Coaches Desk


Above the Norm

by CYSA Director of Coaching Karl Dewazien

Coach John Perfect

by CYSA Staff Instructor Diane Buettcher

Keys to Positive Soccer Coaching

by Graham Ramsey

Winning is Important — But What IS Winning?

by CYSA Coaching Instructor Len Marks

Above the Norm

They have been named CYSA District Coaches of the Year; CYSA State Coaches of the Year; US Region VI Coaches of the Year and even US Youth Soccer National Youth Coaches of the Year. May you glean some knowledge from their words and inspiration to continue developing as a youth coach...

“As a coach, I am a role model, teacher, counselor, and friend. I take these responsibilities seriously, and try to lead all teams I coach with those things in mind. Coaching is for practice and halftime. I am not a screamer; I like to let the players play and make decisions for themselves when they are on the field during game time. I believe in a lot of touches on the ball during practice. I am also about the basics, and believe that no matter at what level you play; you can never work on those too much.” James Claxton
“My responsibility to the players is to be prepared when I walk on the field. I try to expose them to an organized, education-oriented session every time they are on the field. They learn the most by playing, so I try to keep the athletes moving, keep introductions under 15 seconds and then get them playing again. I am a businesslike coach. I try to do my teaching in practice and observe and make small adjustments during the games. As a player, I never liked having a coach yell instructions and I try to do as little coaching as possible. I've read books by John Wooden, Dean Smith and Anson Dorrance, to name a few. I admire them all greatly and have modeled my approach accordingly over the years. I always try to expand my knowledge.” Stewart D. Hayes
“We have youth soccer to develop a foundation for our children. This sport allows our children to remain active with their family and friends, to teach them teamwork and cooperation. At the end of the season, when the girls are doing things that they thought they could not do such as scoring or using their left foot, this is what I enjoy most about coaching. To improve my coaching skills I will continue taking courses, watching soccer and keeping current with FIFA laws.” Dave Hernandez
“A successful season is one where my players all return, and have developed from the past season so that I may take them to the next level. I have used the example of my licensing to explain to them that we must all try to improve with each session and season. I have challenged myself year after year, battling both the monetary part of the courses and the time required away from my family. I explain to my players that I do this for the love of the game, and the fact that they are owed the best, and that I strive to be the best for them. As our youth begin their turbulent lives as teenagers, it is even more apparent to me why youth sports are so critical. We must provide a means for building self-esteem, and provide positive outlets for both socialization and mentoring.” Eric Hernandez
“I try to improve my players’ skills in a manner that is fun and encouraging. The key is to figure out how each player learns and adjust your style accordingly. I also stress being respectful to teammates and opponents. A successful season, to me, is not always measured by wins and losses. I believe that progress, both in individual players and as a team, makes for a successful season. I will continue to ask parents to be their children's cheerleader rather than critic. I remind them that soccer is a game intended to be fun. No game is worth damaging a child's self-esteem or spirit.” Becky Weirshauser
“I coach players with special needs in the TOPSoccer program. I teach by example. You have to be very patient with players and learn their disabilities and their abilities. We all have disabilities and abilities of various types and stages. My players have extra disabilities that sometimes you can see and sometimes you can't. On any given day, you have to be a good listener, disciplinarian, coach, parent, friend and advocate — and that's before practice or the game has started. I look at coaching as a learning experience each day and have learned to be flexible and go with the flow. The best-laid plans of man and mice go awry, and you need to be able to go with the flow because of whatever the reason may be.” Gary Waltz
“My practices tend to be planned and organized with a central theme communicated to the players at the start of practice. I like discipline and focus, but I realize that with younger players it may not always be achievable. I have infinite patience. Sometimes the lesson plan is thrown out or adjusted depending on the "mood" of the players. I often use players to demonstrate the mechanics of an activity and try to get them going quickly. Once the activity is in session, I walk around and praise/correct individual technique, mindful not to over-correct, as I have found that many players will often self-correct once they focus appropriately on the activity. I try to engage players in a dialogue to make them think about what they are doing.” Bo Stehlin
“I focus on fundamentals of skill, agility and ability. This lets all players progress knowing they are ready for the next level of testing, having conquered the basics of ball control and passing skills, which are the key to any good player and team set-up. I allow the learning to come from practicing with a ball at their feet rather than talking, giving coaching points on the fly and only stopping where a major team breakdown happens.” Stuart Rafferty
“My coaching style is easy, yet firm. I want to give the knowledge that I have to the kids freely and without any expectations. If I don't know how something works, I go and learn it. I want the kids to trust me, show them my commitment to the team so they can be as committed to themselves and their teammates.” Manish Doshi
“I like to coach two or three times during the week, depending upon work needed. At the games I like to sit down and watch to see if what we did is working. I don't like coaching from the sidelines; sure, I give some ideas but overall, "Let them Play." Some parents don't like it, but the kids do — they have told me so.” Diego B. Haro Jr.

