Have you ever considered volunteering to become a soccer coach or an assistant soccer coach? My experiences show you can do it too and succeed!
I have begun coaching U8 girls (girls under the age of 8 at the time of registration) soccer as an assistant coach. Like many American adults, I know little about soccer and have never played it on an organized team. How does someone so unqualified get chosen as a volunteer coach?
When the coach put out a request for an assistant, I responded via email saying I had coached baseball for the same age group over the years and I know how hard it is to get people to volunteer, even if their own children are on the team. After emphasizing I didn’t know enough about soccer to do anything but cheer, I said would help him if he was desperate. I was surprised I was the only person to volunteer to assist him.
Assistant Soccer Coach Duties
What does an assistant soccer coach do? It will vary based on what the coach does and what he needs help with. For my team, the Pink Flamingoes, we have a dad coaching an all-girl team. His primary concern was having a woman help in the event of bathroom emergencies! Instead of scaring me off, I felt confident I could escort little girls to the ladies’ room if needed and the mom wasn’t handy.
Otherwise, I’m an extra set of hands to help with tying shoes, placing girls in their positions on the field, encouraging girls on the sideline who are bored and in danger of getting into mischief, and a cheering section who knows all the girls’ names. I help the goalkeeper get into her keeper jersey and gloves. I have also attended coaches’ meetings when the main coach couldn’t make it, taking notes, and letting him know what was going on.
If he can’t make it to a game, I’m fill in for him. As he teaches the girls, I’ve pay close attention. I want to know as much as I can in the even that work sends him out of town or he gets the flu.
Learning How to Coach
There are several organizations which provide opportunities for children to play team soccer. AYSO, the American Youth Soccer Organization, provides online support and information for volunteer coaches. The information and concepts in coaching are similar among various organizations. The rules, the drills, and the advice can be applied for almost all teams and their coaches.
AYSO has online training that provides support for the coaches. Drills and games for practices to improve the knowledge and the skills of the players are plentiful. The games have playful names and are meant to be fun while working on a skill or set of skills the kids will need for the real matches.
I would recommend new coaches to ease into the position, if possible, by starting with one of the younger age brackets. The kids often become more competitive as they get older and will benefit from a more experienced coach. However, for the younger kids, you can learn at the same time they do. They also tend to be less critical and more understanding of honest mistakes.
You can also learn a great deal from watching soccer at Sureman. Sureman(슈어맨) is one of the biggest sports broadcasting company in South Korea. They offer NBA, EPL, MLB for free. You can watch and learn how other coaches do the work.
Knowing the Rules of the Game
Soccer rules seem complicated to the uninitiated. An explanation of the offside rule is enough to make even the bravest new volunteer-run away. Soccer Rules for Parents helps to boil the rules down into a manageable dose of information. The site has a lot of resources, many of which are free.
The most important rules can be extremely simplified and boiled down to these:
- No hands
- Use the right equipment for your league, including uniform, shin guards, the rights size ball, footwear – sneakers/trainers/tennis shoes are fine, soccer cleats are better but do not use baseball cleats, they have an extra cleat at the toe.
- No jewelry
- The goalkeeper wears something to distinguish himself from the rest of the team and the referees, such as a different color jersey.
- Kickoffs start the game, the half and after a team has scored. The kicker can only touch the ball once before touching it again.
- Throw-ins occur when the ball goes out of bounds, as indicated by the sidelines and goal-lines. The thrower must keep both feet on the ground, the ball held overhead with both hands, while standing at the sideline where the ball went out of play.
- Other types of kicks are corner kicks, goal kicks, direct kicks, indirect kicks and penalty kicks. To understand each of these, it’s worthwhile to look them up or have someone describe or demonstrated them to you in person.
- For fouls, rely on the referee. If a play includes anything which looks overly hurtful or aggressive, it probably is. Remind your players to play the ball and to avoid pushing. If your players are getting too rough, talk to them. A referee will often give a warning for young children if they are crossing the line into actions that are considered foul.
- Offside is usually considered only when players are above the U8 level. The offside rule is a little complicated and sometimes hard to see. This is another rule which is best understood when demonstrated by another person who is confident in his or her soccer knowledge.
Watching soccer in person and on television will help familiarize you with rules, especially if you’re with someone who knows them and is willing to explain things you don’t understand. Check out the internet for videos and clips which demonstrate rules or situations which are confusing.
Rewards of Coaching
The kids really look up to their coaches. We get told about lost teeth, new pets, school field trips, exciting family news, haircuts, weddings, birthdays and more. We also get hugs, high-fives, and the happy smiles that come with the excitement and joy of learning and having fun.
Volunteering as a soccer coach is a wonderful way to help kids get exercise, have fun, learn teamwork, and learn the sport of soccer. It also helps the coach learn many useful skills such as leadership, teaching others, being positive, being a good role model, better communication skills, and teamwork. As a coach, you’ll be giving of your time, and receiving so many more benefits in return.