What children want from their soccer coach

Everyone involved in soccer coaching needs to understand what children want from their ‘ideal’ soccer coach.

Most importantly, it is important to treat children with respect and not as if they were objects. They like you to listen and take notice of their feelings and opinions.

A recent series of interviews with 140 young athletes in different sports gives an idea of those aspects of coaching which young athletes think are important. The opinions, which were given, may change according to sex, age, and sport; these are just the general comments.

Knowledge. Coaches should know their sport well and most children prefer coaches who have participated in the sport. It provides them with credibility.

Personality. Children like coaches who are friendly, happy, patient, understanding and have a sense of humour.

Authority. Children like coaches to be firm but fair, and while boys, particularly, like to be worked hard they don’t like to be shouted at.

Taking personal interest. As they get older and more able, many young athletes like coaches to take an interest in the things they do besides sport.

Reaction to performance. When they do well, children like the coach to say “Well done” but they don’t like them to “go over the top.” (OTT) When they do poorly, they like to be given some encouragement and told what went wrong. They want to be told how to correct mistakes and not to be shouted at or ignored.

Encouragement. Most children, particularly in team sports, like to have the coach shout encouragement to them when they are competing.

Decision making. Few young children express a wish to have a say in the decisions which affect them; they expect coaches to coach and trust them to make the right decisions. As they get older and more experienced, they are more likely to want to be consulted. This may be the case with13+ children

Organisation. Children like coaches to be organised and present structured coaching sessions. They also like them to take responsibility for seeing that they are in the right place at the right time

Instruction and feedback. Children do like to be shown what to do, how to do it and to have mistakes corrected. In short: teach them!

DO:

  • Be aware of the effect you have upon growing children.
  • Find out what the kids expect to get out of sport with you.
  • Be firm, fair and organised.
  • Give credit where it is due and give help where it is needed.
  • Be consistent.
  • Provide learning experiences: teach.
  • Make practice and competition fun; it needn’t be silly.
  • Set challenging goals tailored to the individual.
  • Recognise the value of friendships between children.
  • Show your approval whenever you can.
  • Listen to the children
  • Relax and enjoy yourself with the kids.
  • Emphasise learning skill, not competing.
  • Reward children for effort.
  • Help children over the realisation that they might not have the ability of others.
  • Build confidence by being positive.
  • Reduce competitive expectations.
  • Help those who do not want to compete.
  • Tell children about how outcomes are affected by things other than their own ability.
  • Remember that mistakes are part of learning.

DON’T:

  • Put kids down for not doing as well as you wanted.
  • Shout and humiliate them.
  • Ignore them when they need some support.
  • Blind them with science they don’t need.
  • Overdo the praise; they won’t believe you.