For more information to help in your continued development as a youth coach, visit and find the link to on the left-hand side.

Coach John Perfect

Back in the 1990’s, a famed sports psychologist polled kids about their motivations for playing soccer. The study became a classic in youth sports and served to wake up overbearing parents and coaches. To paraphrase, they found the No. 1 reason kids played soccer was to have fun. Second, they played to be with friends. Another reason was to learn new skills. Far enough down the list to be remarkable in its position was playing because they liked winning. Sure enough, the article became the gospel for rationality when dealing with youth soccer.

However, anyone who knows kids understands how complex their definitions of the above reasons can be. Take “having fun” and break it down into kid-defined components. One could argue that though it was the No. 1 reason to play soccer, really it was the blending of all other reasons. Without any one of the other reasons, “having fun” diminished. So, understanding kids means understanding that in order to have fun, they have to be with friends, learn new skills and engage in a valued experience.

Does winning enhance the value of the experience for kids? The answer is not an unqualified yes. A few years back, I was coaching director for a suburban soccer club. For the under-10 team, I selected a proven coach with winning ways, who had previously keyed success in a young team. Both the president of the club and I agreed about the importance of building the club from the bottom-up, so this coach made sense to be the builder for six-to-eight years of club success.

On announcement of the coaching roster, the president and I had telephones ringing off the hook. How could we put such a monster in charge of 10-year-olds? Didn’t we know this coach screamed at 8-year--olds? Sure, his teams won tournaments, but at what cost? Chief among the detractors was a mom who had just received her “F” license. The parents of the 10-year-olds pulled out and tried to go to another club. When rebuffed there, they came back and demanded change. So, the president and I gave the F-licensed mom the job of coach. The team formed, played and seemed to have fun. Five years later, another one of the moms from that group became president of the club. To make a long story short, one should never overestimate the value of winning to a group of players and parents.

More important in sustaining kids’ participation in sports is the quality of the coach. Even as much as having Landon Donovan, Jr., on a team may be valuable, more important to kids’ desire to participate is having Coach Perfect. Coach Perfect knows how to talk with kids, enhance their skills and maintain a positive experience. I once worked at a college with a Coach Perfect. Despite taking over a team that had been at the top of the conference and won several regional titles, this coach’s teams merely finish in the top third of the conference. Yet, the coach’s mannerisms and personal qualities keep the team engaged and feeling successful. Former players cite Coach Perfect as their key influence during their college experience.

Winning may draw a few kids away to another team, but I would wager that the fun they have with Coach John would override for most kids. Their fun involves being with friends, interacting with Coach John and learning new skills — winning is simply the icing on the cake. The idea that another coach has more winning ways or better players would certainly attract some, but parents know value and word gets around. Providing the valuable experience includes fine technical development, certainly, but “having fun” involves many other factors, including Coach John’s positive, future-oriented style.

Dale Carnegie once said it was important to believe in yourself and your eventual success. In soccer coaching, one has to believe one’s methods will win out even as the team eventually learns to win on the field.

Keys to Positive Soccer Coaching

From my observation of youth soccer coaches, both in practice and clinic situations, I would like to pinpoint some of the common errors that they make. The more you know about them, the more prepared you will be to spot them and correct them — and improve your chances of winning.

