With the Fall season for many already started, or on the horizon, I wanted to provide all NJ coaches 5 specific things I would take into account early in their season. I believe these can prove useful at any level of the game and are things I do every season to stay diligent and provide a professional experience for my parents and players.
1. Write your team a weekly Newsletter! This may sound like a lot of work, but believe me it will save you in parent conversations throughout the season tenfold. Once you get the hang of them, they don’t take more than 20 minutes to do. They should include the following:
- Opening statement – Week 1 – Hi, I am Coach _____, looking forward to coaching the team. My experience, philosophy, etc
- Schedule This Week – Training and Games.
- Training Topic – What will you work on this week?
- Game Recaps (when applicable) – a game perspective from your eyes.
- Any miscellaneous events or activity
- Ask for player availability for practices and weekend games!
This tool is invaluable! I promise you your parents will be more impressed if you communicate with them just once a week in email. Remember, they are paying for our services (in many cases) or at least entrust in us that we will develop their child. A well-written trainer perspective shows you care and are willing to communicate with your parents as well as give them insight to what you are thinking without a phone call. Do not let your team manager do all your work, trust me on this one and do it yourself.
2. Plan your training sessions – That means write them down. Even the most experienced coach can wing a quality training session, but it will never be as good as one that has been planned out. Take into an account the following:
- Three piece training session – Highly technical, technique applied tactically, and always finish with 30 minutes of scrimmage/game (first 10 minutes conditioned).
- Early weeks should be highly technical – a lot of these kids forgot how to kick a ball this summer, so you will need to reteach.
- Repetition is key – don’t confuse them with 4-5 different skills the first week back. Focus on 1 or 2 and drive them back into muscle memory.
Week 1-3 Should Consist of a lot of Dribbling – The first 30 minutes of both of my weekly sessions will be every player with a ball. This is because the majority of the kids need to reestablish the comfort of a ball at their feet. We are building confidence early on and reminding kids that they will make mistakes because they are rusty. Some things to say in your dribbling drills are:
- “I want 1000 touches on the ball in just our warmup.”
- “I want you to be a ball hog today.” (that may sound completely crazy and against all coaching methods), but for just today, be the player on the ball the most!
- “I want you to attack space, accelerate into it, be aggressive with the ball at your feet.”
- “1v1 = Take That Defender On”
Now if that is not necessarily your topic for the first few weeks, that is fine… but I am saying it is what I am doing to start my season. Get them on the ball and then remind them to be confident. Players will struggle, and fall over the ball in some cases, but find that one good moment, and remind them of it the rest of the season.
4. Be positive, energetic, and authoritative when needed – Greet every player with a smile on your face, try to learn their names over the course of the 1st practice, and show them that practice will be fun, but you have to work hard to achieve every goal.
- You have to bring a certain personality to the field and be consistent every day.
- Coaching soccer takes a lot of energy and for me that means a lot of water, some caffeine, and a healthy snack before I step on the field (and sometimes during).
- Take control of your session. If you let kids get away with stuff early on, they will get by all season, trust me, they will test you. When a kid is not behaving the way they should, let them know it in front of their peers (with a firm voice). If it is persistently disruptive to the group, sit them out for a few minutes and then speak to them as they re-enter when you see fit.
5. Assess your team right away- Really take notice in the strengths and weaknesses of the team as a whole, and assess each individual for skill, ability, and positioning.
- This means after your first few training sessions – write some things down you noticed about your team tonight. Reflect on it a little, and them compare to your second training session.
- Plan a lineup for the weekend with substitutions. I always find this interesting the first week and also a very useful tool in assessing strengths of individual players.
- After the weekend, do a true assessment of the group and where players found success or failure. This will help map your season long plan for the team, and provide individual goals to players prior to the start of league play.
- Winning now is not important, and let your players AND PARENTS know that! We want to win every game we can as coaches and players, but you could take some tough losses this weekend. Who cares, find the moments of brilliance within and build off of it.
MAKE SURE THE PLAYERS ARE HAVING FUN!
It is important to show your players and parents what you are all about from the onset. Be confident in yourself and have fun in teaching the game and I know you will always have success. Never forget that you can always get better as a coach and the preparation steps above will undoubtedly help you achieve that.
Please feel free to reply and suggest anything you believe I should add to this article as well!