By Nathan Hunt
Coach Educator, Director of Affiliate Clubs and Entrepreneur | US Soccer and Sporting Kansas City
As you embark on the fall season, it is always good to take a step back and think about how to provide the best experience for the players and parents. Families have all different types of expectations and players have varying levels of commitment and ability. In hindsight, as a beginning coach, I would have liked to have more help to know how to navigate this potentially tricky terrain. To that end, let’s take a look at three things to keep in mind as we enter a new season.
Know your WHY
As a player, do you remember that feeling when you scored your first goal, or gave that killer assist that led to a game-winning goal? Or maybe it was the sprawling block of a shot to save the game for your team. Isn’t the happiness and exhilaration you felt as a player why you decided to share your joy of the game with others?
What about when you started coaching--a time when the players took your advice and it worked, or when you could see the light go on for a player? Or, when a player finally executed a technique or skill they had long been working on and wanted to share in their success with you, their coach!
Remember the reason you coach. For me, it’s to pass on my love of the game and help players reach their potential. As coaches, we don’t do it for the money, or the notoriety. We do it for the love of the game and sharing that love with others. Take the time to create or update your own personal WHY, your mission as a coach. This shows your players, parents, and others that you are truly invested. It also allows you to help align your goals with those of the players, the parents, and the club.
Having your WHY makes it clear not only to you but to those you are trying to lead. When things get tough, when conflict arises (which it inevitably does), having clarity will help you reset and navigate through both good and bad times. Set your WHY, communicate your WHY and use it to help you lead yourself and your teams through the fall season.
Include the Parents
Parents are a critical part of the equation to ensure players reach their athletic and personal potential. Gone is the era in which coaches separate the parents from the player. They need to be included. While leading players through the fall season, consider how you will also include the parents. What is your plan to do so?
I recommend engaging and guiding them in order to empower their children. You can do this by helping them to understand the day-to-day as well as the big picture you are creating for their players. Any of the following topics are a great starting point for engaging parents:
- The training plan
- The team principles
- The developmental objectives and goals of the team
- The objectives and goals of their player
- The team/club language
- The purpose of the playing schedule
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide on what and how to collaborate with the parents. The keyword is collaboration. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. It’s the same for that child’s soccer development and reaching their full potential.
Build Your Support System
You cannot succeed in your coaching job independent of others. Who is in your network to help you do your job? Who can provide you with the tools and resources to help you function to the best of your ability?
Ultimately, your support network is built by maintaining constructive relationships. The team manager, the club Director of Coaching, the club administrator, the field scheduler, a mentor, coaching peers and the parents of your players… These are the people who can increase the likelihood that you can best lead your team through the season.
As you create and refine your plan for the season, make sure that all of the above is considered. Having these considerations thought out and planned will set the foundation and tone for a positive and impactful season.