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Coaches Blog

Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.


Coaching Clinic at Presidents Cup

Sam Snow

During the finals of the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup I ran a coaching clinic. Nineteen coaches signed up and the clinic was held over the last two days of the tournament. We had class presentations on Match Analysis and Game Day Management. The coaches also gave group reports on the matches they observed. Each group was given specific aspects of the matches to analyze and then report to the class. This really helped the coaches to improve their observation skills and to see a game with a different lens than as a spectator or the coach of the team.

Among other topics here are samples of the points of emphasis given to the coaches to observe in the four matches seen during the tournament.

Communication within the team –

  • Does it exist?
  • Is it effective?
  • Are key players taking responsibility?

Compactness – Does the team know how to stay together and execute defending principles in groups?

  • Horizontal
  • Vertical

Style of defending (man-to-man or zone or combination) – Do the players understand it?

How quickly does the team make the transition to defense? Are they consistent?

Describe the interaction of the coaching staff with the players before, during and after the match.

Does the team formation help or hinder this team on offense?

Do the players know and execute the principles of attack?

What variety in attack does the team display or are they locked into one method of attack?

Does the goalkeeper stay physically and verbally connected to the team throughout the match?

Discuss the keeper’s organization at free kicks and corners in the defending third.

Discuss the keeper’s choice of defensive techniques (ball skills).

Observe the keeper’s distributions.

  • Choice of technique?
  • Makes tactical sense?

Here are a few comments made by the coaches attending the clinic:

“That was a very informative and fun weekend.”

“Thanks again for a very enlightening and productive coaching clinic this weekend. This is the first coaching event I've been to and was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the program and process. I learned a lot and can put it to use immediately to be a better coach.”

“Thanks again for putting on the class, I enjoyed.”

“Thanks so much for the well organized and efficiently detailed coaching course! You do a great job of communicating!”

US Youth Soccer plans to hold similar clinics at our events in the future.  Sign up to receive the Coaching Advisor newsletter and be the first to find out when and where new clinics like this will be held.

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Receation Programming

Sam Snow

My friend and colleague Julio Paiz is the Director of Coaching for the Louisiana Fire in Kenner.  The club is in the process of hiring an administrator for the club’s large recreational program. He and I exchange some ideas on points to help standardize a recreational program in today’s soccer club. Here are the points that I made:

If I were undertaking such a project I would consider these points:

1.    All players, coaches and team managers must register centrally with the club

2.    All teams must use the club colors and name

3.    All team equipment must be ordered through the club

4.    At least 50% of a team roster will be scrambled annually to keep coaches from building up “dynasties”

5.    All adult personnel with the recreational teams must undergo a background check

6.    All adult team personnel must pass the CDC concussion course

a.    Heads Up: Concussion in Sports Intro Course - To learn more about concussions take the CDC’s FREE "Heads Up! Online Training for Youth Sports Coaches." This training will help you with a basic understanding of concussion.  Simply go online and take the self-guided training. Once you complete the training and quiz, you can print out a certificate, making it easy to show your league or school that you have completed this intro course offered by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and US Youth Soccer.

7.    All coaches must hold the “F” license at a minimum and they must do so within 48 hours of being named a team coach (the course is 2 hours long and entirely online) -

8.    All Zone 1 age groups must play in accordance with the small-sided games mandate from U.S. Soccer

9.    All players of every age group must be recorded by the U.S. Soccer mandate of birth year registration

10. All parents of the players will be required to take a brief on-line clinic and supply the certificate to their team manager or coach

a.    Parents’ Guide and Introduction to Youth Soccer - The guide is designed to assist parents new to the game of soccer in growing the spirit without limiting the child. Chapters cover information from the basics of youth soccer and making a positive impact on children to roles of coaches and referees to lending support to your child.

11. Team managers and coaches will be encouraged to show the Positive Parenting DVD at their initial team meeting:

12. So that they can appropriate guide their child’s sport nutrition habits the parents will be encouraged to take the free on-line clinic:

a.    Coaching Healthy Habits - Did you know that there are three simple things you can do to help your players stay healthy and perform their best? Learn how you can encourage players to Drink Right, Move More and Snack Smart in the Coaching Healthy Habits course, developed by US Youth Soccer and Healthy Kids Out of School. In two brief chapters, you’ll learn about basic nutrition and physical activity for young athletes and find practical tips to implement these healthy principles at your trainings and matches.

13. Coaches will be asked to sign up for the free e-newsletter: Coaching Advisor

14. Players and coaches will be asked to watch the skills videos:

15. All parents and any novice coaches will be guided to use the Pocket Guide:

Here’s the job description and duties from Coach Paiz:

Louisiana Fire Soccer Club

Title: Louisiana Fire Recreational Coordinator

The position of Recreational Program Director serves as an important role within the Louisiana Fire Soccer Club to support, stabilize and strengthen our recreational soccer program consisting of 800 players and 100 volunteer coaches as well as promote the program in our community in accordance with our club mission.