1. Poor coaching position

You can only coach what you can see. If you stand in the middle of a practice, you will see only half of it. To see as much of the practice situation as possible, you should set yourself up on the edge of the practice or game area.

Always look at the big picture before telescoping in to coach. Get the mini-picture right, and then return to the big picture again. Think of a mosaic composed of 1,000 tiles. You stand back and view the whole mosaic. You see that one of the tiles is dirty. So you telescope in and clean that tile. Once done, you stand back and look at the big picture again.

2. Drill and rote-based

Too many coaching situations are organizational masterpieces, with players standing in a perfect line. The drill becomes more important than the learning. Results: great drillers and rotten players.

Games and players go together — soccer is an open-skill sport, which means that the players have to be able to problem-solve every few seconds. By reproducing game-like activities, the players learn to read the game pictures. And the more that youngsters play in mini-game environments like 4v4, the faster they can read and the more aware they become.

Children always invent games. They know how to connect fun and learning through games. They are the experts.

3. Fan coaching

Many inexperienced coaches act like the fans in the stands: They react to everything that moves. Their continual chatter tends to become annoying to the players who are trying to concentrate. The good advice is lost in the avalanche of words.

Too much information confuses youngsters. Keep your coaching points concise and specific – simple, and to the point. Remember, one dime's worth of coaching is equivalent to one dollar's worth of practice.

Coach knowledge, not information. Knowledge is about discipline, understanding, and awareness. It's positive problem solving - stopping the action, correcting an error, and then continuing.

Spewing out information, on the other hand, has no discipline. It's just throwing verbal band-aids on every error. The whole session becomes a blur of unrelated incidents. The focus is lost and the practice loses its meaning and direction.

4. Coaching the game and not the players

This partly ties into the "fan coach" mentality. Making big statements such as "make space" and "don't bunch" may be true observations, but a good coach will stop, correct, and individualize his instruction to a specific player.

Good coaches are like good doctors. They treat each individual's specific problem. You never see them walk into their waiting room and start throwing aspirins at everyone, every patient. They recognize each patient as a different specific problem. They will diagnose the problem and then make it right. Just the way a coach would do with a soccer player.

5. Cosmetic coaching

Setting up situations that make the player happy may look good, but is anyone learning anything? Many sessions are cute, filled with candy ideas, but lack substance and direction. There has to be a purpose and a method to help youngsters improve.

6. Progress not related to the players

This is where the coach is so organized that he becomes a slave to his preparation plans. He should be sensitive to his players and their progress.

7. Not seeing the key playing errors

Overlooking or misinterpreting mistakes. Practice, study, and experience will help solve this problem area.

8. Poor organization

This is often due to a lack of thought and preparation for the session. For example:

  • Lack of continuity to the session. Every session must have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • No targets. This is particularly true of defenders who have just gained a possession and don't do anything positive with the ball. As in a real game, they have to score.
  • Poor starting service. If the service is poor, the practice just dissolves. This is particularly true whenever you are teaching heading or volleying. A quality service will lead to successful skills and team play.
  • Be disciplined. Focus on just two or three points. Think of television advertising and a drum-beating rabbit selling the same message over and over again. Coaching is just the same!

Simple Guides

  • Prepare your sessions - Have a theme and know the key to coaching points within it. Create games to highlight these points.
  • Become the Energizer bunny - Repeat a couple of messages over and over again. Repetition makes for permanency - good skills and habits via the shortest short.
  • Equipment - Have your players set up the field beforehand: cones, corner flags, pennies, balls. It's a great time-saver.
  • Project your personality - make the players see that you enjoy the experience. Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Consider the conditions - sun, wind, playing surface.
  • Keep a record of your session.
  • Evaluate each session.
  • Use the CYSA '9-Step Practice Routine'

You can reach Graham Ramsay at:

Winning IS Important
But What Is Winning?

Platitudes, platitudes, platitudes: “Winning is not important — what’s important is how you play the game!” “It’s your attitude!”

