Being the best coach doesn’t necessarily mean leading your team to an undefeated season. Coaching soccer is about the kids and the best of youth coaches typically are the more laid back, positive reinforcement types of coaches who are at ease and rarely yell at the team. Too often coaches see the team as an extension of their own selves and this can lead to trouble, especially at the recreational level of the sport.
The best coach helps keep the game fun. He or she is always there to praise a smart pass or goal, and they support players even when they make mistakes. Contrast this with the red-faced tyrant blowing a fuse because someone accidently kicked the ball out of bounds and you get the point.
This goes beyond the game and extends into practices as well. Do you usually require a painful running session after a loss to punish the team, or do you put the game in the past and continue learning fundamentals like you preached when you first took the job? Obviously running is a crucial element to the game, but the “punishment” conditioning practice is like kicking a man when he’s down. Further, your players will play with fear of losing instead of a desire to experience a win.
Practice should never be a stressful experience and should allow the team to work on their skills. Make fun games and drills that keep your team engaged and let them bond.
Does your team have extra-curricular activities? A great coach is usually a great person away from the game itself, so take your team out for pizza or ice cream after a game to show them that. Further, this makes the whole experience better for your players as they can befriend one another off the soccer field and strengthen friendships.
Clearly, this article is geared towards children recreational soccer, and not for coaches of high school soccer teams, but there is something to be said about the positivity levels surrounding successful teams. When players are happy because they have a supportive coach, it helps them focus on the important things like improving their skills. When players fear the boss, this leads to resentment and creates a sour atmosphere amongst the team.
For youth soccer, players should always be happy about the game and their coach. Winning should be placed on the backburner and you should make every effort to instill a fun atmosphere into your team. Chances are, such a move will actually lead to more success on the field.