Coaching Recreational Soccer
Recreational soccer organizations are where kids from all walks of life come to have fun playing an exciting and challenging sport.
You will find kids join for several reasons yet when all is said and done you will often find that there are three types of players that you will end up coaching, each presents challenges that you as a coach need to understand in order to not only make individual players that best they can be but also put a competitive team on the field.
The 3 type of players you often coach will consist of:
The Passionate player, their skills are often superior to that of their peers, these are the easiest to coach yet as a coach you have to be careful to not allow the team to rely solely on those skills to carry the team or worse that they become a ball hog.
The Social player is the one who joins just to have fun with their friends however they may not have the same passion as others, the biggest challenge you have with these type of players is to get them to focus and take the game seriously.
The last type of player you will find on a rec team are ones that are often forced to play, they show little interest in the game and many times have no desire to play, obviously the biggest challenge is encouraging them to simply enjoy the game.
Coaching each type of player is challenging, even more so as you coach upper ages. Directors of rec youth leagues constantly hear concerns from parents who feel the child’s coach is either too hard or too easy, isn’t playing the players in the correct position, or simply is lacking good strategy. At MPYSA we do take parents concerns seriously at the same time we also understand the importance of allowing a coach to play his players has he feels is best for the team. Recreational sports are to be fun but we believe they should be competitive and as such training should be taken seriously.
In order to field a team where the players have fun and yet are competitive several elements must exist, these are: discipline, teamwork, skills, strategy and sportsmanship.
Discipline is number one, without it you have players that are out of control which does not foster a learning environment. One of the hardest things to do as a coach is to bench a player, especially if he or she is one of your best players yet it is necessary if you are to maintain control of the team. Just as parents do not enjoy disciplining their children neither do coaches, mostly because disciplining is a parental responsibility but also a good coach will try to determine if the poor behavior exhibited on the field is a result of underlying issues that a player is dealing with. The most common issue I have seen over the years is where a parents have put their child in the middle of adult relationship issues; other issues range from various problems at school to drug use. If as a coach (or as a parent) you believe your child is having problems then seek out help, be it an understanding friend able to give an unbiased opinion or professional counseling.
I put teamwork ahead of skills simply because soccer is such a fluid game that one can never compete at a high level without it. I have had teams where player for player we had better team yet because of lack of teamwork we lost games that we should not have………skills can never overcome teamwork.
Skills are very important yet one does not have to have the skills of Pele in order to be competitive. No matter what sport you coach, if your players have the basics down pat and work as a team they will be very competitive.
I have coached children of all ages and one of the biggest problems in the rec league are that the basics are not being consistently taught. Recreational programs are designed to have fun but equally they need to be teaching the basics throughout.
Recently I have been asked to assist in rebuilding a high school program, one of the most difficult tasks is trying to break bad habits of players who were never properly taught…… it is easier to teach someone that has never played than to break an experienced players bad habits.
It is for this reason that we have dedicated a section on our website where coaches can go to find tools that will help them be better coaches, to teach the basics. There are many excellent training video across the internet which often are free…… don’t be afraid to incorporate them into your training sessions.
A coach can have all the pieces in place to be competitive however if they do not have the strategy based upon the strengths and weaknesses of their players then you can end up having a team that loses every game with players becoming demoralized. I have seen teams lose winnable games simply because the coach failed to implement a good strategy. A teams strategy should always be built around the ability of the players as a whole, trying to build it under the abilities of one or two players will never yield any fruits.
Coaches who coach their own children must be careful not to use their position in order to further their own child’s desire at the expense of the team…….or worse to try to relive their past childhood through their children. This is no more noticeable than at the younger age groups, remember the most import ant thing is to teach the basics to all players.
MPYSA has actually been blessed in that we have received some excellent players from surrounding organizations whose parents finally had enough of such issues not being addressed and have joined our organization.
We will be going over strategies that can help you team be competitive however the most important thing is to listen and watch your players, their very actions often dictate where they want to play, couple that with always putting a strong player next to a weak player to help solidify all areas of the playing field will give you tremendous results.
Again, there are many training tools available today, especially on the internet however don’t be afraid to speak with other coaches to get an independent assessment of your team. Recreational leagues put a great deal of emphasis on having fun, which is good……. at the same time the way to have fun is also to be competitive.
If you have any questions or suggestions then please feel free to contact us.