Key Responsibilities:


  • To manage the administrative aspects of the Recreational Program.
  • Ensure that all policies of Louisiana Fire Soccer Club are adhered to and enforced.
  • Responds on a timely basis to calls and inquiries related to the Recreational Program.
  • Work with DOCs in updating and maintaining the “Rules and Regulations” for recreational program.
  • To educate parents on program goals, objectives, strategies and related details through appropriate channels to ensure the highest quality soccer experience possible for recreational program participants and their family members.
  • Player Retention: Responsible for tracking player retention and success including identifying talented players and ensure that players are provided with the best possible instruction and support to encourage respect for the sport of soccer. 
  • Plan, organize and direct the set-up of player seasonal registration.
  • Work with DOCs in creating a strategic marketing plan to target the growth of the Sparks, U6 & U8 programs.
  • Create a calendar year timeline for all recreational activities.
  • Prepares and posts content and other relevant information on the club website in a timely manner.
  • Create an online resource library, including age appropriate training activities and plans, to assist volunteer coaches and encourage meaningful instruction at team events throughout the season.
  • Maintains a database of coaches actively engaged in the club as well as prospective coaches eager to participate in the recreational program.
  • Create and maintain all club manuals relating to recreational teams.
  • Work with DOC in managing age group directors in order to ensure the highest quality of training services available to the target audience in the Recreational program.
  • Work with DOC in organizing and chair quarterly Recreational Meetings with age group directors.
  • Work with DOC and age group directors to identify, recruit, train, schedule and monitor the performance of all volunteer coaches and assistants.
  • Work with DOC and age group coordinators in scheduling, organizing and developing pre-season coaching clinics for recreational volunteer coaches.  
  • Work with age group directors to ensure that all volunteer coaches complete a background check.
  • Work with DOC in organizing end of the year Festival and other identified events.
  • Work with age group directors in providing an end of season evaluation for volunteer recreational coaches.
  • Work with age group directors in collecting a grade for each individual player at the end of the season (e.g., 1-very good, 2- good, 3- need improvement).
  • Assist in the ongoing evolution, implementation and evaluation of youth referee program by providing support to the referee assignor in planning and conducting programs for youth referee training and development.
  • Plan, organize and direct a school clinics program (Should include 20 school visits a year).
  • Create a quarterly newsletter for the club.  It should include recreational, YDP and competitive content.
  • Build working relationships with key constituents within the club and state and national soccer coaching communities. 
  • Participate in local and regional soccer educator seminars, workshops and professional development opportunities.


My questions to the reader are:

  1. What points do you think should be considered as a club works to standardize its recreational programming?
  2. What should be the duties of the administrator in the club charged with overseeing the recreational program?

Comments (1)


What Makes A Great Coach - Part Two

Sam Snow

In my last blog you read bullet points from several coaches on the qualities of a good coach.  Here’s a more in-depth piece from Coach Steve Davis, Technical Director for the New York Rush.

A great coach never stops searching for more pieces to add to the jigsaw that makes them who they are. The picture on the box should be constantly changing to allow for growth. Players have been very influential in my development as a coach. Listening to them is without a doubt one of the best educational tools a coach will ever have access to. Their honesty is unparalleled.

In 2010, a friend handed me something he had received during a volleyball convention he attended, and it was written by Anson Dorrance. The piece he handed me was Anson's thoughts on what coaching is. I remember taking it from him and walking into my office thinking about what coaching meant to me. It's one thing to read what it means to one of the most influential figures in women's soccer, but let's be honest, we don't all work with the players he does, we don't get to recruit from the very best the country has to offer, and we definitely don't all have the facilities and resources that are available at UNC. And, I don't think I'll be winning a World Cup anytime soon. However, should that really make a difference? Surely coaching is coaching no matter the sport, no matter the age or level of athlete right? If coaching is about character and integrity, then it doesn't matter if you're working with a fifth grade team or UNC. What matters is how well you understand your athletes, the complexities of the sport, and the steps that need to be taken to challenge and improve each individual in order to build the team.

I decided to write my thoughts on what coaching is, and below is what I wrote:

"Coaching is... breathing life into what you do. Taking the time to develop and assemble a way in which you can be authentic but still challenge yourself and your players. There will be days that can be emotionally draining and often take you to the edge, but it's then that you choose to keep going as only a coach can. Coaching is for those who make a difference in the lives of others, someone who knows that a smile can be just as productive as a hundred meaningless words, it's about the kind and caring individual whose words of encouragement will be heard years after they've been whispered. Coaching is taking players on a journey to a place they have never been before, to treat each day like it's your first, and your last on the job. It's a journey that will last a lifetime and bring forth many emotions, some great, some not so good, but more often than not they will all become treasured teachable moments that will last forever. Coaching is caring, it's keeping players engaged, enthusiastic, and building confidence. It's about sharing your passion, and having a willingness to be a guide who loves the game and wants nothing more than to share their knowledge with those they coach, to challenge them so they too can share their passion and understanding. A coach is someone who sets standards, who relates to others and their needs, who handles pressure knowing that optimism will get them through. A coach must know that to enjoy success, they have to know how to deal with failure. A coach understands that it's trust and integrity that builds and maintains team chemistry. A coach should love what they do, and do what they love, and make each experience fun, meaningful and educational. I am a coach, I am a teacher, I am a trainer, a manager, a guide, a mentor, someone who allows his players to take ownership of their individual and team development, and through a process of encouragement, accountability, and team ownership, players start to become teachers and facilitators for themselves and their teammates. Teaching and instilling these qualities will help the young children I work with enhance their life skills along with their soccer abilities, and there is no better reward for a coach than that."

