11 Keys to Becoming a World-Class Soccer Coach
As coaching a soccer team involves such a wide array of different skills and talents, only the very best make it right to the top of the game where they are highly rewarded for their unique skillset.
Not only do soccer coaches have to create and run consistently excellent training sessions and prepare their team tactically for the weekend, they also need to have great leadership, communication, and organisation skills.
With so many different things to take into account, becoming a great soccer coach certainly takes a lot of practice, patience, perseverance, and passion as you look to gain experience and further your skills and knowledge.
While it’s definitely a very demanding role, coaching soccer can also be very fun and rewarding as you watch your team grow as both players and people before your eyes.
With all this in mind, let's now take a quick look at just what exactly is expected of soccer coaches both on and off the pitch.
After that we'll move on to some key things for you to do and take into account if you want to reach the very pinnacle of the sport and become a world-class soccer coach.
The Role of a Soccer Coach
As we highlighted above, soccer coaches have an almost never-ending list of things to do.
While many revolve around improving the players and preparing the team for the weekend, other tasks involve liaising with parents (or agents!) and organising training times and pick up points.
In addition, a soccer coach needs to constantly think about how they manage the players as well as how they present themselves and get their points and coaching philosophy across to them.
All in all, soccer coaches are not just a trainer and teacher to the team, but also a mentor and role-model to the players at the same time.
With so many different things to take into account, here is a short list of what soccer coaches are expected to do:
> Plan, prepare and run training sessions
> Settle on a formation and starting line-up
> Research the opposition and how they like to play
> Communicate with parents, other coaches and game officials
> Give feedback to the players and team on how they are doing
> Clearly convey what they want the players to do out on the pitch
> Keep up to date with developments in the game and any rule changes
> Improve players' conditioning, skills, technique and tactical understanding
> Keep detailed records of attendances, performances and medical conditions
> Come up with tactics and game plans that suit both the team and the opponents they face
> Organise training times, schedule games and arrange transport to and from the matches
While this may already appear to be a lot, it is actually just the tip of the iceberg as a large part of coaching depends on the relationship you build with the team and how you manage the different characters and dynamics within it.
Besides having a fantastic understanding and knowledge of the beautiful game, the best soccer coaches in the world also know how to get the most out of their players and extract every last ounce of effort out of their team.
As each individual is different, coaches need to work out what approach suits each of their players with some responding to encouragement and praise and others to you setting them challenges or demanding more from them.
This means that you need to be both approachable and adaptable and have a steadfast belief in your methods of managing and motivating the players.
By building up mutual trust and respect you should be able to get them to buy into your approach and over time improve as both players and a team. This helps when it comes to making tough decisions or giving feedback to a player who hasn't been playing particularly well of late.
As we can see from all of this, coaches not only have to be great leaders and organisers but also be able to clearly communicate their philosophy and tactics and create a positive team environment.
To become a world-class soccer coach, you therefore also need to:
> Earn your players' trust and respect
> Create a positive and inclusive atmosphere
> Be able to motivate and encourage your players
> Be both approachable and adaptable in your approach
> Have a keen eye for detail and excellent analytical skills
> Keep developing your skills and learning as much as you can
> Be able to deal with pressure and keep a cool head at all times
> Retain your authority, control and command over what is going on
> Be consistent in your behaviour and how you manage players and the team dynamic
> Get the most out of your players and help them to improve as individuals and as a team
> Act as a role model and clearly explain what is expected of them both on and off the pitch
As you can see, there is an incredible amount of hard work, time, and effort that goes into coaching a team.
You’ll have an almost endless list of tasks and things for coaches to complete or take into consideration
With so many aspects to the role, it is no wonder that the best coaches in the world are so highly sought after to deal with the demanding and pressure-filled environment of professional soccer.
With all this in mind, let's now look at some key things for you to do and take into account if you want to be the very best soccer coach you can possibly be.
11 Keys to Soccer Coaching
As we said right at the start, it takes a lot of practice, patience, perseverance, and passion if you’re to make it to the very pinnacle of the sport and become a world-class soccer coach.
With so many different skills to learn, it can take years and years of hard work and perspiration as you gain experience and further your understanding and knowledge of the beautiful game.
Now that we've looked at just exactly what is expected in this challenging and unique role, let's turn to some key things that you can do that will help you become a soccer coach.
1. Gain as Much Experience as You Can
While a handful of managers have made it to the top without having played soccer before, the vast majority of coaches at least played while growing up, with many of them having been professional players in the past.
Playing soccer yourself is a great way to not only learn the rules but develop an understanding and appreciation for different tactical approaches and set-ups.
In addition to this, it also allows you to experience the game as a player and learn from various managers' approaches and coaching styles.
Besides playing the game you will of course want to gain as much experience as you can coaching teams at different levels.
2. Gain Your Qualifications
After you have indeed decided that coaching is your passion and something that you would like to pursue more seriously, it’s time to look into gaining some coaching qualifications.
Lots of different organisations and leagues run soccer coaching courses with each country having their own rules and regulations for you to follow.
Often you can be sponsored by your team or club so that you don't have to pay for the qualification out of your own pocket.
In the process of becoming a certified coach you'll learn everything there is to know about running a team and putting on exciting and educational training sessions week after week.
This, of course, is invaluable and really is a requirement if you want to become a world-class soccer coach and make it to the top.
3. Keep Studying and Learn from Other Coaches
While you may have gained your coaching qualifications, that’s just one of a number of steps that you will take on your journey to becoming a world-class coach.
The best of the best never stop learning and are constantly looking at how they can improve and make that small change which increases their team's chances of success.
As soccer is continuously evolving and various playing styles and approaches are coming in and out of fashion, you must keep abreast of new developments and keep learning as you go.
