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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.

 

Assistant Coach

Sam Snow

I recently started a position with a soccer travel club. I have run different clinics, assisted teams in the past and have been certified as a soccer coach for 4-years but this is my first time as head coach. I am having a hard time finding an assistant coach and I really do not want to have a parent assist me. I am worried that they will overrun me since I am new to the position and am fairly young (I am only six years older than some of the players on the team). I worry that these players will not respect me and will be more willing to listen to a parent over me. Should I ask if a parent wants to step up and help me or should I just do this on my own? If I do this on my own, how should I get started?
 
- An aspiring soccer coach
 
If you can get an assistant coach then by all means do so. You don’t want to carry the load all season alone and having someone with whom you can kick around ideas is useful.
 
Choosing an assistant coach is an important step for a coach. Ideally none of the coaches should be related to the players. Nevertheless, the reality in youth soccer is that many coaches are related to one or more of the players on the team.
 
The head coach being potentially younger than an assistant coach should not be a concern. A quality head coach will be respected by the majority of the parents of the players. When you are looking to tab someone as your assistant coach, look for personal qualities over soccer knowledge in the person regardless of their age.
 
Your assistant coach plays many vital roles. He or she can assess the quality of your team, help you to decide player development issues, attend parents-coach meetings for you (I wouldn't recommend this though, always try to handle these yourself) and help you to choose game day team formation and tactics.
 
Begin the process of choosing an assistant by considering your own strengths and weaknesses and then look for someone who can balance them out. First and foremost look at the character of the person. The knowledge of soccer and how to coach the game can be learned; the right personality for coaching children cannot. Your assistant coach should enjoy interacting with soccer players. So, look for someone who can be motivating with the players. An adult they will see as a role model, as well as a coach. You don't want an assistant who just lets the players get on with training or in a match, you want your assistant to help inspire or motivate them.
 
Secondly, can the person judge player potential. Your assistant needs to be able to aid you in determining a player’s strengths and weaknesses so that the two of you can make a plan for each player’s improvement. 
 
Next, we come to tactical knowledge. He or she has to know their stuff and should be good at arranging set pieces, formations etc. 
 
Lastly, we come to Judging Player Potential. Here are the types of assistant coaches that do the best job:
 
  •  Open minded, did not have a set idea on systems of play or formations
  • Do not care what their role is
  • Ask a lot of questions, they wanted to improve as a soccer coach
  • Detail oriented
  • Are out to improve the lives of the kids, not build themselves up as a coach
  • Are great listeners and observers
  • Take whatever task they were given and excelled at that task
  • Volunteer to help at nearly every turn
  •  Ask underlying ‘whys’ without being abrasive
  • Once a decision is made do not question anything and implement the decision
  • Are calm non rah-rah types that had the game in perspective (watch them coach other sports or as a fan)
  • Are not complainers or excuse makers, they are doers
  • Admit their lack of knowledge and admit mistakes freely
  • Want to get all the kids into games
  • People that have had success in other parts of their lives
  • Coach (or have coached) other sports or have worked with youth

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Interview with Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports and the Positive Coaching Alliance

Sam Snow

Dear Reader,
 
For this installment of my blog, I hope you’ll enjoy this Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports interview with the Positive Coaching Alliance.
 
 

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U10 Tournaments

Sam Snow

"I am a coach struggling with recreational U9/10 soccer parents and kids wanting to go to tournaments. According to the US Youth Soccer Development Manual [ed. note: Player Development Model], tournament play for U10 is discouraged (and I get that). Then why does almost every tournament out there offers U10 (some even U9 and U8) brackets?"
 
There are indeed many clubs and leagues around the nation that run tournaments for the U10 age group. For those folks it provides an additional revenue stream. Tournament organizers will go as young as they think they can get paying customers. That revenue stream is there because the parents of the U10 players either think that the tournament environment and the focus on outcome of performance develops the players and/or they want it as a sport spectator event for themselves. In fact, much of the challenge in providing a balanced environment of development and age appropriate competition for the U10 age group is impacted by the desire of the adults associated with the teams for a spectacle, as if they were watching a MLS match.
 
So what’s the solution? On the short term look for festival formats for your team rather than outcome based tournaments. Then work with the parents of your team to collectively address the matter as one of age appropriate player development with your club leaders. On a slightly longer term look to set up a U10 academy as is done in Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Montana, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina.
 
 

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Missing Piece

Sam Snow

A club director at a rural soccer club posed this question to me: "What will it take to create a program that can move an American parent from zero to soccer passionate and soccer competent?"
 
Yes we can move some parent-coaches into passionate soccer fans, but only a few. I think we have been doing that for many years.
 
That generation of former soccer players who are now the coaches, referees and administrators has begun. The former players of the 1970s and 1980s are largely the ones leading youth soccer now. The former players of the 1990s are coming into those ranks slowly now too.
 
Can we turn all volunteer soccer coaches into fans of the game? No. But you can influence a core group that could help a club raise its standard. So here’s one idea toward that end.
 
  • Organize a coaches’ game one time per week. Play 5 vs. 5 or less for them to experience both sides of the ball consistently. The small-sided game will put them into realistic game situations often so that their feel for what their players experience will be accelerated.
 
  • Use the game once in a while as a teaching game.
    • Laws of the Game
    • Techniques
    • Tactics
      • Principles of play
    • Fitness/recovery
 
  • Your idea of the chaotic, beautiful street game could help the coaches understand this model of play compared to the adult model through the coaches’ game.
 
Nothing gives someone a passion for the game better than the game itself. Give this a try!
 
 

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