and PA West offers a blended online and in-person 11v11 course as well.
The link to all USSF courses is here.
The link to all USC courses is here.
The link to all PA West courses is here.
More Advanced Licenses: D, C, B, and A
Once you have a Grassroots/Introduction license and have mastered the fundamentals of small and medium-sided coaching, you may want to progress to more advanced instruction. These licenses always involve some manner of in-person instruction. The D license is your first stop. PA West generally offers this license in the Spring and the Fall. The C, B, and A licenses come next. Each license builds off the last one and requires a greater time commitment.
We encourage our coaches at every age level to pursue excellence in coaching.
For PA West's schedule of upcoming coaching courses, click here.