No coach, at any level of sports, ever feels like he or she is fully prepared for each practice, game, season, and situation. That’s why football coaching staffs start preparing for the next game after the final gun goes off, why college basketball coaches are constantly researching and recruiting their next year’s class, and why baseball teams have turned to advanced statistics to achieve an advantage over their opponents. And yet, it never feels like enough …
Youth team coaches are no exception to this feeling of unpreparedness. Even at the rec level, with younger kids, in which there isn’t supposed to be any pressure to win or lose, they still want their players to succeed and get the most out of the experience. Often, they don’t know where to turn for more help and try to make do with what they know. But for a volunteer who has never coached soccer before, he might not know that much. However, resources are available for youth team coaches to assist them in making the season an enjoyable experience for themselves, their players, and the kids’ parents. Here are five such tools you might not have known about that can help:
1. How-to coaching videos
You can go onto YouTube or another video website and watch clips to do just about anything, from fixing your kitchen sink to baking a cake. Videos are a great resource for youth team coaches as well, with demonstrations of drills and how-to clips that teach proper technique, available with just a simple search. Moreover, league management software allows organizations to host videos on their websites, whether they create the clips themselves or get permission to post others’ content. So if a rookie soccer coach wants to teach goalkeeping skills, all he or she needs to do is watch a few videos to get the necessary information.
2. Internet resources
Videos aren’t the only coaching resources that can be found online. Practice plans, offensive and defensive diagrams, message boards, and other tools are available for coaches who want to learn more about running a youth sports team. League websites also may host some of these resources for their volunteers to easily access. Whatever your coaching challenge, you likely can turn to the Internet for answers to your questions.
3. Fun and games … and practice
Many inexperienced coaches, particularly with younger rec teams, mistakenly believe that practice must be all about learning skills, with no room for anything that doesn’t directly apply to improvement. These volunteers don’t realize that the more fun the kids are having, the more likely they will accept the coaching that will help them become better players. For example, a kindergarten-age soccer team might not focus on kicking and passing for an entire hour, but it might enjoy a game of tag or a drill disguised as play time. After all, the kids are still running playing tag (as they will during a game), and if they pretend they are superheroes as they kick the ball across the field, they will want to complete the drill. Adding fun into the equation sneaks in skills that might not come across as well if you are too serious.
4. Team websites
Youth coaches should take full advantage of the team pages their league’s website offers. Communication is often a struggle for volunteers, but posting news to a team page—and then sending it out to the parents—keeps everyone informed in a timely manner. Pictures, videos, and message boards build the community, thus leading to parents who are more willing to help coaches as needed.
5. Scorekeeping applications
For younger kids, there is not much reason to keep detailed statistics, but for older players, scorekeeping can be a valuable tool to improvement. Keeping individual negative stats isn’t necessary—do you really want to single out a basketball player for committing the most turnovers?—but the numbers can help on a team level. For example, if the stats reveal the entire team is striking out too much, you can shift your focus to more batting practice. And if a basketball team is collectively shooting 30 percent from the line, that news might spur your players to pay extra attention to free throws. You don’t have to delve into advanced metrics to see a benefit from some basic scorekeeping.
What areas of coaching would you like to learn more about?