How to get a Foothold into a Potential Career in Soccer Coaching
Thinking that soccer coaching is your destined career path?
While everyone's journey is different and unique, here is a list of 10 considerations that would help in charting a course into coaching. If you have a passion for soccer and have an interest in getting involved in coaching, take to heart these quick ways to get your career going.
Seek out experience wherever you can. Volunteer, ask to observe, put your foot in any door that gets you around a coaching, training environment. This may require a certain degree of self confidence and being assertive. What you will often find is that your interest will be welcomed and that you making the first gesture will offer up opportunity.
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2. Examples and Role Models
Make a conscious effort to identify individuals who can serve as examples and role models for you. While it is best to find positive examples sometimes you can learn “what not to do” and this is valuable too. A lot of your coaching influences will stay with you throughout a career.
Manage your opportunity as you start out. If you can afford to work longer hours and sometimes with little or no compensation, you will be able to enhance you experience. Typically it is as you start out that you have more “freedom” to take an opportunity that will cost you time and resources that you will not have later.
4. Offer value and maintain a standard
Working hard and honestly will be noticed, appreciated and likely rewarded in the long run. By way of example, a lot of young coaches work camps and sometimes, this can seem like no more than “babysitting." It might be possible to sit on the soccer ball with shades on and get away with it. Better though to be prepared, to be enthusiastic and to give the best value you can. Often you will be unaware that effort is acknowledged, but often it is and that acknowledgement leads to more responsibility.
5. Self awareness
This is critical. A smart coach will have a very strong sense of their strengths and their preferences in their coaching. While some coaches know they need to coach the best team (and typically an older team), while others know they are suited to work with younger players. Consider what your goals are in terms of coaching environment: high school, college, club, youth or professional. Along with age and competition level, identify if you are more effective coach working with one gender as opposed to the other. Developing this self awareness is very important.
“Pay your dues." Avoid the impulse to achieve all your coach education as quickly as possible or waive through levels. Do not expect to be highly paid and given all the responsibility right away. Experience does count for a lot in coaching, so consider coaching a craft and work at refining your craft. Some patience and humility goes a long way with senior coaches and perspective employers in club, high school and college.
7. Playing experience
Playing experience at whatever level can help you as a coach and trying to stay active on the playing side offers a perspective to your coaching that can be valuable. Importantly though, be conscious to avoid being a player who happens to coach. This type of coach is not so committed to teaching and rather imposes their vision of the game as a player on players. So use your playing experience to inform you and be sure to distinguish yourself as an educator and teacher in the environment.
8. Formal and informal education
Playing the game is a lot different than coaching the game. As suc,h improving your knowledge and teaching through formal education and license/diploma programs is important to all coaches. Sometimes in the educational programs you will encounter information and protocols that you subsequently choose to ignore and that is fine. What the coaching programs do is help you think critically about what you are doing and how it is received by your players. Beyond the award programs observing other coaches, seeking out mentors, clinics and symposia is never a bad idea.
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9. Strengths and opportunities
Being aware of your strengths, along with your preferences as a coach, is really important. Also, being able to see an opportunity and to take it often sets a coach apart. Sometimes it is better to serve as an assistant and learn than take the first head coach job that opens up. Often the position that pays the most money is not the best one for your career if you remove yourself from a solid club structure or mentor coaches. The more you can see an opportunity and evaluate whether or not to pursue it can be telling. Many experienced coaches can identify a time in their careers where they made a good or poor choice and can explain in hindsight why that was the case.
10. Networking and relationships
The soccer coaching community is a small one. It is incredibly linked and networked. It is always good to cultivate new friendships and relationships. It is also wise to not be too proud and find conflict and challenge you cannot resolve. In the competitive environment emotions can be powerful. That said if you can shake a hand at the end of a game and make a connection you will be surprised how often that can come back to be a positive.
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These are ten broad ideas based on my experience and they reflect some of my best advice for aspiring young coaches. No doubt, any number of experienced coaches will have different takes and I encourage you to listen to them, assess them and then formulate your career plan as it best fits you and your skills and opportunities.