Success Secret #1: Get the Rule Book
Success Secret #2: Get the league practice and game schedules
Success Secret #3: Have a Parent Meeting
Get the Rule Book: Even if you're a fan of the game and believe you know and understand it, get the rule book from the league when you accept a coaching position. Youth sports often have different rules than High School, College, or Pro leagues. The rules will change by age group and division. Knowing how long the game periods last, how many timeouts you have (if any), and any mandatory playing time rules before the season begins will allow you to plan properly for your games.
*** Bonus Tip: Set your player rotation before you go to the game. Setting it up ahead of time allows you to plan your lineup, making sure that you meet all mandatory playing time rules. It also allows you to focus more on the game instead of wondering if Johnny or Susie has all of their time in.
Get the league practice and game schedules: You may have some latitude in scheduling practices but there will be scheduled times when you are scheduled to practice at the field. You often have to ask for the practice schedule. It is up to you, your team, and the parents if you want to have practices over and above the practices scheduled by the league. If you do, you're usually on your own to find an open field.
Have a Parent/Player Meeting before the season starts: Parent meetings are the most important step you can take to have a successful season. Establishing the rules and behavior expectations prior to the first practice of the season is essential. This is the time when you review team rules, pass our practice and game schedules, solicit volunteers, and ask the parent if there is anything special you need to know about their kids - Attention Deficit Disorder; Asthma; Needs Glasses; Known Allergies; etc. Trust me, you'll save yourself and your players a lot of grief if you find out the special circumstances ahead of time.
Other things to discuss:
Recruit Volunteers for the following positions:
1. Team Mom or Dad - the person who coordinates collections on fundraisers, concession stand and game day snack assignments, picture day, and other miscellaneous administrative type duties
2. Score/Stats Keepers - people who may not want to help coach but who come to the games can keep score and maintain stats for you in the stands
3. Coaching Assistants - you generally need at least one assistant, but if you can get a couple, I'd recommend it. Having extra coaches means help with running great practices and games
Discuss your objectives for the season. For example:
1. Develop the skills required to play the game
2. Have fun
3. Develop teamwork and sportsmanship
4. Give positive reinforcement based on effort rather than results
Describe your expectations of the parents. For example:
1. Be on time for practices and games
2. Volunteer when your schedule allows
3. Get involved and help your child work on their skills at home
4. Encourage good sportsmanship. Be an example by showing positive support for all players, coaches, and officials at every game and practice. Please cheer for your child during games, but try to keep from yelling instructions to them. Much of the fun is lost if their Mom or Dad is always yelling instructions.
5. Let the coach know if you or your child has any issues or concerns as soon as they arise. Problems can usually be fixed very easily if I know about them.*** Bonus Tip:
Hold your Parent/Player Meeting prior to the first practice, and away from the field. I like to use my local public library, which has meeting rooms that are free or very inexpensive to use. Having the meeting in this type of setting will allow you to hold your parent and player attention easier than competing with soccer balls, goals, and whatever else may be going on.
Implementing the secrets listed above will almost certainly assure you a successful season.
Ric Reeder is the co-author of First Time Coach ? Soccer, First Time Coach ? Basketball, and First Time Coach ? Baseball. Ric coached youth soccer for eight years at the recreation and competitive levels, and is a former Director of Coaching for Madison United Soccer Association in Richmond, KY. He also coached basketball at three different levels: youth, AAU, and middle school, and coached baseball in the local Little League. Please visit http://firsttimecoach.com for more information on successfully coaching youth sports for the first time.
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