Category Archives: Soccer Tactics

Can a parent-coach be a professional soccer coach?

224637_1070321326696_8617_n***Note on this blog*** I realize now after writing this that I have wanted to get this out for a while.  This is a bit more personal than my usual entries, but these ideas have been banging around my head for a while.  I would appreciate your feedback. ***

I have been coaching soccer for many years.  I, however, never played professional soccer or even college soccer.  In fact, I did not even play high school or club soccer (my town and school did not have it).  I am a trial lawyer.  What business do I have coaching soccer kids?  What business do I have being paid to coach soccer teams?

I get this some time.  I am paid to coach so, in coaching speak, would be considered a “professional” coach — not to confuse that with a coach for a professional team.  Here are a few questions I would ask as a paying parent:

1.  What constitutes a professional coach?

2.  Why would I want a coach who did not play professional or college level soccer?

3.  If Clint can do it, why can’t I? (a lot of people assume if they see a “parent-coach” coaching they should be able to as well or that they are qualified too)

I.  A Professional Coach

I guess you could define a “professional coach” a couple of ways.  Most people I ask assume it means (1) they are paid to coach, (2) it is their full-time job, (3) both (1) and (2), or (4) a former professional player (or near professional player) coaching.  While I can see value in all the choices, I do not think any of them does service to the term “professional coach.”

To me, to be a professional is more about how you do your job than either your background or how your are employed.  A “professional coach” is “professional” because he or she treats the coaching job as a professional.  How so?

1.  Coaching education.  Your coach is professional if they are constantly educating themselves in the art of coaching.  This means staying current with coaching courses, badges, and engaging in coaching dialogues with other coaching professionals.  Courses and licenses are great assets to network, collaborate, and learn.  They are offered through U.S. Soccer Federation (http://www.ussoccer.com/coaching-education/licenses) and National Soccer Coaches Association of America (http://www.nscaa.com/) among other sources.    It means the coach immerses herself in material that will help her be a better coach.  Books, magazines, etc.  In law and medicine, two “professional” occupations, we regard working in either field as “practicing law” or “practicing medicine.”  There is a reason for that.  It is because to be a professional in those fields requires upkeep.  The same, to me, is true in coaching youth soccer.  A “professional” coach is an educated one.

2.  Preparation.  A professional prepares before a session, before a season, before a game.  If your coach is treating the job as a professional, she will have planned her sessions ahead of time — for the week, for the month, and for the season.  She will use that planning to prepare herself on how to communicate the ideas for the day, week, month, and season to her team.  She will not “wing it.”  A professional coach is a prepared one.

3.  Communication.  A professional learns how to communicate ideas.  I love the quote that the biggest illusion about communication is that it has taken place.  To me, the biggest challenge for soccer coaches, especially former players who do not have children, is how to communicate ideas to youth players in a manner that they understand the concept. Do not assume because you told the kids some complicated soccer expressions and they nodded their heads that they understood.IMG_0506

Proper communication does not mean blaming the kids or team because “they don’t get it.”  It means changing your concept of how to use words to communicate ideas. It means seeking out phrases and word choices, by trial and error and preparation, that resonate with your team (whatever their age or sex).  If coaches do not work on phraseology, and think about it in their preparation, to me, they are not professional coaches.

Again, in the practice of law, we study and consider the use of words.  What words can we use to communicate a certain idea?  We consult psychologists, consultants, and the like, to assist us.  Many may not know this, but Dr. Phil got his start by being a jury consultant for Oprah Winfrey’s beef trial in Amarillo.  He is an expert in communication.  Soccer is no different.

Just because you played soccer does not mean you know what words to use to convey your knowledge to a 10-year-old girl.  A professional coach spends time considering that.  Some examples:  instead of the vague coaching expression “spread out” try “where can you find space?” or “how can you make the field bigger?”  To help a center midfield player who doesn’t know where to go — try “move to the ball” (since, for youth, most of them will runaway from the ball and turn into a forward).  This will be discussed in a separate blog.

