The role of a soccer coach goes beyond being a good teacher of technical skills and tactical formations. A great soccer coach is about helping your players achieve their dreams and goals. At Soccer Classroom, we adhere to a “player first” mentality, where coaches facilitate the learning and where players are the stars of the show.
As the leader of the team, a positive coach is an excellent role model. The coach undoubtedly sets the tone for the season and is central to the success of the players’ progress and performance. Developing a coaching philosophy will help a coach optimize the opportunity for success. At its core, a coaching philosophy underlies every action the coach takes on and off the field.
While most coaches will espouse to put “player development” first and have a “player-first” mentality, not all coaches actions stand up to those statements. Authentic leadership and coaching is the result of executing your philosophy and values through your actions. Magic will happen when those aspects are in alignment.
Why Develop a Coaching Philosophy?
Whether you realize it or not, you have a coaching philosophy. It may not be developed or consistent, which is why you should take some time to consider the various aspects of becoming a “successful coach.” And, let’s note that “winning games” is not a developed coaching philosophy; in fact, it might be the worst one.
Let’s follow this through: a coaching philosophy forces you to decide what is important to you. By deciding what is important, you can communicate this to your players, coaches and parents (as well as any stakeholder). And, by communicating this philosophy, you can hold everyone accountable, avoid conflict and develop a shared vision to help athletes achieve their goals and inspire success. Simple, right?
After all, who doesn’t want to look back upon their coaching experience fondly and with pride?
A coaching philosophy achieves two distinct goals:
- Crystallizes your own thoughts towards coaching soccer and what is important to you. A total evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, the stage of the team, why you are coaching and how you can optimize the experience for your team.
- Enables you to communicate your coaching philosophy and expectations to the team and stakeholders. This provides a unique opportunity for shared understanding and values, which enhances morale and can dramatically increase performance and avoid misunderstandings.
Before you Begin the Journey
Before you can develop a coaching philosophy, you need to take a few minutes to consider who you are coaching: age, gender, and level of your athletes is paramount to a successful coaching philosophy. After all, your philosophy must match with the needs and abilities of your players. A well-developed coaching philosophy at the high school level will not be appropriate for a U6 team. Additionally, you should be aware of any additional school and/or community restrictions regarding attendance, playing time, etc.
- What is their reason for playing?
- What is your reason for coaching?
The Coaching Reflection
A great coaching philosophy is borne from asking great questions, which prompts thought and introspection. A philosophy is really an internal reflection on your values and what is important to you as a coach and a person. Developing and articulating your philosophy provides a platform for your team’s success. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of questions you should consider, it will get you well on the road to developing a winning coaching philosophy.
Stephen Covey’s best-selling, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” presents a core tenet of success: “Begin with the end in mind.” To get where we want to go, we have to know where we’re headed to chart the path. And, so, let’s take a second to visualize the end of the season.
- When I get to the end of the season, I want my players to say…
- I want my parents to say…
- I want my fellow opposing coaches to say…
- I want my club to say…
- I want to say…
- What is a successful season?
- Do you consider the process more important (growth, development) or end results (record)?
- What is most important to you?
- Player characteristics are important to me:
- What is your goal for the season?
Now that we have the “big picture”, we have to understand the process we will engage in to accomplish those goals. This is the “how we will achieve our goals” part of the philosophy.
Soccer Development and Personal Development
- What personal characteristics do you want to see and develop in your players?
- What constitutes “sporting behavior”?
- How do you handle blowing out opponents?
- What do you want your players to achieve by the end of the season?
- Are you incorporating the four aspects of soccer?
Style of Coaching and Delivery of Sessions
- What is your style of coaching? Are you more free form or do you crave discipline?
- Do you lecture or do you demonstrate and engage?
- Are you process orientated or results orientated?
- Do you have the appropriate soccer knowledge and are ready to deliver your training session?
- Prepared for each session having planned, conducted and evaluated each training and match session?
- What can your players expect from you? Do you expect more from your players than you expect from yourself?
- Playing time is a reflection of:
- Do you use your coaching assistants effectively to offset your strengths and weaknesses?
- Do you need a team manager to help communicate and complete paperwork?
- The stuff I hate to do (find assistants/team manager where appropriate):
- The stuff I love to do (keep these on your “to do” list so you’re always energized about coaching):
- Does your style fit your personality? Will you be consistent all season long?
- How do you communicate? Do you consider concise, precise messages?
- How do you motivate your players? Are they appropriate for your age and gender?
- When and where should conversations such as playing time be discussed? Player or parent?
- What is your method of communication? At field, email, text, phone?
- What are your feelings to being “on time”? With limited practice time, most coaches consider “on-time” to be early, so you can immediately take the field at training time.
- What are the consequences for breaking your team rules?
- What are the team rules?
- Are you able to consistently enforce the rules of the team? Even in the championship match?
- What are acceptable reasons for missing practices or games?
- What conduct do you expect from your parents?
- How do you confront and address issues of:
- Bad Attitude
- Missing Practices
- Missing Games
- Is safety a primary concern and is what I’m doing safe?
- Is my philosophy ethical?
- Does my philosophy adhere to school/club procedures?
- Does my philosophy support my ability to achieve my main objective?
- Is my philosophy age appropriate?
Putting Your Philosophy Together
By answering these questions (and I’m sure developing more as you answer these and speak with other coaches), you should have a strong sense of what you believe. Write it down. Leave it. Revisit it. Rewrite it. Live with it. Tweak it. Be sure you have conviction that it reflects “you”, so you can authentically live your philosophy and explain your rationale should someone question it.
Now, you have to make the philosophy come to life by sharing it. Until you share it, it can only live within you. Developing a coaching philosophy only becomes potent when it is shared with the team. To set your team up for success, a Pre-Season Soccer Meeting is the critical opportunity to build the shared values for the team. Do not underestimate the importance of this meeting. It is the key and critical point to starting your season right!
Final Test of Your Coaching Philosophy
After the season has ended, your coaching philosophy will undergo a final test. I call it the “cross the street test.”
When you see players downtown, they will do 1 of 2 things:
- cross the street to greet you or;
- cross the street to avoid you.
What do you want your players to do and does your coaching philosophy stand up?