Good communication – the key to success in youth soccer
It’s impossible to over emphasise the importance of good communication for youth soccer coaches.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about the game, how much you care about your players and how much time you put in to make it all come together…if you don’t communicate effectively with your players and their parents you’re going to have problems.
Whether it’s at half-time, at coaching sessions or at a pre-season meeting with parents, good communication skills are vital to your success.
The pre-season meeting
This is a golden opportunity to be proactive with parents that should never be missed.
By outlining your expectations and coaching methods before the season starts you’re painting a clear picture about how you plan to handle the season.
When parents hear from you that you’re committed to skill development over winning and that you intend to give equal playing time to all players, regardless of ability, you leave no room for petty squabbles over how much playing time their children receive when the season begins.
It’s just as important to discuss and agree how you expect your parents and players to behave during coaching sessions and at matches. Some clubs ask both parents and players to sign a copy of their codes of conduct. Whether you go that far is up to you but I would strongly recommend that you hand out hard copies of your discipline code. And don’t forget to include what sanctions will be taken against offenders.
An example of a pre-season meeting agenda
- Introduction – tell parents who you are, what your coaching background is (if you have one), and how you got involved coaching the team. Make this brief, but remember that parents appreciate knowing a bit about who will be coaching their sons and daughters.
- Your coaching philosophy – let parents know your approach to coaching, including your philosophy in terms of providing instruction, giving players equal playing time, and so on. Tell them, briefly, why this is your philosophy and how it benefits the kids. Let everyone be in no doubt that while we all want to win; it is not the main objective. The main objective is the kids having fun while developing. Thus, we teach a style of play that works long term – put the ball on the ground and using skill to work the ball into the opponents penalty box rather than just big kicks and muscle. You might also want to explain that you need your players to make their own decisions so you don’t want to hear parents shouting instructions from the sidelines.
- The inherent risks – soccer has some inherent risks you need to make parents aware of. You should also let them know you have a plan in place to respond to injuries and find out from parents any medical conditions their children have, as well as how the parents can be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Basic expectations – state your expectations of players and parents, in a positive fashion, and let parents know what they and their children can expect of you as a coach.
- The practice schedule – include the day, date, time, and place of the first practice, and note the rest of the practice schedule, if you know it at this time.
- The fixture list – if you know the fixtures, hand out copies. If not, let parents know when they can expect to receive the schedule.
- Other information – tell your parents if you have some special event planned or need volunteers to help in various ways. You might also wish to discuss travel arrangements to away matches, what equipment the players need and what they need to bring to matches.
- Your contact information – let parents know how and when they can contact you.