4.  Studying the game.  A professional coach studies the game.  He watches soccer and is aware of current trends in the game.  This is helpful for a lot of reasons but one big one:  if you want to inspire your players in a love of the game, incorporate professional games into your sessions.  Encourage the players to watch soccer.  Talk to them in breaks about saves made, goals scored, in matches that are televised.  Talk to them about your local professional team and encourage them to support the team.  See if you can incorporate a moment from a match they know about in your session.  Help make them lovers of the game.  Does your coach do that?  You want your kids to improve – they need passion and love for the game.

5.  Inspire/Motivate.  Along with the ideas above, a professional coach inspires players and motivates them to do improve.  Objective feedback is critical — it cannot always be positive — but at a young age it needs to be around 70/30 (70% positive, 30% critical).  Motivate and inspire them to do better.  A professional is enthusiastic about her job.

6.  Teacher.  A professional soccer coach is a teacher.  Combining all of the above with the most important below, you have to teach to coach youth soccer.  If you think that you are just a coach — then you are not a professional soccer coach.  If you think youth soccer “coaching” is about game management, you are wrong.  It is about teaching.  Teaching the concepts of the game.  Teaching techniques on how to touch a ball.  A teacher tells why you are setting an offside line, not just to do it.  A teacher tells why we generally play the direction we are facing, not just to do it.  Why.  Why.  Why.  If you are not interesting helping with the “why” because you only want to “coach,” to me, you are not a “professional coach.”  You are a remote-control coach.

7.  Pays attention!!!  I saved this for last because I think, of all the items listed, this is the most important.  A professional coach pays attention to his players.  He is constantly evaluating each one — looking to identify weakness and strengths so that he can build exercises that overcome the former and improve the latter.  A professional coach needs to be a “careful observer.”

***A note on humility*** Many people confuse confidence for arrogance.  I am totally fine with a confident coach.   I think it helps to inspire and motivate.  An arrogant coach, on the other hand, has a hard time being a “professional” because it takes humility to be 1-7 above.  It takes humility to educate yourself because you have to admit you do not know everything.  It takes humility to get badges because you are faced with failure and criticism (nothing like watching yourself coaching on video and listening to criticism from your colleagues and superiors in front of everyone!).  It takes humility to prepare because you have to acknowledge you need it.  It takes humility to work on your phraseology because you have to acknowledge you need help communicating.  It takes humility to teach “why” because you may not know the answer.  It takes humility to inspire and motivate because you are lifting others, not yourself.  It takes humility to pay attention because you have to accept that they deserve it. To me, humility is a defining characteristic of a professional coach.  Give me a confident but humble coach and we have the makings of a true professional.

I look back at my coaching past and have had the privilege of training some of the most advanced players in our area and even our state.  None of these kids, by the way, had any experience playing soccer.  Our town did not have a youth soccer club.  We all lived North of town and, one year, made a team (2006).   Early on, my sessions were, by my standards now, not well-organized.  I lacked experience.  I never played.  I was not educated.  But here is why those horrible sessions worked — and those girls improved — and they stayed playing soccer:

1.  They happened.  We practiced a lot!

2.  I cared.  Probably too much.

3.  I educated myself — books, courses, conversations with other coaches.  I was constantly searching for information and help.  I was not afraid to ask for help and welcomed any perspective of advice that was offered.

4.  We had fun.  During all the experiences, good and bad, we had a good time.

5.  Most importantly, I paid attention to the girls.  I was willing to dedicate energy and focus to each of the girls.  This is different from showing up and running a practice.  It is more active.  I considered each players’ needs and tried, with some strange exercises, to help them improve.  It means, when you are preparing for your session and when you are at practice, you do not have your cell phone.  You are not talking to other trainers.  You give the players your full and careful attention.

