Obtaining a coaching license is a great way to learn and progress on your coaching journey. But do we place too much emphasis on formal coaching qualifications? And how important are informal learning opportunities? In this Q+A, we consider the role of formal soccer coaching courses, explain how to get the most from them, and discuss the value of informal learning experiences.

In This Article

Do Coaching License Levels Matter?

What are the different soccer coaching licenses, and is there much difference between them? “I don’t think they’re as important as we previously might have thought,” says James Coutts, Coaching Advisor at PDP. “They certainly add value to you as a coach, but an A Licence coach isn’t necessarily better than a C Licence coach. As a coach educator at my club, I generally care less about the licenses than I do about seeing them coach.”

“I also think there are lots of great opportunities to do Master’s degrees in sports coaching and in other areas related to sports science,” adds PDP Co-Founder James Vaughan. “But if you want to be a professional soccer coach, it’s about getting experiences; how much time will you get on the grass? Will you have the opportunity to experience different coaching approaches? Those informal environments that go alongside them are really important.”

What Are the Benefits of Obtaining a Soccer Coaching License?

Many people find that the best parts of soccer coaching courses are the connections they make while doing them. “I love the connection with other coaches, getting little snippets from them and asking them questions,” says Coutts. “You can leave with so much more in your coaching armory. And those connections might not just mean friendships later in life, but also coaching ideas, session ideas, and even jobs.”

There’s a lot to be said for networking and then going and observing other coaches,” says PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright, reflecting on how beginner coaches can improve at coaching soccer. “Getting yourself alongside some mentors and really trying to immerse yourself in the world of soccer can be invaluable. Reflecting on doing my A License, the people I met made a huge impact.”

How Can I Make the Most of Soccer Coaching Courses?

“Open-mindedness, a desire to learn, and an ability to take on feedback are key,” says Wright. “It doesn’t matter what the course is, there’s always something to learn.” 

What experience do you need to be a soccer coach? Research has found that the best elite-level coaches are constantly learning about new developments in the fields of coaching and sports science; that constant drive to improve is key to becoming a better coach, no matter what level we’re working at. 

And soccer coaching courses provide an excellent opportunity to encounter new ideas and learn from others. “A lot of the benefit comes from observation,” says Vaughan. “It’s a cornerstone of the scientific method. So having that opportunity to observe in different environments is absolutely crucial.”

Are All Coaching License Courses the Same?

“It can be variable, based on which coach developers are leading the course,” says Wright. “If you get someone who’s good at guiding you and asking you the tough questions, that can be enormously valuable in terms of self-reflection.”

“Coach educators play a huge part,” adds Coutts. “I’ve found the best ones don’t push their views or ideas — after all, it isn’t about them — but are there to educate based on whatever license you’re doing. Being told ‘this is how you coach, this is what you do’, as if it’s an exact science, can turn people off of doing courses.”

How Can Informal Learning Help Me to Become A Better Coach?

A coaching license course can be a valuable source of education, but informal learning is arguably even more important. “I use the 90-10 rule,” says PDP Technical Advisor Dan Wright. “The formal qualifications are important, but they’re probably only 10 percent. The informal learning, which probably isn’t taught on a course, is really crucial.”

Dave Wright agrees: “that’s why PDP was formed — to bridge that gap between formal and informal education, encourage constant learning, and provide different types of content for coaches to enjoy and be challenged by”.

“The real learning often happens when you’re doing it on the grass; when you’re out there coaching week-to-week with real players, in real environments, and you’re trying things.”

In addition to formal soccer coaching courses, we can explore the wealth of expert content available online, encompassing everything from session plans to the latest research reviews; ask fellow coaches to observe our practices and provide feedback; join communities of like-minded coaches; and seek out supplementary courses delivered by renowned coach educators.

“You have to look at developing your own knowledge, in terms of learning and teaching, but also in terms of the game itself,” Dave Wright concludes. “And you must be patient in seeking this information; it’s not going to be one book, one webinar, or one article. That real desire to learn and constantly look around for the good content essential to developing yourself as a coach.”

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