What is the definition of a "Coach"? The dictionary defines a coach as:
• Coach (n). a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes
Based on Webster's definition, anyone with a whistle can "coach". So then what is the difference between a coach and a successful coach? Is it the coach that has the most trophies? Is it the coach with the most accreditation next to their name or the most professional playing experience? Or is it much, much more than that?
On every soccer team, there is a mix of individual strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, learning tendencies and more. For a coach to be successful, they must be able to manage each individual properly to ensure they work together as a single successful unit while pushing their team to continue to develop. In Part 2 of our QTSD© "What Makes a Successful Soccer Team" article, we will examine the characteristics that are crucial for a soccer coach to be successful with his/her team!
COACHES - Coaches are the part of the team with the responsibility to create effective training sessions, manage gameplay and teach players a deeper knowledge of the game of soccer. But what I have learned over the years of coaching is that to call yourself a "Coach" means much more than just teaching a specific sport. So what exactly makes up a "Successful Coach?"
In-Depth Knowledge - A coach's primary vehicle for teaching is their sport; just like a school teacher would use math or language arts. With that, a successful coach must develop their own intricate understanding of the sport of soccer. Coaches work with young developing minds and if they teach the wrong lessons, those players will be hindered throughout their playing career. Knowing and understanding your sport does not automatically come if you have played professional soccer or have taken multiple coaching licensure courses. Coaches must consistently question and test the knowledge they are absorbed and teaching. The game of soccer is always evolving and what worked 10 years ago may actually hurt player's development now. One of my favorite quotes is "The day you think you know it all is the day you should stop coaching."
Role Model & Leadership - Whether they realize it or not, coaches are a role model for their players; both on and off the soccer field. The things you say, the values you teach and respect you demand of yourself and your players will affect many of them for the rest of their lives. If you expect your athletes to embrace values, ethics and morals, then you must mirror them yourselves. This is not always easy but if you actively demonstrate these values, then your players will see your authenticity. If soccer nutrition is a strong focus, then you as their coach must be wise about your nutrition. If you are asking players to respect themselves, referee, and opponents, then you must be sure to create a culture of respect; yourself included. It is a crucial aspect of coaching; if you don't lead by example, then how can you expect your athletes to do so as well?
Development vs. Results Balance - Development vs. Winning.....the age old discussion. When is it appropriate to focus on development and when is a focus on winning best? The answer depends heavily on the age group but a successful coach will strike a balance for learning vs. winning. If a coach is solely focused on winning, then they may rely on their speediest and strongest players all the time, under developing the rest of their teammates. This may work at younger ages, but once players start to move to 11v11 and critical thinking and team tactics start to become important, those players will be handicapped developmentally wise. A successful coach will place a higher value on proper development; preparing players for the part of their career when winning matters (i.e. u14+). Proper development may mean teams losing games early on while testing out their new knowledge, but eventually the wins will come once they completely develop their soccer understanding and intelligence; especially against the teams that skipped development in the crucial early years!
Patience - Successful coaches must be patient; with their players and themselves! If a coach understands where their team is and where they want the team to get to, they must take the small steps needed for the team to learn. This means a lot of trial and error! A coach must continuously test their players so that they can learn from their mistakes. If you expect your team to immediately grasp individual technique and team tactical understanding the first time, you will be frustrated. Learning in soccer is just like learning at school; it takes practice and repetition! Patience is also required for you the coach. When your team is struggling with a concept or not performing well in games, it is easy to get frustrated with yourself; placing the loss on your shoulders. Realize that every season is a constant learning process; your players with new concepts and yourself with learning how to facilitate the learning process for them (see the above paragraph)!
Enthusiasm/Attitude - Sometimes it can become easy to focus on the training details and learning so much that the enjoyment of the game leaves for players and coaches a like. Think back to when you were younger..... did you enjoy the practice or the playing? As a coach/personal trainer/player, actually playing is why I loved soccer! While training helps players improve their critical thinking and technical skill, the real goal is to help their love for the game of soccer grow. If they enjoy the sport, they will want to continue to improve! Always keep that in mind at practice, games and tournaments. If your attitude is always showing that practice and games are stressful or "business only", what will that convey to your players? Where is the excitement and enjoyment?! No matter how focused you are as a coach, don't forget to have fun sometimes! A smile and a "nutmeg" can go a long ways!
Trust - Many coaches are with their teams on a day to day basis; becoming an integral part of their players' lives. While a coach's job is to teach players how to improve their soccer skills and understanding, the bigger role is becoming someone they can trust. If your players trust you, they will give their all for you but more importantly they will have someone to come to if they are struggling; both on and off the soccer field. When I started coaching I assumed I would just be teaching players how to dribble, pass and score, but quickly realized it was much more than that. Whether problems at school, home, with relationships, you have to be someone your athletes can talk to and ask advice from. This may mean difficult conversations but realize your advice could be the advice that gets them through their difficult time. Trust is difficult to earn and incredibly valuable so don't treat your athletes' trust lightly!
It is said that during the course of our lives we experience about a dozen defining moments that give us an everlasting imprint on who we are, or shape our ideals on who we become. Growing up, I personally remember three separate conversations from coaches; two that made me passionate about soccer and one that nearly made me quit the sport I loved. What lasting memory are you potentially creating for your athletes? Do you think about the lessons and values you are teaching; subtly and not so subtly? In the end, I disagree with Webster's definition of a "coach". Coaching is much more than wins & losses and teaching how to play soccer. It is a humbling opportunity and responsibility to mentor younger adults through life while using a soccer ball!
Our final article will examine the critical role of parents in a successful soccer team. Stay tuned!
If you have any questions about how personal training may help your athlete to further develop their technique AND understanding of the game, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org! More details are also available on our website at www.QTSDsoccer.com.