Here are a few tips from a seasoned coach:
Have your players arrive 30 minutes early (15 for younger players who are already cleated up, 45 minutes if they tend to be late). The older players like to chat. The younger players just want to run and play!
Use your time before you take the field to have your players get their technical touches in. They can also do their stretching. Remember to do everything as a team! Build your team spirit.
You can use our MOTI Game Day Warm Up Plan as a template for your pre-game warm up. It includes the off the field technical touches and stretches along with three on the field tactical drills: passing in threes, a 6v3 rondo and a shooting drill. For older and competitive teams I like to group my players according to position. I will have my strikers pass together, my midfielders pass together, etc. Have them warm up with the players they will be playing with on the field.
Rotate your captains for each game. Have your captains for the game lead the stretching for the team. This is a good way to build leaders.
Do a lot of building up and encouraging during your pre-game warm up. Get their confidence high!
If you are playing with a keeper, then you or one of your assistant coaches should warm them up while the rest of the team is doing the passing drills on the field. Remember that you are trying to build the confidence of your keeper, so be a good server of the ball to them. You want all your players to have success. Confidence and success in the warm-up leads to success in the game.
As you set your line up, make sure that your groups when you substitute are about equal in ability. It will be much more fun for the kids.
Having said that, put the players that can handle more pressure in the middle of the field. Put players who are new to the game on the flanks where there is less pressure. Everyone will have more success. The sign of a good coach is putting players in positions where they can succeed.
For the kids it is important for them to think of themselves as “starters.” So, make sure you rotate starters every game. Let them know that everyone on the team is a “starter.” They all will feel better about themselves and you will see it in their performance. Keep looking for ways to build them up!
Make sure everyone is playing equal time – or as close to equal as you can make it. I can guarantee you that the parents know if their child is not getting the same amount of playing time as others 🙂 This will make your life easier with the parents.
If you are really into the competition part of soccer (even if you are not keeping score :), here is how I like to set my line up. I think backwards from the end of the half. I try and have my strongest group at the end of the half and at the end of the game. Those are the times when most goals are scored. So, if you have the opportunity to play around with your line ups (probably because of a shortage of players for a game), try working backwards and see what kind of results you get. I think you will be surprised. It also works in well with the “All Players Are Starters” philosophy.
Do you have a team manager yet! You should 🙂 The kids love orange slices or watermelon at half time, or something cold at the end of the game. Kids and food are always a good combination! Ask for a Parent volunteer to coordinate this for each game.
When you talk to your players as a team, make sure you are the one looking into the sun rather than the players. You will keep their attention better. Also get down to their level so you can keep eye contact with them.
If you have team rules (like no swearing, no cut downs – only build each other up, be responsible, etc.) and you have someone break a rule DO NOT use running as a consequence. Soccer players LOVE TO RUN! It is a major part of the game and players should be encouraged to run. Instead be creative with having them do something else that is quick and gets the point across – like 5 push-ups, 5 burpees, etc. I like to stay away from sit up and crunches because their core is also such an important part of the game. At the High School level, we do those along with running as part of our training. For younger players though crunches are a good exercise for them to know and get used to doing.
Most Importantly . . . Have Fun!
I joined MOTI Sports in January to help in a sales consulting capacity during our USC Annual Conference show in Chicago in 2018. I am the former Coach of Orono High School for 35 years and hold a USSF Class B License. My professional background is 40 years in the capacity of manager of a retail grocery store and extensive experience with accounting and book-keeping.