Help for beginning volunteer youth soccer coaches

Albert Einstein said, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

Like many parents who know nothing about soccer, I got the call from the Parks & Rec coordinator to ask to coach soccer.

I was dumb enough to agree to it. “If you don’t, there are 12 kids that won’t get to play soccer this season.”

The biggest gripe I had as a beginning coach was the lack of resources geared toward beginning coaches and practical advice to help newbies teach soccer fundamentals to beginning players.

I searched high and low and felt that 95% of the stuff I found was superficial and lacked detail on coaching points. It was “do this and kids will figure it out.”

Or, it was all over the board. There’s large disagreement, even among soccer insiders, on what soccer fundamentals are important to work on at what age and order of learning.

Luckily, over the years, I encountered a few folks who, in my opinion have met Albert Einstein’s definition of genius — they took the complex and made it simple.

I thought I would share their resources in this post in case there are any parent/coaches out there, like myself, searching for help.

Inspire love for the ball

Nobody summarizes the importance of becoming a master of the ball or how to inspire it better than Tom Byer in his book, Soccer Starts at Home.

It’s a short book and easy read. It will take you a couple hours to read it. Read it. Encourage the parents of your players to do the same.

Build the basicsĀ 

Beginning soccer players, like the beginners of anything, need to develop the basics.

I wish I would have found Tom Mura’s Coaching Soccer Weekly podcast earlier in my coaching career.

His podcast touches on a wide range of topics and are more detailed than most beginning coaches need, but a few should be required listening for new coaches — with and without a soccer background.

I love the simple phrases he uses to teach the basics. For example, instead of “receive across your body” like many coaches say, we says, “receive with your back foot,” which is far easier for young kids to understand.

Here are a few of his podcasts I wish I would have heard in my first season coaching:

#182 Teaching the Five Core Soccer Skills

#178 What to work on with U8’s

#60 Coaching In Short Phrases

Work with teammates

Another genius simplicity is in the free coaching course offered at 3Four3.com.

The whole course is good (how to build from back, break, get the ball to midfield and attacking patterns), but the whole thing will be too much for beginners.

The one activity you can and should get kids started on day one is their version of the 4v1 monkey-in-the-middle game (or start with 4v0 until kids can pass). It can go about 10 coaching points deep and is the basis for for keeping the ball.

Less is more

Another thing the folks above taught me is that less is more. You don’t need 100s of activities. You only need a handful and some variations of those.

Some fall in the trap of lots of activities to keep kids from getting bored. But, kids also like familiarity. And familiarity takes less time to set up and transition and can lead to deeper learning.