I'm sure you're all wondering what Anson wrote.  I'm embarrassed to say I can’t tell you, because I never read it.

What makes a great coach? All of you by responding to this and sharing. I'm a little bit better today than I was yesterday - Thank You.

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Qualities of a Good Coach

Sam Snow

Coaches often bounce ideas off one another to deepen their own understanding of various soccer topics. A topic that recently came up among a group of very good youth soccer coaches was, what are the top five qualities of a good coach?  Here are some of the responses:

Tom Statham, Academy Coach at Manchester United FC

A coach must:

  • Care about his players
  • Be able to connect and communicate
  • Treat people with respect
  • Have knowledge of the game
  • Create an environment of enjoyment and learning

Tom Goodman, Technical Director at NEFC

  • Sense of Humor
  • Knowledgeable (teacher)
  • Ethical/Moral/Honest
  • Encouraging
  • Respectful

Darren Bowles, a Regional Manager at the FA

Good coaches:

  • Create and maintain an environment which encourages the players to learn and love the game
  • Show that they care for their players
  • Have a sound knowledge of the game
  • Try to keep things clear & simple
  • Treat everyone with respect

Chris Panayiotou - Developmental Director of Coaching Virginia Rush Soccer Club
C - confident and confidence builder

O - observer, organizer 

A - approachable, always learning 

C - continually growing, competent 

H - hard working, humble and honest 

Vince Ganzberg, Grassroots Advisor for U. S. Soccer
Adding on to your COACH pneumonic: 

O - other-centered

C - care, checks for understanding

Then one quality is a coach who can transfer knowledge into understanding.

Paul Shaw, Coaching Education Director - Virginia Youth Soccer

  • Have character - without this, you are done.
  • Soccer acumen - current and is always seeking (coaching education-soccer and outside of soccer; seek different experiences etc...)
  • Teaching skills - always a work in progress as our culture changes, must adapt.
  • Sense of humor - LOL.
  • Imagination - the coach who can "paint/create/sculpt" in different environments has longevity and inspires.


Ruth Nicholson, Founding Partner and IAF Certified Professional Facilitator – Club Development Network

  • The ability to be a member of a team of adults supporting players (coaches, parents, administrators, etc.), as well as to lead, teach, and inspire a team of players

Dr. Roy Patton, Director of Soccer Genius USA

For the coach of young adult players:

  • Maturity and experience-business and media savvy
  • Ability to build consensus - internal / external
  • Ability to use jurisprudential argument and to be consistent
  • High level of coaching experience and coaching ability
  • Be an excellent and relentless recruiter.

US Youth Soccer

Good coaching and coaches at the u6 to u10 ages :

  • Open the door to a lifetime of soccer
  • Lay the foundation of:
    • Fair Play
    • Game sense
    • Healthy lifestyle
    • Skills
  • Create the environment for players to establish friendships through soccer
  • Guide players learning to interact with others:
    • Teammates
    • Coach
    • Team manager
    • Referees
    • Opponents
    • Spectators
  • Guide parents on their child’s soccer journey
  • How to be a guest at the kids’ game
    • Off-the-ball habits
    • Commitment
    • Punctuality
    • Responsibility
    • Nutrition/hydration
    • Proper sleep/recovery
  • Teach leadership, communication skills, how to cooperate, how to compete, how to share
  • Coach must lead by example:
    • Control emotions
    • Verbal & body language
    • Be a good sport


From the Oregon Youth Soccer Association
Judging a Good Coach

  • A good coach is someone who knows winning is wonderful, but is not the triumph of sports.
  • A kid’s coach is someone who goes to work early, misses meals, gives away weekends and plays havoc with family schedules so he or she can help out a group of youngsters.
  • A good coach is someone who stays half an hour or more after practice to make sure every one of the players has a safe ride home.
  • A good coach is someone who rarely hears a mom or dad say `Hey thanks’, but receives a lot of advice on game day.
  • A good coach is someone who makes sure that everyone gets to play.
  • A good coach is someone who teaches young people that winning is not everything, but still lies in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering whether he or she might have done anything differently to have turned a loss into a win.
  • A good coach is someone who can help a child learn to take mistakes in stride.
  • A good coach is someone who sometimes helps a child to develop ability and confidence that sometimes did not exist before.
  • A good coach is someone a youngster will remember a long time after the last game has ended and the season is over.

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