COACHS CORNER: Scoring goals isn’t always the goal

Goal scoring is fun, of course. Fun to do, fun to watch. And even though
most clubs don’t keep score at the recreational level, the truth is that
the players often know exactly how many goals each team has when the final
whistle blows. However, many of these kids rarely get the opportunity to
feel the rush and glory of scoring an individual goal during their young
careers. It is important for coaches (and parents!) to make other aspects
of the game just as exciting as finding the back of the net:

  • Set up a system of tracking when players try and successfully execute
    certain skills you have introduced at practice. It is helpful to have a
    parent or assistant keep track and often the kids on the sideline will join
    in too (for example: today I am watching how many outside hook turns you
    can do).
  • Give each player something specific you want them to accomplish that
    matches their level of playing ability. This could be a concept you want
    them to grasp, like only playing the ball to the outside when they are in
    the middle of their defensive field or challenging them to make sure they
    are trying to pass with a purpose and find a teammates feet each time the
    kick the ball.

Celebrate these victories to the player directly with verbal praise and
high fives. When they are young, it is ok to make each player feel like
they were the game VIP and give them something concrete they can tell their
fans they accomplished when they are asked “How was your game?” It can also make players begin to understand early that there are many ways on the
field to make significant contributions to their team and that being a goal
scorer isn’t the only way to add value to the game. This all takes some
extra forethought, effort and time on the coach’s part but the benefits are
well worth it!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHS CORNER: Respect the Ref

Being a referee is not an easy job. Starting with recreation soccer and through much of the early youth stages, these refs are often also KIDS. They will absolutely make mistakes as they are out there learning to make difficult and definitive calls. No matter how much you want to be relaxed as a coach, it can be frustrating to keep quiet when a ref isn’t blowing their whistle or is blowing it too much, when the calls aren’t going your team’s way. But keep quiet you must. Model this good behavior for your players. When they want to complain, this is a teachable moment about playing through: focusing on the game, working hard and having fun.

In the end, remember how you would want a coach to treat your own child who might someday be brave enough to be on the field as a ref, doing their job in front of a live audience of ready-to-judge adults…

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

FROM THE SIDELINES: How to be a good soccer parent

I played soccer for the first half of my life. I have coached it for the second. Both halves were fun…and challenging…However, I don’t know if either fully prepared me for the transition to becoming a soccer parent – another fun challenge, but one that takes practice, for sure!

Just like in playing the game, you can make being a soccer parent complicated, but it is better to keep it simple:

Follow your child’s lead. Early on this can mean understanding their level of intensity/ interest in the game. Most youngsters are more casual and just out there to socialize and learn a little teamwork, great! Some may be naturally more competitive. Listen to how they felt about practice or the game, support them in that and find ways to gently challenge them.

Play the game with them(even if you don’t know what you are doing)! Find a small grassy area, put down some makeshift goals and go for some 1v1 or 2v2. In addition to appreciating how hard your child is working on the field, you might be surprised how soon they are having to let you win.

Set up environments that allow them to practice their skills outside of practice. Spend 5 minutes trying to get one more juggle than their last record. Pass against the front step with picture posing technique. Set up a small square for them to get 100 touches and work on two new moves they’ve learned.

Don’t coach from the sideline. This can be a really difficult one. Definitely cheer, but don’t coach. At all. And never yell at the referee or the other team. Never.

I try to be a good soccer parent…and just as I encourage my boys to do when they play, I will continue to practice to be better every opportunity I get.

COACH’S CORNER: Nurture a love of the game!

As a recreation coach, you might just be a first introduction to the beautiful game of soccer for many kids and their parents. This is an opportunity to provide a positive initial experience for families that can nurture a love of the game and help grow lifelong players and fans (no pressure!). Here are some quick and easy tips to create some hype and help you on this mission:

  • Have a competition with the kids at practice and add extra incentive by telling them you will do something silly, like star jumps or singing Twinkle, Twinkle, if they “beat” you.
  • Give some fun homework: recommend that they try to get 200 touches on the ball before the next practice, spend two 5-minute sessions practicing passing with perfect posing form or work on increasing the number of juggles they can get by one.
  • Keep parents in the loop about the things you are asking the players to work on so they know what to emphasize with praise too (I love the way you tried that drag back, you really locked your ankle when you passed today, etc.).
  • Encourage players/families to watch a professional or college game – live or on TV – and give them ideas of things to look for during the run of play: count how many passes one team can string together before they lose possession or how many times they see a certain move, for example.

Bring lots of energy and keep it fun while they are learning and you will keep them coming back for more!

COACH’S CORNER: Connect 4

The recreational soccer seasons are usually quite short and coaches often
don’t get enough contacts or time with their players. As a parent
coach, we can get so caught up in our agenda of the nuts and bolts list of
things we want to teach the players in practice and the season that we can
some times forget one of the important basics of coaching at this, and all
levels: making meaningful connections!

  1. Make a one-to-one verbal connection with each player at every practice
    and game day. The kids want to know they are seen and that it mattered that they showed up!
  2. Connect to where the individual player is, emotionally, mentally and
    physically. There can be wide range of abilities at the rec level: try to
    find a way to simplify things for the child who isn’t coming in as
    naturally coordinated, or to have empathy for the child who has had a rough
    day, or to create an additional challenge for the player who comes in with
    more soccer experience.
  3. Connect what you work on in practice directly to the games. Remind the
    players about the new skill you introduced earlier that week and tell them
    you are looking for them to try it against that day’s opponent.
  4. Remember to connect with the parents! Introduce yourself to the group
    and individually when you see a new face. Ask the kids to thank their
    parents for getting them to practice and games. Let them know, either in
    person or via email, something positive you saw their child do or something
    that you are encouraging their child to try.

These little efforts can make a big difference in giving the entire team a
fun soccer experience.

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COACH’S CORNER: Tackling a Practice Plan

COACH’S CORNER: Tackling a Practice Plan

When you first start coaching – be it your initial foray as a parent coach or the beginning of a new season with a new team for a more seasoned recreational coach, figuring out what to cover in a practice can be daunting. This is often especially true after you have seen them in their first competition – the list of “things they need to work on” feels endless. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and its best to go in with a plan.

First, give some thought to the skills you would like to introduce and the topics you would generally like to cover over the span of the season and work from there. Be realistic and age/developmentally appropriate with your expectations and goals.

Pick a theme for the practice. Keep it focused. Don’t worry too much about correcting non-theme related “issues” that come up in that practice (might be no need to address a missed passing opportunity if you are introducing and working on moves to get around a defender)

Incorporate that theme into the progressive stages of your session: warm up, drills, game-type situation. Emphasize throughout. Regardless of the theme – keep it fun and keep them active.

Be over prepared. Occasionally an activity will be a bust and you’ll need to change course. Having extra theme related ideas as part of your plan will prevent you from panicking and (hopefully) the 7 year olds from finding the dandelions more interesting than practice.

Keep building on the themes each week. But repeating an entire practice plan (with tweaks based on what worked and what didn’t) can be a good thing for everyone too!

And finally, whether it be at the beginning of practice as players are arriving (great incentive for kids to arrive on time) or at the end as your final activity, it is always a good idea to give them an opportunity to just play at each session– scrimmaging with no restrictions and little to no coaching!