A critical aspect of every soccer team, or any sport for that matter, is to have a wholesome “team” vibe within the squad. Issues often arise in teams when certain players don’t get along or when someone is a ball-hog. Therefore, it is your responsibility as a coach to create as much of a pleasant atmosphere as possible so that your team will be harmonious and likely more successful. In the least, such a happy team will keep the experience fun for the players.
Obviously it will be impossible to have a fail-safe method for keeping up a positive group, and much of this will depend on the players themselves, but there are a few things you can do to help your team gel.
First, I would recommend taking the team out for pizza or ice cream early in the season, possibly after the first practice or game. This lets the players hang out in a non-soccer related manner which will help them develop friendships and get to know one another better. Since the soccer field is often spread out and practice focuses on drills and such, there is often little time for the players to really get to know one another. Taking them out to eat is a great way to help them bond. Also, realize that many parents sign their children up for youth soccer simply to develop friends. This is a great way to help them achieve that.
Another way to keep a harmonious group is to not show favoritism towards players. Yes, if someone wins the game with a dramatic late goal he or she should be praised, but don’t repeatedly point out how one player is doing everything right and that the others need to follow suit. That will eventually lead to jealousy and resentment, two things that your team simply doesn’t need.
If you sense that two players are at loggerheads with one another, don’t ignore it. Take the players aside and have them talk it out and make them shake hands. Players have to work together as a team and personal differences will greatly hamper that goal.
If a coach makes a serious effort to bring the team together, it will usually work. Make sure each practice also has a fun exercise so that players can enjoy themselves. It may not even have to be anything soccer related, or can just involve a simple game of keep away. The idea here is that when practice becomes fun, players come together, and the team will be rewarded with a better overall experience. Therefore, try and use these suggestions to make the upcoming season the best possible for all the kids.