Besides reading about different managers and their coaching philosophies, you can also ask to attend some teams' training sessions.
This is a great way to see how their practices are run and how the coaches manage the players and team dynamics.
4. Watch as Much Soccer as You Can
Besides reading and learning as much as you can about the beautiful game, you will also want to watch as much soccer as possible.
In addition to this, there are loads of videos you can find on YouTube that offer up interesting and in-depth analyses of various players, teams, and managers approaches to different games.
This is a fantastic way to learn more about phases of play and how space and depth is used and created out on the pitch as well as countless other tactics, approaches, and philosophies.
5. Plan and Prepare as Much As Possible
An absolutely key part of soccer coaching is planning and preparing training sessions in advance so that they run smoothly and make the most of the time you have with your team.
By mapping out what you want to do beforehand, you'll be able to put on more coherent and comprehensive sessions and also highlight to the players the hard work and care you've put in.
This helps you to gain the respect and admiration of the players who can see that you want them to flourish and improve and have a plan for their development.
While planning is important, it is just as crucial that you remain flexible and can adapt exercises and sessions if things aren't working out.
6. Learn How to Communicate Clearly
Planning and preparing in advance also has the added bonus of getting you to think about how you’re going to explain the drills and tactics to your players.
Communication is a key element to coaching and you really need to get your players on your side, buying into your approach, and committing wholeheartedly to your vision for the team.
Besides being able to paint a clear picture of what you are all trying to achieve, you also need to be able to give feedback to your players and encourage them to perform to their best.
Through coaching different teams, taking coaching qualifications, and learning all you can from other managers, you should over time hone your communication skills.
It’s important that communication with your players is a two-way street, that they feel you are approachable and that you too take feedback and advice from others around you.
7. Set Clear Rules, Boundaries, and Expectations
By setting clear rules, boundaries, and expectations at the beginning of the season, you can make life much easier for yourself and avoid too many problems from arising in the long run.
By discussing your objectives and how you expect the players to behave and perform early on, you instantly give them a framework for which to work within.
This means you can call them out if they are not reaching your standards or if they are acting out and misbehaving.
While you want to get on well with the players, have fun with them, and create an inclusive, positive, and encouraging team environment, you also need to set yourself apart a bit so as to keep your authority and control.
Setting rules and expectations is a way to do this and helps you to respond to any situation that arises in a clear and coherent way, referring back to what had been agreed upon before if necessary.
8. Learn How to Manage Different Personalities
While managing different players and personalities may seem like a scary challenge, with time it will almost become second nature and as we've seen above.
There are lots of things you can do to gain the players' admiration, trust, and respect.
By communicating clearly and honestly with them, looking out for their best interests, and putting on fun and engaging sessions, you'll already have won most if not all the players over.
Setting boundaries and expectations will also help to manage team dynamics and establish your command and control over what is going on.
By being professional in your approach and a role model at all times, you'll highlight what you expect to see from your players both on and off the pitch.
The more you coach, the more different personalities and teams you'll come across and the more strategies and approaches you'll have for managing your players.
9. Learn How to Analyse Games and Players
Something that again comes with time, practice, and no little hard work on your part is learning how to analyse games before, during, and after they have taken place.
By researching your opposition and paying close attention to your training sessions to see how your players are progressing, you can decide on a strategy and line up that stands the greatest chance at success.
As the game is going on, you need to not be afraid of altering things if things aren't going right and make impactful and decisive substitutions and tactical tweaks.
After the match you can then go over what went well and which areas you think both you and your team could do better in next time.
In addition to analysing your own players and team, it’s worth watching different games to see the strategies and approaches used by other coaches and how they responded to challenging situations.
While it may seem tough in the beginning, with time and study you'll increase your knowledge and understanding of soccer and be able to know what decisions to make more often than not.
10. Keep Detailed Records of Everything
A very useful thing to do that will help save you time in the future and further improve the quality of your training sessions is to keep good records of what you’ve done in each of them.
Not only will this mean you have a huge database of soccer drills to draw upon, it also means that you can see exactly what your players have been working on and which areas you could focus on more.
Besides keeping a close eye on what you have been coaching so that things don't get stale, you will also want to pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the players, correcting their technique, and giving them pointers and feedback where necessary.
By analysing their development and how each player likes to play, you can then set about creating a stronger team.
By charting your team's progression over a number of weeks and months, you can see what works, where there are weaknesses and what improvements you can make both in terms of their training sessions and the set up when it comes around to the weekend.
Free Resource: Soccer Statistics Spreadsheet (Free to Download and Print)
11. Never Give Up, Give Your All, and Have Faith
No matter how well you plan, prepare, and practice, there are going to be hiccups along the way.
What’s important is how you bounce back and recover from the setback.
As such, a soccer coach needs to have incredible mental strength to both deal with criticism and the high pressure nature of the job.
By giving your all, doubling down, and working harder than ever before and having faith in your abilities, you'll surely come out the other side smiling and wiser for the experience.
What is important is to never give up and keep striving towards your goal of being a world-class soccer coach.
A very challenging and time-consuming yet ultimately rewarding role, a soccer coach's job is never done as they have a hundred and one tasks to complete before and after each and every training session and match.
Besides planning and preparing sessions and selecting line ups, they need to analyse their own approach, that of the opposition and assess which of their players can make an impact when it comes around to the weekend.
With so many things to take into consideration and so many different personalities and players to manage, coaches really do need to have a wide array of different skills and talents if they are to make it to the top.
By following the advice above and putting in lots of time, effort, hard work and passion, you too can make it to the very pinnacle of the beautiful game and become a world-class soccer coach.