Coaching Youth Soccer Coaching children at a young age is an extremely rewarding and challenging experience. Over the last two years I have had the privilege of organizing and coaching my sonís soccer teams. These teams consisted of six, seven, and eight year old children, many of whom were playing soccer for the first time. Coaching inexperienced children is a unique challenge, and a good coach strives to give everyone a rewarding experience by establishing a positive foundation in soccer. Therefore, good coaches must be teachers, role models, and master communicators. When coaching children of this age it is important that three main teaching principles be maintained. First, fun. The players must have fun during practice and in the games. Their laughter and smiles will make them want to come back and continue to play the game over and over again. Second, participation. All players should be involved at all times. Long lines and long talks tend to create lapses in attention and draw focus away from the game or practice. Practice exercises must be designed so all players are actively involved and are not simply standing around. Third, success. It is essential that the players achieve a high level of success in the practices. Success is obtained by teaching the fundamentals of the game and nurturing a childís self-esteem. Players must not be forced to participate in difficult activities that cause frustration and resentment, but those that foster positive feedback and attainable goals. As a coach, I had to research and interpret the rules and strategies of soccer, then explain them to my team. Arming my players with the facts of the game sets them up for success in the actual competitions. A good coach sets an example for the youth on his team by looking the part, being organized and ready for practice, and exhibiting patients. An enthusiastic tone is important, along with plenty of positive feedback to the children. At all times, officials, parents, opponents, and players must be treated with respect. A coach is often a mediator between any combinations of the aforementioned. A level head and a true desire to accommodate all involved are essential to a successful year. Young players look to coaches for direction and often mimic their behavior. A coach that is impatient with a slow runner could very well set the tone for an unsuccessful year. Likewise, tolerance and a winning attitude are contagious. Parents can be your greatest ally or your worst fear. Communicating with them early and often throughout the season is key to avoiding confusion. Attached to this essay are the rooster and general information sheet I provided to my parents at the beginning this year together with a game and practice schedule to help avoid any confusion and answer any basic questions. Like many of the players, they are unacquainted with the game and have more questions than normal that cover the intricacies of the game Coaches must address all issues as they arise and make themselves available to answer parent queries and address parent concerns. Knowledgeable parents will make the coaching experience that much more enjoyable. Coaches must inform parents of their expectations and offer suggestions of ways they can support their child. I suggest to parents to de-emphasize wining and losing, to be supportive and offer encouragement only, to play the game with their child outside of practice, and lastly to get their child to practices and games on time. Goals and objectives should be set and communicated to both the players and parents early in the season. Practices ought to be scheduled well in advance and clearly understood. Parents must be informed of your short term and long-term goals for their children and themselves. It is important to encourage the players and parents to set their own individual goals and encourage them to play as much as possible away from the field. A passion must be developed for playing the sport and this type of direction outside of practice will help immensely. Again, a good coach emphasizes fun. Kids have fun when they are successful. A short term goal for a player may be kicking the ball three times a quarter, while another more advanced player may set a goal for scoring. The parents of the player should be actively involved in this process and be prepared to celebrate their childís efforts. By adhering to these main beliefs, experiences in soccer at a young age can help develop self-esteem and confidence, as well as foster a positive attitude toward remaining physically active throughout life. Participation in soccer promotes co-operation, enhances motor skills and provides opportunities for the development of many personal and social skills. Above all else, it must be made a pleasurable and enjoyable experience for the youngsters involved. When this goal is reached, and the teamís personality is one of cooperation and enjoyment, a good coach finds that he is not the only one who is teaching and communicating. In fact, before he or she knows what is happening, the person who is truly being enriched, is himself.
Submitted by: Tony Madson * †
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