Making mistakes — and learning from them — is essential to developing as a coach. Below, in our guide on soccer coaching for beginners, we discuss ten of the most common mistakes made by new coaches — and how to avoid them.
Transplanting Approaches from Other Teams
It’s tempting to observe the best professional teams and attempt to replicate their approaches. But we must account for our environment; factors like culture, the players we’re working with, and our collective aims all underpin the most effective approach for our team.
Focusing On ‘the Xs and the Os’
Tactics are important, but they are just one aspect of the game. Coaching is a human activity, with human complexity. How we interact with people is perhaps the most significant factor in helping them to develop — and we must be careful not to forget this crucial element of coaching.
Believing We Have All the Answers
Our job is not to be a fount of knowledge, but to support players in their learning and encourage them to think independently. This requires us to put our egos aside, focus on what’s best for our players, and carefully consider when we intervene or provide feedback.
Not Considering the Individuals
We should always strive to take an individual approach. This means knowing individuals as both players and people, and tailoring our approach accordingly to help them get the most from our coaching. The socio-cultural influences around a player have a huge impact on how they learn. We must endeavour to understand and account for those factors.
Pigeonholing Players into Positions
Children’s developmental journeys are nonlinear, so we should aim to give them a broad range of opportunities and experiences while they discover their strengths. Thus, we should be careful not to limit their long-term options by pigeonholing them into specific positions.
Selecting Players for Now
Coaches in the youth space must understand the growth and maturation process. Kids who are stronger, faster, or more powerful now may not enjoy the same physical advantages over their peers later in their journeys, so it’s essential that we give all of our players opportunities to participate and learn — not simply pick the team that’s likeliest to win games.
The best coaches are always learning and reflecting on their own performance. For instance, if a session didn’t work out as planned, we should first consider what we could have done differently. Planning and delivering sessions are a fundamental part of coaching, but reviewing and reflecting are equally important.
Failing to Relate with Parents
The coach-player-parent relationship is vital to helping players develop. Parents know their children best, and have a huge influence on them away from training — so it’s essential that we build positive relationships with them. An approach based on transparency, open communication, and inclusivity can make a huge difference.
Rushing to Progress
Many coaches rush through qualifications in order to progress. But the informal learning gained through experiences like delivering sessions, working with other coaches, and encountering different cultures and coaching environments is arguably more important to our education. Be patient and seek the best ways to learn and improve.
Inflexible Task Design
Like our overall approach, our task design should reflect our environment. Factors like the age, level, and experience of our players, how many contact hours we have with them, and the constraints of our coaching area will all influence the best way to deliver a session. Instead of simply copying sessions from elsewhere, we must be flexible, and account for this complexity in every task that we design.
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