Encourage Active Practices

I have now been at this soccer coaching business for some 35 years and conducting clinics for 20-25.

The first challenge is to encourage parent volunteer coaches to participate in clinic training. The second is to get them to buy into what is offered. At both stages, I see a bell curve.

Some are so turned on by the first clinic they attend, they continue like thirsty desert survivors. What I call "the great unwashed middle" are those who come once and you never see again. At the other end are those who continue to coach without ever attending a course.

Of those who go through training, some buy into it enthusiastically. The great unwashed middle (particularly men, and the majority of erstwhile coaches still are male) learn, but do not absorb the heart and soul. It goes against the grain of what they have been exposed to in sports other than soccer. Then there are those who never get past being there because they are dragooned into being there.

I recently was asked to do some one-on-one with a young woman who wants to try out for her high school team, but dropped off one Class 1 team because, her mom said, the coach was boring, and a second because — again it was her mom speaking — the coach was abusive.

It seems to be the same with every new cohort. I thought things would change as those who grew up in the age of youth soccer began to coach. And we are seeing an increasing proportion of parent coaches who have been players, and some who still are. However, even these have to be sold on the concept of active practices.

  • Is it because they grew up before we copped to how discouraging laps, lectures and lines are?
  • Is there something in our wiring that tells us you cannot get fit with the ball?
  • That says the game needs to be explained?
  • That says players cannot learn unless they are soloing in front of the coach?

I didn't begin to play soccer until I was in college. The coach started us newbies kicking a ball against a wall. I picked up ball control and dribbling by watching teammates who had these skills and trying to copy them. The older of my two sons once told me that 90 percent of what he learned about coaching he learned from me, but that 90 percent of what he learned about playing he learned from teammates and opponents.

It seems self-evident to me that this means lots of touches, lots of games and lots of small-sided games, all of which adds up to competitive fun. To crib from Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady" — "Why can't others be like me?"

Note: Want to learn more about how to run an "Active Practice?" Come join us at a CYSA Coaching School Course held near you. Find the schedule of courses on our website: www.cysanorth.org