1. Effort is more important than systems and tactics
Yes, we know you like to tinker with your tactics and formation in an attempt to defeat your opponents; the truth is that the effort of your players will invariably be the difference between winning and losing, especially if both teams are similarly matched in terms of ability. Instil into your players the importance of giving everything on the field and coming away knowing they have nothing left to give. Win or lose, if they give everything, they can be happy and so should you be.
2. What you know is not as important as your personality and ability to relate to your players
Any coach can improve their understanding of the game by reading the literally endless pages of advice and help you will find on the internet. Sure, if one coach knows nothing at all and another coach is very experienced, the latter guy is probably going to be a better coach. However, Not every coach has or is willing to develop their personality and approach to the game to get the best out of the kids they have under their remit.
3. Practices don’t have to be complicated
Running complex drills can be confusing for young players whilst running drills for too long gets boring. If you commit these mistakes, your players will lose interest very quickly. Your practices should be based around small-sided games and scrimmage as they relate directly to match-day situations. Of course, some drills based on individual skills are a good idea but you should aim to move into small-sided games and scrimmage for most of the practice.
4. Winning is not the goal; your focus should be on improving your players and developing their love for the game
Yes, we know that winning has become the be-all and end-all for soccer coaches at all levels, particularly in recent years. However, it should not be your focus as a coach of young players. You want them to ultimately improve and learn to love the game. Nobody enjoys losing but even if you are winning games, if you are not coaching your players in the right way, letting them express themselves and make mistakes without fear of being screamed at, ultimately they will very likely fall out of love with the game.
They need to enjoy the freedom of playing without being judged on whether they win or lose. If you encourage them at all times and focus on positive things they do rather than negatives, they will improve quicker and will enjoy just playing the game. Players improve quicker when they enjoy doing something, it is important to remember that.
5. The biggest secret is that there are no ‘secrets’!
There really is no great secret to coaching soccer. Sure, there are different lineups, tactics, playing styles and coaching methods but they are all available to every coach, seasoned or beginner, by simply searching information on the internet.
It is ultimately down to the player to develop a deep connection with the game, with the ball. As a coach, you can facilitate that and so you have a big responsibility on your shoulders. Encourage your players, give them freedom, teach them to play with pride, passion and integrity and to respect their opponents and the match officials. Finally, remember that kids soccer is a players’ game, not a coaches’ game.