Interestingly, for a group of girls in a town without a soccer club, they are now juniors and sophomores and freshmen.  They all still play.  I coached them for between four and five years.  Several will play college soccer.  There is still no club in our town.

I have been asked advice before on how to coach a team by someone who lacked experience.  I always say the same thing – just pay attention and you will be fine.

II.  A word about former players and professionals

I work in the soccer field and most of my colleagues are former players.  I think it is great.  They offer a wealth of experience that, when accessed, is invaluable.  They have been in thousands of training exercises and can recall, if they put the effort, ones that they really liked or helped them learn a difficult concept.

By their presence, they can inspire young players.  But, a prior playing career is no excuse for an apathetic approach to coaching.  In other words, just because a coach was a former “professional” player does not, in my mind, make them a “professional” coach. I have seen countless former professional players struggle mightily or organize a training session, to communicate ideas (sometimes great players don’t necessarily know how to communicate those ideas to youth players).  I have seen former national team players completely frightened by the prospect of coaching six-year olds in a soccer session.  Most importantly, I have observed former professional players violate the most important rule above — not giving the players their full attention.  There are not shortcuts to being a professional coach.  It takes effort, education, self-evaluation, humility, focus, and a willingness to adapt.

III. Parent-coach Trap

I work in a small club and my kids also play in the club.  While I coach teams that my kids are not on, I also coach my kids too.  In fact, I am always coaching.  Our family plays soccer all the time – in the back yard, on Sunday evenings with our adult team, in our living room.  It is part of our life.  Some people see my involvement and assume that they can do the same thing because they are a little league baseball coach or have coached a soccer team in the past (in recreation).  Please consider this: all of the above standards on professional coaching apply to you just as they do to the former professional.  If you are not willing to educate yourself, collaborate, prepare, work on your phraseology, study the game, and inspire and motive young players, teach (learn the whys of the game), study,  you are not a professional coach.

My experience is that, generally speaking, parent-coaches are biased towards their children.  Show me a parent coach, and 90% of the time their kid is the forward.  If you listen to them coach, 90% of the comments are directed to their kid.

At the same time, I obviously think you can be effective as a parent-coach.  If you qualify as a professional coach (as listed above – not whether or not you receive wages — that is not my definition) and you can set aside bias, you may be a great asset to a team your child is on because you are already invested in it.   It can also provide a great opportunity to connect with your child and spend time together.  In the long run, as a parent, soccer coaching is not worth it if disconnects your from your children.  So, being a round them in a soccer climate can be wonderful and strengthening.  As long as you are willing to share that focus and attention (and even love!) with the other players, it can be a positive.

Sebastian Giraldo – The Often Overlooked Role of the Trainer as Teacher, Part I.

The following is part of a 3 part series from Sebastian Giraldo regarding the importance of Teaching when you train or coach.  I love this piece by Sebastian and it is special to soccerthought.com.  As Sebastian explains, coaches and trainers associated with youth soccer need to look at themselves more as a teacher than as a coach.  Here is his article:  

It was one of those typical nights for me after a long day filled with company administrative work and training that I stumbled across my next blog idea. I was deeply immersed in the black hole process of trying to select a show from the never ending choices provided by Netflix. I eventually came across the 2011 award winning documentary Buck about Buck Brannaman, the horseman who went on to inspire and consult on the Hollywood film The Horse Whisperer. I will say that my adventurous attitude in regards to Netflix has resulted in finding some cinematic gems and this was no exception (please be aware that sometimes on Netflix you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your cinematic prince).

