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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.


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.

Comments (5)


Just Kicking It Podcast

Sam Snow

I invite you to listen to a podcast I recently did with Brian Shrum and Joshua Foga on Just Kickin’ It ( – Episode # 13.

Here are some of the topics discussed.

  1. Tell our audience a little bit about yourself, how you got to the position you on in, and your duties as the Technical Director for US Youth Soccer?
  2. Your thoughts are grassroots soccer in the U.S. - better or worse?
  3. Ways to improve grassroots soccer coaching?
  4. Good pathways for young soccer players and novice parents?
  5. Specialization versus Sampling?
  6. Pathway for coaches’ education for new grassroots coaches?
  7. Dropout rates in youth sports…i.e., soccer?

You can access it here and please pass along to anyone that you believe will benefit from the information.

Comments (1)


Testimony on the National Youth License Course

Sam Snow

Hi Sam,

I wanted to let you know I attribute my continued success and enjoyment in coaching, designing programs and training youth soccer players to the National Youth License course I took back in 2004 (if I remember correctly).

Right before I was invited to attend the course I was ready to quit coaching soccer all together.  All too often I faced a gap between my passion to coach and my effectiveness with youth.

I was considered a pretty good coach, but I came away from the field feeling like I was working much harder than the kids I was coaching.

The result of this gap was frustration for both me and eventually the kids.

After taking the course I readjusted my contextual format for each age group as I was taught and used the tools the course provided and my training sessions and enthusiasm began to flow once again.

I've redesigned my entire Youth Soccer SAQ Programs under the guidelines of the National Youth teachings and it's been great to see Fun and Effectiveness happening at the same time.

Thank you for all that you do for all of us as coaches.  The course truly equipped me with the tools to match my passion for making a difference with our kids.

Chochi Valenzuela - Youth Soccer Coach and Director of Speed Trainers USA


To learn more about the National Youth License visit:

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