Coaching Youth Sports

So I have just made a big leap from 0 to 200 mph. My kids’ soccer teams were in need of a new coach because there’s a shortage of volunteers in the program. They sent out a message to all parents asking if anyone would be willing to step up, and I, thinking a team needed a coach, said I might be interested.

Well as it turns out two teams were without any coaches and I somehow talked myself into volunteering to coach two teams simultaneously this coming season. I then proceeded to trick my older brother into being my assistant coach for both teams as well.

So here I go not just jumping, but leaping tandem into a whole new arena (coaching) that neither of us have done before. We both a have a lot of experience with the sport and are pretty gung hoe about it in general, but I am a little frightened I’m going to mess up and do a bad job.

It’s U9 and U8 rec soccer, so there is really not pressure to perform (outside of the parents who take it too seriously, I’m sure I’ll encounter). I just want to do good by the kids and help them learn.

So does anyone have experience with youth sports with some wisdom to impart on me as I take this leap? Pitfalls I should avoid? Counterintuitive strategies you’ve found that benefit the kids?


Wow! I’ve never coached a sport. Good luck!

Debbie and I did take a quantum leap into something else though, the kid department. We had 1 daughter of our own, then we adopted 3 boys and a girl within a short time period, like 1-2 years, IIRC.

The one thing they all had in common was, they all played soccer, some ended up at a very high level. One daughter was goalie for her State Championship team. She allowed 3 goals the entire year, including scrimmages, tournaments, playoffs, and the championship. Only 3!!! She was amazing.

My advice? Become buddies with the best soccer coach you can, and soak up the knowledge. We picked up on some good parenting skills from some of the coaches our kids had.

We went to every game for every kid. You need to find those kind of parents on your teams, and lean on them, heavily. They can take it. Divy up the workload.

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That’s awesome, SS. I am one of those parents who gets bored standing around, and get a bit perturbed when my kid is standing around waiting for an instructor/coach to tell them what to do…so I end up roped into helping. Never did much organized sports with the boys, but we did Cub scouts and skiing lessons. The ski school was awesome for the kids, and I of course got roped into helping on the first year…then became a part time instructor in the following years. Cub scouts, they needed a den leader, so yeah, I stepped up, then further to become the pack treasurer.

I am not the best teacher in the world, but will work with any kid who wants to learn, and enjoy watching them get good. Teaching a kid who doesn’t want to be there…but whose mommy/daddy want him there…sucks. You have to expend more time than it’s worth cajoling that kid to come along with the group, and way too much time explaining to the parents why the kid is not progressing. I was lucky in the ski school that I had layers of management above me that I could pass the parents off to. Some parents were better in finding ways to help me keep the kid engaged, others just wanted me to baby sit the kid so they could go ski (or sit in the pub, dunno). But, I learned to always be proactive in talking to the parents about why little Johnny/Janey won’t pay attention, etc., because they sometimes had insights that helped. Or would agree that the class wasn’t a good fit for him/her.

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One last cautionary tale…a painful experience for me. I got really frustrated in my last year as a ski instructor, and decided to bail, because I was missing out on spending time skiing with my sons (spending too much time being instructor and not enough being Dad). The result, though, was that we skiied less as a family, because there wasn’t a “need” to go skiing - the boys were no longer taking lessons. And I had become less enthused about skiing because it had become work, not fun. Looking back, I should have stopped being teacher earlier, before the routine became a grind.

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@Latexman Thanks for that advice. I have a bad habit of not asking for help when it is a good idea, so I’m going to try to keep that in mind about looking for helpful parents.

@btrueblood Thanks. In talking to the director of the club, it sounds like I’ll have a good amount of support if I’m having trouble. We’ll see if that was just them selling it to me or not, but I am optimistic.

I hope that soccer doesn’t become a workload for me. I always loved it, and so does my brother. I haven’t played in any serious capacity in some years now, but my brother still plays in a men’s rec league and I’ve got a lot of confidence him and I could be a great one two punch as a coaching team.

I think working with your brother on this is an excellent opportunity for both of you. That’s awesome.

I left my home town when I got my ChE degree, and only get back for visits. I’ve missed out on what you and your brother have.

At this age, children are great observers of adult behavior so be mindful of when/how you express your frustration and joy. Also, you’ll need someway to establish that you aren’t going to play favorites with your own kids on the team.

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Oh believe me, my kids are far from my favorites! I kid, I kid :clown_face:.

I’m honestly more concerned about being a little too hard on my own kids, but I think I can find that balance once I get going.

I told them over the weekend that when we’re at practice or games, I’m not Dad and their uncle isn’t Uncle anymore. We’re both Coach from when we get on the field until we get off the field. I doubt either the kids or the both of us will be able to keep that up, but hey, maybe it’ll work :hand_with_index_finger_and_thumb_crossed:.

Favoritism will likely be a concern for the overly competitive parents. I helped a co-worker with some of his games when his assistant coach wasn’t available and I was more than a little disappointed with some of the snideness that young children’s sports can breed. I’d swear half of all bullies are made by screaming parents at sports events - but I digress.

I think it’s better to stay engaged in a dialogue with your kids about how they feel about you being the coach than trying to have the persona split, and it will help clue you into whether or not you’re being harder on your kids than others. But as with all things, you won’t know until you try and practice makes perfect.

Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack too, being Superdad is hard work!