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I was immediately captivated by the teaching abilities of Buck and his relationship with horses (ironically, he speaks very little to the horses and for sure never whispers). It was like nothing I had ever witnessed before and an obvious example of a man that has dedicated his life to perfecting his craft. Since I am relentlessly searching for research and ideas that are applicable to soccer training, I could not ignore the parallels that exist between Buck and the future of soccer training in the U.S. There are a lot of interesting topics being explored in soccer development, some more exciting than the next. Often times, the less sexy topics get ignored. In this trend to revolutionize soccer development, we often overlook or undervalue one of the key components of soccer development. The trainer/coach. The trainer might be the most essential component of player development and yet our soccer programs teach very little about how to make us better, more effective teachers. This is currently changing but we need to understand that we can rapidly improve the effectiveness of trainers by teaching and informing them on methods to improve teaching. At GEF, our trainer development program is primarily focused on teaching our trainers to become better teachers. At the core of this program is the abundance of information we have accumulated from education research.

Buck is not the originator of his teaching philosophy, but is commonly credited with bringing the idea of natural horsemanship into the mainstream and vastly improving handling techniques. The field of natural horsemanship is predicated on the idea that training should occur through the horse’s nature and instinct. Essentially using an understanding of how horses think and communicate to train the horses to accept humans and work confidently and responsively to them. This should sound eerily familiar to trainers as this is similar to the teaching philosophy being applied by U.S. soccer. The better we understand how children behave and think during their different development stages, the more appropriately and effectively we can train them. Of course, this requires a deep understanding of psycho-social, physical, and cognitive development. All fields where there is more specific sport research popping up daily. This blog is dedicated to highlighting the importance of the trainer as a teacher. Specifically, I will examine how education research can help us improve as trainers right now.

 Buck and How He Relates to Soccer Training

Throughout the film, Buck displays several characteristics and attitudes that perfectly align with those of a successful, effective teacher. I will display here a shortened version of my notes that I jotted down while watching the film so as not to nuisance those who do not love horses (note: everyone should love horses J).

My personal notes on Buck:

  • had extremely abusive childhood and credits this as part of the reason he has deep reserve of empathy; lives by “you can be the change” philosophy
  • started working with horses at 12 and quickly identified that several techniques used were ineffective
  • believes that biggest problem is that people do not understand horses
  • most horse trainers do not control their own emotions
  • Buck believes “an average person could be extraordinary at this”

There are noteworthy parallels between horse and soccer training that are applicable to our conversation about trainers as teachers. Here are a couple of observations that will set up our discussion about teacher research and soccer training:

 1. You can be the change. Just because you were taught one way does not mean that you must teach that way. Change for the better, be flexible, and learn from experiences. Buck’s experiences helped him understand that horses have different needs and thus teaching must be flexible and varied.

2. We must accept that a lot of techniques we use in soccer training do not work (or are not as effective as desired). Don’t be scared to try new things. You might fail, you might not.

3. We do not properly understand our players. Players should be treated as individuals and targeted differently to maximize their learning.

4. We often lose control of our emotions (I am guilty of this). When we lose control of our emotions we lose control of the learning environment.

5. An average person can become an extraordinary soccer trainer. Lots of people disagree with me on this point but I tend to agree with Buck here. While I do consider the idea that extraordinary educators might have some innate ability for teaching, I truly believe that with desire, appropriate education on content and pedagogy, that a large group of people can become extraordinary soccer trainers.

(A link if you are curious about what Buck does http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK9Ix5mfDkw)

Part II Next Week!  Thanks Sebastian.

Sebastian Giraldo: Developing Creativity in Youth Soccer Players: Three Concepts from Research

“I do everything through instinct, I play like a child … I think about myself on a small field, or in the street, I see myself with the ball in the same way as I am now. I have not changed at all. You must remember soccer is a game to have fun and you play for that. I don’t plan or anticipate my play.”- Lionel Messi

The concept of fostering creativity in youth players is one of the hot topics in soccer development research (and something I am very passionate about).  This is not surprising considering we always hear coaches/trainers talking about the importance of having creative players that can break down a game or hear parents/spectators go crazy after a player demonstrates a flash of on-field brilliance. Soccer is an open skill sport that requires rapid, constant decision-making and one that values creativity (just look at who we consider to be the world’s best: Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi).