Hogwash. Winning, in today’s society, is important. For some bizarre reason consistent with my personality, when I think of a platitude I have always had a mental picture of Daffy Duck (you know how he spits when he talks?) flying around on a circular platter spitting platitudes on those below him, soaking them in the process.

Well, brother coach, whose nine-year-old gets teased for losing, I am not going to toss out placating platitudes. Winning IS important! But what is winning?

Hallelujah, a revelation — feel the power! You are the coach! You control the team! You have the power over your team! You are the educator! You are the teacher! You are the role model! You are the trendsetter! Most importantly, you get to determine what winning is. And, finally, you get to define your own reality.

Many moons ago, when deer ran free and eagles flew throughout the valley, my Marysville High (a school of 850 students) team was outscored by Yuba City (a school of 2,500) 3-2. My kids were ecstatic. They had played their hearts out and did well. The Yuba City coach was furious for two reasons: First, his team only won 3-2 and secondly, he heard the Marysville coach telling his team that they had won.

“What do you mean, you won?” he said, aggressively confronting me.

“Well, you outscored us but you should have won by three and we held you to only a one-goal victory, so as far we are concerned it was a victory for us, but congrats on a great contest,” I replied.

He went away shaking his head and my kids believed me.

The key is, my friend, as the coach you can determine what winning really is. You can create your own standards that the kids will believe — especially the younger kids. When we played Folsom in our second game in 1991 (they beat us 7-0 the first time around), our goal was not to let them score more than two goals per half (they were that powerful). Our kids did not consider Folsom’s 3-0 victory a loss, and were pleased with their performance.

Yes, it is kind of like creating a handicap. When I coached rec, my 8-year-old team lost to my club’s 9-year-old team by a couple of goals, but they fought hard and knew it. They gave it their all. We held them scoreless the first half. There was minimal teasing and my kids were proud. Wow! What a performance.

The important thing is to always encourage your team to do their personal best and never let down. If, at halftime, you are being trounced by a superior team, make tactical changes and set different standards for the second half. You can create two games within the match – the first half is one game and the second half is the second game. You will learn from the first, adapt and change the rules (see my second paragraph – you can do that) to achieve positive success in the second. By doing this, you will permit your team to meet with success.

For example, you can try to hold this incredible opponent to one goal every 10 minutes. You can inform your team that they will only play for points, not goals and you will determine how points are scored (remember, with your kids you can make up your own rules). You can have one or several ways or scoring points:

  • The other team can only get a point if not covered defensively, or you can get a point every time you cover someone defensively. Two points for a steal.
  • Every time you have two passes in a row you get a point
  • You get 5 points for a give and go
  • You get a point if you communicate with your teammate

You can win the second game (half) and your kids will be proud.

My team, my standards. If you do not believe it will work, it will not; if you believe, it will (and it has for me). Again, as a coach, I can create my team’s reality.

Of course, you have to make it fun as well, and as long as you have controlled insanity with realistic goals, the kids will love it. You might need some rare attitude adjustment with the occasional overachieving parent but I have not had many problems with the parents. Most of them will buy into what you are trying to accomplish – building success through success, in which you will give your kids realistic goals with lots of praise when they achieve them.

So, my concerned coach: be creative, get crazy and have fun. Inspire your kids to go 100 percent all over the field and set different standards. Remember the famous words from that great movie, “Galaxy Quest:” ‘NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER.” You are the coach — keep the kids psyched, keep them in the game. If you are being drubbed, change the rules in the second half so you can “win” that half even if you are outscored. The key is to never let them quit. They will feed off your enthusiasm even under adverse conditions. Your kids not only will hold their heads up, but also will have pride in their performance and will handle whatever teasing comes their way. In general, I have found that if one team is really trying, even if they lose, there is respect and minimal teasing. It works — I have done it and seen it done.

Regarding changing teams: if kids are having fun, the parents will rarely ever change teams. And for those that do, they are worth losing – good riddance! Just feel truly sorry for their kids – they are doomed to a screwed-up life. The beauty of coaching is permitting the kids to achieve success in all aspects of life. Losing is in the mind of the loser, winning in the mind of the player – the score is secondary. Go for it!