We caught up with Angela Huber, the US Youth Soccer National Girls Recreational Coach of the Year, to discuss her soccer background and strategies. Huber, who coaches the Lions in Olympia, Wash., uses a couple unconventional methods to keep her players having fun, but also improving constantly. Whether it ending practice by diving in the mud or doing everything in her power to get every player on the team a goal, Huber stresses having a balance between having fun and winning.
How did you first get involved in coaching soccer?
My first coaching job was through YMCA, and it was coaching my son, who is now 21. He was two at the time, but I told them he was three because that was the age required. My first coaching was itty bitty soccer through the YMCA. I was super excited to get him playing soccer.
What about coaching soccer has made you stick with it
It seems like no matter what happens in my life, if bad things happen, no matter what team I am coaching, they can be a light in my world. There are days where I will think I am in a terrible mood, and I can’t coach them, but as soon as I get there they put a smile on my face.
Do you have a specific coaching philosophy?
Having fun is the main goals. I also believe winning soccer is more fun than losing. Teaching kids quality soccer is very important to me. I like not having superstars where if they are missing, then the games goes to heck. Usually if we score eight goals, it is usually from six girls. I think it keeps us strong. At the age they are getting, they have other things going on, so having a balanced teams is very important. We have a ton of fun, but we work hard and play hard. We concentrate on what we need to improve on, and then we will go dive in the mud or go get a Slurpee. We break it up, and having a balance is good.
How do you keep soccer fun?
I watch them through drills, and when you see their faces you can tell if they are enjoying it or not. It is important to do certain drills, but then switch it to a drill that makes them laugh. They have to work hard on drills that they don’t love. We always end with a game they started when they were 10. They lay on the ground in pairs, and it is a tag game, and we do it at the end of every practice. It is muddy a lot around here, and by the end they are covered in mud and are laughing. At the end of practice I throw Dum Dums to them. I never give them. I just kind of toss it to them. It isn’t fair to be honest, sometimes they get 10 or sometimes they get none. If they don’t get one, then I tell them to be faster.
Do you have a favorite coaching moment?
One time we had a really tough game, and the field we were supposed to play on was covered in mud and standing water, and they let us playing on turf field, and the players thought it was like the Olympics. They were stokes. They were so used to the mud and wet grass, so our whole warm up was me bouncing the ball at them and making them chase it to get the idea that it was going to be different. The other team did a normal warm up, and I felt the girls got it. It was a team we don’t usually beat, and we won. They were super stoked. They still talk about it.
Do you have any influences as a coach?
My husband and I are very passionate. Growing up I had a coach that was the dad of one of the girls and he didn’t really know much about soccer, but him and this other dad were reading about it, and we always had fun. In high school I ended up on the bench for a few years. It wasn’t a lot of fun. I know the difference, and I almost ended up hating it because you want to go out there and play. I want to make sure everyone isn’t watching, and they are going out playing and that they love soccer in the end.
Do you do anything unconventional as a coach?
I’m very unconventional. My players know that everyone isn’t going to win, but that happens in life, and I think the harder you work the farther you are going to get. I don’t want them to just get together and kick the ball around. It is nice in kindergarten, but when you get a little older its different. I tell them if they work hard in soccer then they will work hard in other things later in life to become a better co-worker and better person. It isn’t all about winning, but if you get everyone passionate and care about how their teammates feel and have respect for them and me, then you want to win. They will do anything for me, and I will do anything for them. We have a mutual respect for each other, and they are passionate about making me happy and I am passionate about making them happy.
What was it like winning Coach of the Year?
I still can’t believe it. There is a little pressure to do something different now. There is a little hype now, which is weird. I keep asking myself, did just happen? It seems a little over the top. I was a little excited to say the least. It is more that my girls are really good writers with how the nominated me. They are good writers, and I think that is why they are good at soccer because they play smart and use their brains more than anything. I have one player who is super-fast, and gets through to a 1v1 against the keeper. If it were me, I would shoot it over the net because I get excited, but she is calm and puts it into the corner almost every time. She is crazy. I love her. I love doing this in case you haven’t notice. When we get up to a certain goal spread we change it up all the time, and if we have enough goals then if you have already scored one then we find someone who hasn’t scored this season. The whole team tries to get her a goal. We have a high percentage of girls who score. We have 19 on the team and usually 15 get a goal for the season.