While technical skills are important fundamentals for all young soccer players to learn, teamwork plays an equally crucial role in a team’s success. Beyond individual ability, good soccer players should be able to work in harmony with their entire squad. Youth soccer coaches can employ a number of strategies to help their players develop good teamwork skills, including incorporating team-oriented play into each practice.
Instead of simply focusing on drills, coaches should set up team scrimmages and positional plays to help players learn to interact with their teammates in a variety of situations. Players should learn where and how to play each position, as well as how each position contributes to the team as a whole. In this vein, it is important to ensure that all players attend every practice session and fully participate in training activities. Only through practice can players become familiar with their teammates and learn how to effectively react to one another.
Moreover, outside team activities can greatly support team unity, translating to improved teamwork on the field. Outings such as hiking, paintball, or laser tag are all fun possibilities that can help young players bond with one another and develop a true team mentality.
A youth soccer coach can develop essential coaching skills through training programs, observation, and instructional media. Across the United States, volunteer youth soccer coaches from all walks of life seek to improve as coaches. The majority learn on the job, and they generally take the position to support their children or to strengthen their communities. Many have never participated at a level beyond youth league or high school, and some likely have not taken the field since their own playing days. Fortunately, numerous resources exist for new volunteer coaches to learn from both seasoned coaches and coaching professionals.
To begin, the United States Soccer Federation offers training in team management and other coaching skills. Most coaches begin by completing an 18-hour course that results in “E” certification, which is administered by state youth soccer organizations. However, coaches with college or professional playing experience may begin with a “D” certificate.
For coaches who participate in American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) programs, the organization offers training and certification programs to help new coaches develop the necessary skills. In order to secure certification, a coach must simply attend a safety course and a coaching skills course targeted to a specific age level. The process is required for all registered AYSO coaches.
Instructional media also exists to help coaches build their skills. Both the AYSO and the national youth soccer organizations have created reading material that is particularly targeted at new coaches, and online forums provide a platform for newer coaches to gain support from their more seasoned colleagues. In addition, video resources such as the well-regarded SoccerU DVD series allow coaches to view, understand, and learn to teach the technical skills involved in playing the game.
Finally, coaches can continue to build their skills in coaching by watching games and practices. By closely watching and analyzing high-level college and professional games, which are often televised, a coach can determine effective methods for offense, defense, and teamwork. Watching other coaches on the youth field is also helpful for a new coach who is refining his or her techniques, such as relating to players, promoting sportsmanship, and managing parent spectators.