There is an abundance of information (both academic and non-academic) on developing creativity in soccer players. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on three main concepts that I feel are important to comprehend in order to be more in tune with the notion of developing creative players.

1. Commonly misunderstood ideas regarding creativity

Let us first debunk the idea that soccer programs can take a player and make them creative. As a soccer professional, I hear daily claims about how Superstar Soccer (fictional program of course) can make your child a creative player with proper training. This rhetoric is incorrect and very misleading to the general soccer audience. Players are individuals and every individual is going to play the game differently. We must accept that some players will be amazingly creative players and others will not. Does this mean that some players will not be creative? Absolutely not. Just like other soccer competencies, players will fall on a spectrum of creativity, some very creative and others not very creative at all. If someone had actually identified and mastered how to constantly produce creative players, that person would be a billionaire and a god in the soccer world (note: It is hard to believe, but there are even some Brazilian players who are not very creative). However, through research, we have come to understand certain parameters that can foster creativity in players. This is important: we can foster creativity in players but we cannot create it. That is a fundamental difference and one that should not be overlooked.

In soccer, as in research, we run into the common problem of how to define creativity. Let us agree to not lose sleep over this. Studies in creativity are multi-disciplinary. Information and theories we have regarding creativity intersect many fields including behavioral, cognitive, developmental, economic, personality, evolutionary, and social perspectives (for the sake of brevity, I only provided a few). This means that creativity is complex and even experts have a difficult time staying updated on current trends. What we can take from these disciplines is ideas and input on how to foster creativity in soccer players. I view creativity in soccer not too differently than I view creativity within our soccer organization. Creativity for me is the ability to adapt and provide innovative solutions to newly emergent problems. On a soccer field, this translates to a player’s ability to find solutions to the multitude of problems presented throughout the game. We label players creative if in this circumstance they are able to present an unexpected, innovative solution to the problem. Let us use this definition for creativity in soccer players so we have a mutual baseline for our conversation (note: it is completely acceptable and valid to have another definition for creativity in soccer players).

2.  Environment is probably the most important key to developing and fostering creativity 

So this leads us to the most important concept in developing creativity in youth soccer players. ENVIRONMENT ENVIROMENT ENVIRONMENT. We need to completely step away from the authoritative, autocratic style of teaching the game. U.S. Soccer is well on its way to establishing a comprehensive Socratic, guided-discovery approach to teaching the game. Why such a drastic change in the way we teach the game? Because we want to make our youth players decision makers. Research is clear in that elite players in comparison to non-elite players have the ability to make quicker, more successful decisions on the field. We cannot develop these types of players if we are spoon feeding them what they can and cannot do on the field. One of the beauties of the game is that there are really no right or wrong decisions on the field. There are some decisions that in given situations might be better than others, but when you get down to it there is no right or wrong decisions on the field. An example that we like to use at GEF is the idea of playing a pass across the mouth of your own goal.  The most common instruction from coaches/trainers at the youth level is to tell their player not to play that pass because it is dangerous and you can get potentially scored on. Our perspective at GEF is that players must play that pass in order to understand situationally when that is an appropriate pass. This goes back to the earlier point that there is not really a right and wrong decision here. Rather in some situations, it is perfectly acceptable to play a pass in front of goal and in other situations it is not. However, we must understand that the simple command of telling players not to play that pass at the youth level can have significant impact on their ability to play the game openly and creatively. Instead of telling players what they should do, as soccer professionals, we should be asking why they made their decision and what other possible decisions could have been made. Simply, force players to think critically about their decisions. The elite trainers know how to ask the right questions to shape a better understanding of the game for the player.

This approach to teaching the game is not novel and has been used in many contexts for several years (most notably in higher education). There is a lot of learning theory that pervades this school of teaching soccer. We want the training and playing field to be a positive environment where players are nurtured, challenged, guided, and most importantly forced to make decisions. This might sound simple but in the face of club pressure and winning, these simple ideas are often sacrificed. This is why we need to spread knowledge on development research so the general soccer audience understands that more immediate goals that might seem important in the short-term like winning can actually inhibit the development of elite players. Creative players do not just happen magically, they are a product of the environment in which they play and train.

