I am coaching my daughter’s soccer team for the first time this fall. I don’t normally coach soccer, but wanted to have the chance to coach Lucy and her teammates as I mostly coach my son’s teams. Frankly, I love it. The girls are a lot of fun. They smile a lot, love to learn, and love spending time with each other. I don’t know much about soccer, but I think my general sport knowledge level translates to 8-year old soccer. What I didn’t know is that I would need to receive a basic coaching license to serve as a coach. Apparently, New Jersey youth soccer has much more rigorous coaching requirements than other sports. As part of the process, I had to prepare a coaching philosophy, a task that I welcomed. It is a work-in-progress, but I thought it would be fun to share it here.
My Coaching Philosophy
I believe that youth sport coaches are responsible for character development and creating a positive, autonomy-supportive environment in order to allow them to define their own sporting experience. Children have different athletic abilities and follow unique developmental paths when entering organized sports. With this is mind, I have a number of primary goals as a coach. First, I want my players to have fun in order to ensure continued participation. Second, I want my players to continually improve both physical and emotional coping skills in order to enhance their sport-specific competence and overall self-confidence. Finally, I want my players to learn the basic elements of their sport, including rules, roles, strategy, tactics, and teamwork.
As a coach, I am responsible for creating the conditions for achieving the aforementioned goals. I believe that positive encouragement is the most important attribute of a successful youth sport coach. Specifically, I believe in praising effort, positive risk-taking, and improvement as much as possible. In situations where critical feedback is required, I believe that it is necessary to lead with a positive message first. Further, I believe that critical feedback must be coupled with clear reasoning and specific, actionable instructions regarding how the player can improve going forward. Children need as many repetitions as possible in practice in order to improve their skills and maintain their interest in practice. I also believe that all children, particularly younger children, should be given equal playing time and given the opportunity to try all positions. Children want to have fun, learn, and be competitive. I intentionally de-emphasize winning as a coach of younger athletes, which isn’t always popular with the adults.
I want my players excited to play again after each practice and game. I want my players to smile. I want them to ask questions. I want them to respect themselves, their teammates, their opponents, and all adults involved in the game. If I want my players to do those things, then I must model those behaviors for the players. I must be excited to be with them. I must smile. I must build rapport with them by asking them questions and getting to know them. I must treat others with respect. I must offer the players the opportunity to solve problems on their own rather solving problems for them. I will avoid scolding players at all costs, particularly for undesirable performance outcomes. However, I want my players to understand that there are negative consequences associated with poor behavior and poor effort.
Finally, I adhere to the philosophy, “no matter what.” I recently attended a coaching session at the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) conference where the presenters, Lindsey Hamilton and Zach Brandon of IMG Academy, shared a practice drill called No Matter What. The premise was to create variable, challenging conditions to train mental toughness. This really resonated for me. Kids must learn how to persist through adversity in competition. Athletes have infinite variables that they cannot control – the weather, the other team, the officials, etc. One of my primary responsibilities as a coach is to teach athletes how to cope with these challenges and thrive in the face of them.
I love being a coach. I learn as much from my players as they learn from me. I will do everything in my power to help them improve and make sport enjoyable. I am open-minded and coachable. I want to achieve my coaching potential. I will take constructive criticism from the kids, parents, and other coaches in order to be a better coach. I will model respect and humility for my players. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to help my players develop their character and love for sport.
What do you think?