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I haven’t seen anything about why.
My attitude:

#1. Have fun.
#2. Learn team work.
Winning is much more important to the parents than to the kids.
I have seen quite a few examples but you have to look hard, and sometimes overhear the kids talking amongst themselves.
One example:
One year my sons team was very badly tiered,
As I remember they were about 9 or 10 years old.
They didn’t win a game all year.
The “A” team had a team bus.
The “B” team were driven to games by their parents.
One weekend the “A” team had a home game and they loaned the bus to the “B” team.
The “B” team lost again and the parents were depressed again.
A few days later I overheard a small group of players talking about the game.
“Hey. Wasn’t that a great game last Sunday?”
“It was awsome.”
“The best game we ever had.”

That season the kids and the coaches were depressed and demoralized.
The coaches never let the kids see how upset they were.
They kept the kids having fun all season.
No kids dropped off the team.
Drop-offs are the first sigh of not having fun.

One thing that has the potential to be a lifetime lesson is teamwork.
It’s not too early to stress teamwork, and at that age teamwork may win more games than fancy plays.
At that age coaching will have little effect on later performance at the college or semi pro playing.
My suggestion is to watch for and recognize teamwork plays.
Make teamwork as important if not more important than scoring.
At that age our leagues had a rule:
Players were not allowed to score more than 2 or three goals. (It varied)
Once a player scored his quota of goals he had to pass and let someone else score.
This taught passing and pass receiving and teamwork.

After about ten years of watching three children playing team sports, I came to realize that the social aspect is much more important to the kids than winning or losing.

My son was fortunate to have a coach who taught teamwork.
Everyone played their shifts, regardless of ability.
When my son started playing hockey he couldn’t skate.
He could stand on skates and thought that he could skate but realistically he couldn’t.
As I remember there were two practices during the week and then a league game on the weekend.
William was on the ice for his full shifts.
Treating all players equally is a good start to teaching team work.
Five or six years later, the team made it to the provincial finals.
One of eight teams in their tier going for the provincial title.
They lost to teams that they should have beaten.
I asked my son what went wrong;
“We forgot our teamwork and we lost.”
I am sure that those boys will remember the importance of teamwork for the rest of their lives.

Now Will is active in High School Rodeo.
That is a weekend of hanging out and socializing with friends.
The socializing is interrupted for an hour or so each day when Will rides a horse and spends 10 or 20 seconds chasing a steer across an arena trying to rope it.
Then back to socializing.
(Will and his partner missed their catch on Saturday, but won third place in team roping on Sunday.)

Forget winning.
Have fun and emphasize teamwork and winning will take care of itself.


Wise words. Thank you WaRoss for sharing your experiences.

I myself spent time on “B” teams, as it were, when I was younger. It was demoralizing at times, but since we were in it together, we kept going and we managed to have fun despite blowout losses. I know for a fact that I can take losses in stride as a player and a parent, so hopefully that translates to coaching as well.

Our 1st practice went pretty well under the circumstances of 2 new coaches and a bunch of random kids meeting for the first time.

The admin stuff is already getting on my nerves though.

Congratulations! Maybe you can find a volunteer for the admin work x)

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Find a parent that cares and is in admin work. My wife did it for all five kids teams as they were growing up. She was an Executive Secretary by training.

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Let the other parents know that you need a team manager.
Chances are excellent that there will be a parent who wants to be more involved with their child’s sport but does not have the experience to coach.


Agree with Bill…parents are more into winning than the kids. I coached Little League baseball for a few years. Parents were always more of an issue than the kids. They all know their kids are destined for the Major Leagues.

Good luck SS.

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It’s been going fairly well these first few weeks.

The kids are mostly good and fun. They are taking up some of the skills and lessons we’ve been going over. I think they’re having fun. My brother and I are noticing the improvement and I’m pumped for the kids each time I see them doing stuff we’ve worked on.

The parents are, for the most part, supportive. One is a little noisy, but not really a problem.

So we had our final game of the Autumn last night. I have to say, I am floored with the kids. My brother and I had so much fun these past couple of months. Difficult at times, but the results we’ve seen are so worth it. These kids have gotten so much better in such a short time and we’re both so proud of the teams and glad to see what our efforts have gotten. We’ve got a few months break before the Spring season starts, but my brother actually signed up to be a basketball coach for a friend of his during the winter. I may have created a monster in him :troll:

Thanks to you all for your advice and comments here.


If I were coaching again today…I’d try and take some short videos of the first day, each kid running a drill (or in my case skiing a particular line/course). Then again near the end of the season, and show the kids “here’s you on lesson 1, here you are at lesson 8” . The improvement we see as coaches/teachers is always rewarding, but I’m not sure I ever convinced my charges that they were much improved (or maybe they just didn’t care - they were mostly in it for the fun of jumping off whatever lips we could find, or running the verboten tree trails, not running courses).

I did have some parents who skied with us on the last day, and they were pretty effusive with their praise, it was a nice feeling to have them see what I saw. Kids will amaze you every time.

Glad you enjoyed it SS.

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So another update to this topic. We’ve now nearly completed our first spring season together (just 2 weeks remaining).

We gained a good number of new players in the spring, which made it nice (to have substitutes), but also very challenging trying to fit the new kids into the teams we had established in the fall. Some of the new kids have been a little difficult on a more personal level, but we’ve made good progress anyway and it feels like we are getting through to them in some way during every practice and game.

My brother and I are still having a blast being coaches though. It is so much fun. Both of my sons and most of the boys on our teams have been selected to advance to the travel program and we are planning on going with them.

The club is planning on creating two ‘new’ travel teams for us so our boys don’t really need to assimilate to an existing team, which I think will be good for them for consistency’s sake. We will likely take on some boys from other travel teams that are dissolving, and I know a good number of them already, so I think it will be a good transition and I’m looking forward to what we might accomplish next season.

Anyway, thanks again for the advice given here, I just wanted to let you all know it was appreciated and that we’re still at it, working hard, and having fun.

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