Soccer coaching can be very demanding of your time, whether you’re doing it professionally or as a volunteer — and this often makes it hard to strike a good work-life balance. In this Q&A, we discuss how to manage your time effectively, still provide the best possible experience for your players, and avoid coaching burnout.

In This Article

What Are Some of the Difficulties Faced By Coaches?

“For me, coaches are never in it for the money,” says PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “Even at a high-performance level, coaching can be a relentless pursuit where very few people are making a quality living. The industry is probably undervalued globally, and there are some challenges around that.

“Coaches will always be asked to do more, whether they’re working in a professional academy or volunteering at their local club and just helping a bunch of kids to have a great experience. So I think we should acknowledge that most coaches out there have a lot of expectations placed on them and are working really hard to do their best for the players.”

How Can We Create Supportive Environments Within Our Clubs?

“This is something that I’m passionate about,” says James Coutts, Coaching Advisor at PDP and Technical Director at Logan FC in Queensland. “When I first went into my club, I really looked at the coaching landscape and the coaches we had. I learned about their football knowledge and understanding, their history and background — the things that underpinned their coaching — but also about their work lives and families.

“We did coach reviews and coaching plans, and discussed things like preparation time, how many kids they had, how long it took them to get to training and whether they came straight from work. I think it’s our job as Technical Directors, or as clubs, to really understand our coaches and give them the best possible support, so that they can deliver the best possible program on the grass.”

How Can a Coach Effectively Manage Their Time?

Why is time management important in coaching? Because the demands are so diverse, and it’s easy to get sucked into doing work beyond your remit. “If there are certain aspects of the role that you can delegate away, that can really take a load off,” advises Coutts, who notes that many coaches find themselves doing admin, kit-washing, and other non-coaching jobs within their clubs. “That’s an art of coaching: delegation and management. If you can get that support and focus mainly on working with the children, you’re setting yourself up for a much better outcome.”

“Some clubs may have a welfare officer, or there may be other channels you can go down to ask for help,” adds Wright. “Many clubs rely on those volunteer administrators to do so many things, whether that’s organizing kit and getting new balls, or making sure that everybody knows where the games are; there are lots of logistical roles that hopefully won’t fall solely on the coach.”

What Is the Key to Striking a Good Work-Life Balance?

Time management skills, and making time for yourself, are key to maintaining a good work-life balance and avoiding burnout as a coach. “The best operators are the ones who make time for themselves,” says Wright. “They’re making time to look after their health and their fitness, take a few minutes in the day for themselves, and have some kind of routine to ensure that they’re not always the last on their list of priorities.”

“Self-care is a huge one,” agrees Coutts. “Not just in coaching but in life; making sure that you’re the best possible version of yourself to then go and deliver what you can. And you should never be afraid to ask for help.”

How Can I Prepare When I’m Short on Time?

One of the best strategies for time management is to prepare a number of session plans to use when your time is limited. “That way, if you can’t plan your session for whatever reason and you get to training ten minutes before it’s due to start, you can still go out and deliver a good session,” says Coutts. “One that’s aligned with your coaching methodology, team model, and your football principles.

“The danger is getting to training and just putting on your ‘go-to’ session that perhaps the players don’t like as much — and, if that happens, it’s worth looking at what you can change. Copying ideas, learning, and looking for inspiration from other coaches is something I’d highly recommend. Even PDP’s Session Plan Library; I’ll often steal the design but modify it to suit the context of my players.

“There’s nothing wrong with seeking inspiration online; go and talk to other coaches and be inspired by them, because that really opens your mind and gives you that buzz again.”

“At PDP, we’ve also dipped into the online course space to offer accessible resources to time-poor coaches,” adds Wright. “Whether it’s a fundamentals course or an introduction to soccer coaching, we hope to guide coaches in their own time, enabling them to better help their players.

“Our philosophy is ‘Don’t copy and paste, but copy and adapt’. Seek inspiration and then adapt it to the context. It’s a message we’ve always tried to promote.”

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