How Do You Coach School Soccer ?
Before you get going, have the right mindset. If you coach the team as if you are Sir Alex Ferguson, it is doubtful that you will be that successful. Students are not paid enormous salaries to participate in schools’ soccer. They are kids; they want to do something they love – play soccer. A few, if they are lucky, may be so good they will take up the game professionally. But the majority won’t. So, their prime motivation is the love of football.
As the coach, you have to provide the players with a safe, nurturing environment where it is a pleasure to train and turn out for the team. Build on your teams’ love of soccer. Make them feel playing in the school team is a way to express their love of the game.
Make sure you hold trials as soon as the new season starts. Publicise them well so that you get a good turnout. Depending on how long the season is, you are going to need about 17 players. In a large school, you will probably get more than that. In a smaller school, you may need to make do with a smaller squad.
Conducting Training Sessions
All the training sessions you hold will need to have a balance between, fitness, skill-acquisition and skill development. Before you begin, you must have the warm up. The players need to stretch their muscles and get loose. If you don't, you could find you have players with pulled muscles.
Get all the players together to try some stretching exercises. Before you start working on skill-training, you have got to get your players “loose” enough to do their best. It would be a real disappointment for one of your squad to pick up an injury in training because they had not warmed up properly.
With young players, you must capture their attention. So, make your drills fun and easy to follow. There are many training videos on Youtube. Look for the ones that suit your team’s needs and adapt it, if necessary.
Five A Side
With the team having worked on their fitness and skills let them loose on an enjoyable game of five a side. You can vary the number of team members per the number in your squad, if necessary.
I would not go beyond one hour for a training session. Students need to get home, do their homework and socialise with friends. They lead busy lives. They may even be playing in another team for a local club.
Timing of Activities
You can vary it per the needs of your team, but I would recommend three by 20 minutes.
Five a Side.
But, leave a few minutes at the end of the session to chat to your players. Motivate them, tell them if they worked hard in a session. Talk to your players in an authoritative but non-threatening tone. If you respect them, they will respect you.
If you had a league match before the training session, reflect on it. Discuss what went well. Say what needs attention. But keep it all in proportion. You are coaching a school soccer team over one season. You have not become manager of Real Madrid. All the school can expect from you is that you do your best.
The First Match of the Season.
Make sure you have told the players the details of the first game – kick-off and venue. If there is to be a pick up for players from school, ensure all team members are aware of this. Parents can help with transportation if necessary.
Parent at Soccer Match
About a week before the season starts, you need to send a letter to the parents of the players in your squad telling them what responsibilities they have at games. Most parents who come to games will be perfectly well-behaved and come to do a bit of good-natured cheering and maybe help out with refreshments at half time or the end of the game.
Unfortunately, a growing number of parents may be, wittingly or unwittingly, at the match to cause trouble. This can take many forms.
Disputing the decisions of the officials.
Questioning team tactics.
Becoming angry that their child has been substituted.
Fighting with the opponents’ parents.
The list could go on and on.
With the help of the school’s director of sport, put together a contract that tells the parents what is acceptable behaviour at matches. Get the parents to sign it. Usually, there will be no problem after that. But if a parent does not stick to a contract, there is a consequence. A one game touchline ban to start off with escalating to a season-long ban for continued infringements. The school must back you up on this, otherwise, you will find you are no longer in control of your team – the parents will have taken over.
Abuse of Officials
It may sound strange to say this in the age we live in but the values of good sportsmanship, accepting decisions that go against you, shaking hands with the opposition after the game and so on must be a part of your team’s approach to soccer. You are not only the one responsible for getting the players to be better players you are also there to guide them in the manner they approach the games. So, have a good routine. Shake hands with the opposition coach at the start of the game. Get your players to shake hands with the opposition. If a decision goes against your team, train your players to accept it and not lose concentration.
During a Match
Do not allow any heckling or criticism of your players from those watching. Touchline behaviour should be covered by the contract you signed with the parents. If they fail to follow the agreement, act. At first, it may be a polite reminder, but if this makes no impression, you may have to ask the parent to leave. You may think, how difficult it would be to try and follow the match and monitor the behaviour of the spectators on the touchline. Some leagues appoint an official to oversee touchline behaviour. Alternatively, you may select an assistant who would deal with such matters.
It is best to try and have good relations with the opposition team, coach and supporters. But sometimes things get out of hand, and people act irresponsibly. Flashpoints can be when a decision goes against a team. A goal may be disallowed for controversial reasons. A player may be fouled, but the referee does not stop play. Whatever the reason, it is important that you do not get involved in any verbal abuse directed at the officials. Make a record of the actions that go against the spirit of the way the game should be played and submit comments to the league organisers. Always remember that you are a role model to your players. If you act aggressively in provocative situations, you are indicating to your players that lack of self-control is OK.
For a team to do well, they should all be able to get on with each other. That does not mean they need to like each other. (It would help, though). Don’t let cliques form in your team. Mix up teams in five-a-side games. If you are doing pair work in training, vary the partners. Don’t let the same players train together in the same way.
From time to time you may have a special treat after a game like taking the players for pizza or ice cream. (We are not talking special diets here just yet).
Try and make everyone feel important. Have a word for all the players. Involve them in some decisions, like what routines will take place in training. Keep everything moving but make the players part of the set-up. Don’t be distant from them but at the same time, don’t be too familiar, as that can lead to contempt.
School Soccer: Coach's Checklist
Let Parents Know Their Responsibilities.
Involve The Admin of Your School.
Vary Training Routines
Make All Players Welcome
No Abuse Of Officials
No Outbursts With Opposition
Arrange Away Matches Carefully
Keep It Fun
Coaching soccer is not an easy job. You have so many roles to play that your energy levels will need to be high. Try and reach out to your players as someone who is trustworthy and level-headed.
Be careful in your preparation for all matches and training sessions. Make sure the players know how they should behave on the pitch. Respect for the officials is of prime importance.
Make sure the behaviour of those on the touchline is acceptable. Yes, spectators can get involved in a match – that is what people do at sporting events. But they can never express themselves aggressively to anyone involved on the pitch or to opposition supporters.
You can see that I have left tactics right to the end. I am not one who favours complex tactics in coaching Soccer. For one, the players seldom listen, if at all, to rambling accounts of how the team are going to play.
I talk about formations in a general sense; where people need to be; how we line up to attack a free kick; where to line up at a corner and so on.
I let each player know what his responsibilities are, for example, the right back must push up the field to support attacks and will take all throw-ins on his side of the pitch.
Players must know about the offside law, or they will have their attacking play thwarted by well-drilled defences.
But, overall, I concentrate on the responsibilities of individual players and groups of players like defence, attack and midfield. Keeping it simple and therefore real is going to have far more effect on players than a long, dull, exposition on tactics.
Finally, make it enjoyable for you and the players. If it ceases to be, for you or your team, there is no point in doing it.