3. The role of play in creativity development

This leads to probably the most enlightening discovery of my doctoral education (thanks to my dear friend Dr. Matthew Bowers-University of Texas Austin). The idea of play and how it can be the missing link to producing creative, elite soccer players in the United States. This ties in directly to the importance of environment discussed in the previous section. Play is commonly defined as “activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially for children” (Merriam-Webster).  This definition itself devalues the importance play can have on human development by associating it solely with fun and leisure (and also fails to capture the importance of play for adults). In reality, we have come to understood that play can have vast benefits in human development. Play has been linked to providing benefits in many different areas of a human’s life such as happiness, abstract thinking and problem solving, self-confidence, cooperation/sharing, conflict resolution, motor skills, concentration/focus, communication skills, and learning and knowledge acquisition (I could have continued with the benefits but I think we get the point).  Repeat after me: while we play, we learn. When learning is fun, there are myriad benefits gained for the individual.

Let us think of soccer as a game (how we saw it as kids), free of the club pressures of winning, management training etc. Remember how free we felt playing the game in the streets or in our backyard. There was little to no pressure from the traditional form of a yelling coach or parent and we explored certain skills, failed and tried again. There was no person telling us what was right or wrong, rather we were exploring and learning through our own initiative. No one was telling us the rules or dictating parameters so our minds were free to try whatever we wanted. The game itself became a learning system. Now compare that experience to the rigid, structured format of U.S. youth soccer. Are players told what to do? Are they allowed to fail? How many times are they allowed to fail before there is a consequence? Who is guiding the exploration? Just focusing on these few questions, we realize that youth soccer is vastly different than the unstructured, free play that occurs in the backyard. These differences are probably a good starting point for understanding why American developed players are so different compared to other players around the world. To be fair, the dichotomy I presented between the unstructured and structured setting is probably a bit exaggerated as there are also pressures in playing pick up and backyard soccer (e.g., peer pressure). But even in the most intense of pick up settings, creativity is valued and celebrated.

All over the world players primarily learn the game at the youth levels through unstructured play. Pick up games on the street, playing on a neighborhood dirt field, playing 1 vs. 1 against a sibling. What does this kind of play allow? It affords players the ability to explore through their own means. Discover what works and what does not. Explore what kind of player they are. Fail, fail, fail, and then try again. This is an environment that is conducive to producing players that are problem solvers. Remember how we defined creativity earlier. Creativity in soccer is the ability to adapt and solve newly emergent problems. The question is are we producing players in the U.S. that have been afforded the opportunity to develop as problem solvers? I would generally say that the answer to this is no. And one of the main reasons is that we do not appropriately value unstructured play as a major component of development. Play theory has obvious implications for soccer development that need to be understood and explored more thoroughly by soccer professionals. We must understand why there are changes being made to the way soccer is taught and not simply be content with conforming to the changes.

Creativity is a fascinating subject both within soccer and in our daily existence. I hope my thoughts generate discussion and encourage individuals to examine how we can improve our soccer development. I would like to leave a link to The Institute of Play which is leading the way in finding novel applications to using play and games to further learning in many different sectors. Remember that soccer is a game and inherently a learning  system. Let the kids play!!!!

http://www.instituteofplay.org

Sebastian Giraldo

Co-Owner Giraldo Elite Futbol

Giraldoelitefutbolc.om

Email: giraldoelitefutbol@gmail.com

Lessons from National D Course

US Youth SoccerI recently finished the National D Course.  As the instructors noted, the course material has changed in recent years.  Each license is progressively more difficult to obtain than in the past.  I received my “E” license in 2008 so I was unfamiliar with the “E” buildup to this course.  Several of the members of the class were recent graduates of the new “E” license and there seemed to be some transition.  Last spring, I completed the National Youth License.  In all, I have enjoyed each course and find that the participants are, generally speaking, engaging and interested in improvement.  Also, it is nice to be in courses with people as tilted on soccer as I am.  So, to the D…

