Ask any coach why they coach a team, why they love it and why they keep coming back week after week and you will always get the same answer. They love the thrill of seeing their team respond to their coaching, they love watching young love for the sport expressed on the pitch, and they love to see talent developed and fulfilled. It is this love that keeps them coming back through the wind and rain, through the logistical nightmare that can be organising kids sports, through the pushy parents and their “expert” opinions and it will keep them coming back day after day, week after week and year after year. Are you looking to become a sports coach? Let me just salute you, say a big THANK YOU on behalf of all the kids you are about to help teach and give you a head start with some pointers.
First, let’s look at the role of the coach. Now, bear in mind that you’re not going straight into the role of replacing Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena or Pep Guardiola so just relax and don’t put too much pressure on yourself in terms of getting tactics right or specific training sessions to a pro standard. Your role within the team you run is first and foremost the link between children’s interest in sports and them potentially playing the game for life – so let’s think positively, make it fun and keep the kids feeling good. You will be able to help them work on basic fundamentals of the game, improving their technique and encouraging them to play outside of your coaching time.
Praise the kids!! I can’t stress this enough. Keeping your sessions positive will make the kids feel as though your team and your coaching sessions are a safe place for them to play and express themselves without criticism or fear of failure. Stop sessions when you see something you like to praise positives as opposed to mistakes. Sandwich your constructive critique between two pieces of praise and disguise the learning from mistakes among all of the things you think the team are doing well. Never set expectations that are out of reach – your kids don’t need that, they just need to enjoy the game and continue learning, their talent and passion for the game will mean they set their own expectations and targets.
I know we all want to celebrate that winning goal or that last ditch tackle that saved the team but we must also remember the heroism in the other aspects of the team. Think about fair play, think about role models on the pitch and think about those kids that are always trying their best without getting the glory. In other words celebrate the team as a whole. Most kids grow up wanting to be strikers or attacking players so they can get the winning goals so you have to help them understand the full glory in playing in those unglamorous positions like defensive midfield or pretty much anywhere in defense and make the goalkeeper feel as though they are not the guy that couldn’t play anywhere else. Win and lose as a whole team.
When it comes to the coaching sessions themselves. There will always be fundamentals that you will be working on, technique exercises, possibly positional exercises and then anything else you have seen that your team needs to specifically work on. Mostly, put down the handbook and the tried and tested drills that all coaches generally stick to, mix it up, be creative and see how you can keep these same exercises fresh, new, challenging and learning orientated. Be honest with the kids that you want to try something new and follow up by asking how they felt about it, if they liked it great, if they didn’t great too, they are being honest and taking opinions on their learning. It might mean you spend a bit of extra time thinking about new ways of introducing training sessions, but it will all be worth it.
When that all important game day comes around use it as a way of celebrating all you have been doing. Let your players know that you believe in them and that no matter what happens that they should enjoy the game. Try to be as relaxed as possible – I know you will probably be anxious and nervous but try to speak as calmly and relaxed as possible, be enthusiastic and try to speak from the heart rather than rolling out cliches and celebrate and praise as many positives as you can. You after all are their role model here whether they are winning or losing. After the game go and get ice cream together if you can, use it as a chance for the kids to hang out and do something different together and use it as a chance to chat to the parents and make everyone feel like they matter before it all begins again next week.
So good luck out there – you’re gonna be great!!