The D course description says “The course combines field and classroom instruction relevant for coaches working with 13 and older players. This is the most comprehensive course offered and is preparatory for national licensing.”  Having completed the National Youth License in the last 12 months, there was a sharp difference in the material and focus of the two courses.  The National D is focused on 11 a side soccer.  Everything that is being done is, the sessions that are requested, represent a tighter blend of tactical with technical work.  To me, the NYL focused more on the technical (even though there needs to be some practical applications even then).  In any event, as a trainer, the D emphasizes an important principle:  your session plan should lead up to expanded small-sided game that “looks like soccer.”  Whatever portion of the game your are emphasizing needs to be done in a manner that, in the end, looks like a soccer match (7v7 on a shortened field or whatever you have).  This is a valuable nugget I walked away from the class with.  (It is also true for U10 sessions, it just seems to me that in the older kid sessions, the blend between technical and tactical is different — truth be told, that blend, in my opinion, should not necessarily be based on age but on the ability (mental and physical) of the players in your session).

For example, if you are working on zonal defending, your expanded small-sided activity should be numbers up for the defenders — and your defensive line should look like how it is played.  If it is 4 in the back, it should be 4 in the back in the expanded small-sided game.  If you are working on overlapping runs, you should structure your expanded small-sided game where there are opportunities to run from a position that looks like your left or right back.  The best way I saw this in the course was through the instructor-lead sessions, as well as the sessions of some of the participants.  If you are working on building up from the back, your expanded small-sided game should have all the parts you would use to build up in a match (keeper, back 4, midfield, etc.) I absolutely loved being a part of the instructor led sessions (high quality) as well as a bunch of 12 minute sessions with the participants.  There is so much to learn from other people in this game.

The course continues the concept of “guided discovery” as a teaching device.  This is a focus in all the courses and is a wonderful teaching tool.  Rather than micro-manage our teams, we need to guide them with questions and allow them to solve problems.  For example, if your fullback is having a hard time seeing when to overlap, you might ask the player: “Given the pressure on the outside mid, where can you go to alleviate the pressure on the outside mid? (easier question) or “….., what can you do to alleviate pressure on the outside mid?”  Or, even easier, “can you see how you can improve numbers on offense in the wide channel to assist the winger in attacking?”  There are lots of ways to ask, the main idea is to do it in the flow of the session and at a level that your players can understand.    If you have to freeze the session, be quick, ask the question or demo the point, and get out.  Knowing how to ask the right question requires preparation.  Trainers and coaches should take time to prepare questions as they do small-sided games.

The D has very little classroom work.  That is good and bad for participants.  For participants enjoying practical experience, it is a wonderful course.  And tiring.  Participants will have opportunities to be involved in all the practical sessions.  I find that it is best to volunteer as much as possible — it is a good way to understand the concepts and ideas that instructors are using in their sessions as well as the other participants.  While there will be some extremely talented players in your courses, do not be intimidated.  Participate.  I have found that the players fresh from college or professional soccer still enjoy the game and playing it during the course.  And, I have yet to see a “great” player-participant in the course be anything other than encouraging to coaches who aren’t at their level.  Plus, you get to play soccer! (And, if you are like me, I have been running sessions since 2006, it is nice to be a participant of the session rather than the coach!)   There is real value in being a “player” to understand what a session looks like from a player’s perspective — is it too confusing, too hard to succeed, too easy???  No better way to answer those questions than being in the sessions!

The D is a wonderful course for anyone interested in coaching soccer.  The course material is great, the practical components of the session are wonderful, and the opportunity to meet other great people in soccer, learn from them, share ideas, is priceless!