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"What club should my son or daughter try out for?"

Date: May 2013 Posted by: Luis Gomez, Director of Coaching and Technical Development

At the conclusion of every season this seems to be the most popular question we get asked by many parents.

Today's world of soccer is highly competitive. The greater the competition, the greater the chance of their services becoming off-the-shelf commodities, making large clubs and super clubs indistinguishable from others like them. They all have similar offerings, similar strengths and similar weaknesses. Therefore, the club you choose is not going to make much of a difference in young player's development, unless there are budget constraints. When your primary objective is to make sure your son or daughter just gets a fair chance to play but your budget doesn't allow for big club fees, smaller clubs may be the answer. So, don't rule out the smaller clubs that may provide the dedication to individual player development you're looking for at an affordable price.

Rather than asking what club to tryout for, a more important question should be: "Who's going to be the coach?" Good coaches are far from being commoditized, and great coaches are hard to find. Additionally, finding the right coach is critically important as they have a huge influence in child's life. A coach can either encourage or destroy interest and development, especially at the very young ages.

So, how do you find a great coach?

First, whether it's a small club or a super club, you want to make sure your coach is properly certified. US Soccer and NSCAA are two organizations that provide standard licensing and certification programs for aspiring soccer coaches. Many clubs will require licensing and certification for their coaching staff, but this is not always enforced. Larger clubs will also tend to reserve their most qualified coaches for the top level teams, leaving less qualified coaches for the lower. Again, don't rule out the small clubs where there are many highly qualified coaches, many times volunteering for the sole reason of making a difference in a child's life while avoiding the large club politics.

Next, you'll want to make sure the coach is in it for the right reasons. Most importantly, is it a coach who places a high emphasis on a win-loose record or a coach who's focused on teaching and developing the youth player. Coaches who typically value outcome over individual personal goals are most vulnerable to making unfortunate mistakes with their players. Dr. Alan Goldberg, sports psychologist and specialist in peak performance and mental toughness for athletes, developed a list of twenty important qualities and skill sets that make for a good coach ["What Makes a Good Coach?" - www.competitivedge.com].

Before thinking about trying out for another club, talk to your current club and find out who the coach will be. Find out what other options you may have. Talk to the coach and find out what his/her qualifications and objectives for coaching are. Talk to other parents. If possible, talk to the parents that can offer experience with the potential coach. If you don't see a good fit, then talk to other clubs and do the same. Finally, look for other sources that can offer unbiased suggestions.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD COACH?

- Dr. Alan Goldberg, Sports Psychologist, www.competitivedge.com

  1. The very best coaches GET THEIR ATHLETES TO BELIEVE in themselves - Good coaches inspire their players to do more than they think they can.
  2. The really effective coaches DO NOT USE EMBARRASSMENT & HUMILIATION AS "TEACHING TOOLS"
  3. Great coaches are GREAT LIFE TEACHERS - A good coach understands that what he/she is teaching goes far beyond the X's & O's of the court, track or field
  4. The best coaches KEEP THE GAME IN PERSPECTIVE - Somewhat related to #3, the best coaches are able to keep their sport in perspective. They do not get distracted by how big any one game is in relation to their job as a teacher.
  5. Great coaches DO NOT LET THEIR EGOS AND SELF-WORTH GET TIED UP IN THE OUTCOME - The best coaches are psychologically healthy enough to know that they are NOT their performances, regardless of what others around them may say.
  6. Great coaches UNDERSTAND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THEIR ATHLETES - The best coaches have a basic understanding that each athlete on their team is different in attitude, personality, response-ability, sensitivity and how they handle criticism and adversity
  7. The best coaches COACH THE PERSON, NOT JUST THE ATHLETE - Really effective coaches take the time to get to know the athlete as a person. They take an interest in the athlete's life off the field, court or track.
  8. The best coaches are FLEXIBLE - They are flexible in their approach to their teaching and they are flexible in their approach to their players.
  9. The great coaches are GREAT COMMUNICATORS - You can't be effective as a coach unless you can successfully reach the individuals who you are working with. Good coaches understand that communication is a two-way street and involves a back and forth between coach and athlete.
  10. Good coaches TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN TO AND EDUCATE THEIR ATHLETES' PARENTS - Many coaches find it a bit of an inconvenience that they have to actually deal with the parents of their athletes.
  11. GOOD COACHES "WALK THE TALK" WITH THEIR ATHLETES AND PARENTS - If you want to be effective in reaching those that you coach, then you must learn to put your actions where your mouth is. That is, there must be some congruence between what you say and how you act.
  12. Good coaches KEEP THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT EMOTIONALLY SAFE - There are a lot of social things that go on in sports between teammates that make the learning environment emotionally unsafe. Scapegoating, ostracism, cruelty, emotional and physical abuse, acted out petty jealousies and the list goes on and on. Many coaches refuse to deal with these "locker room" or "soap opera" issues because they don't necessarily happen on the field and therefore, these coaches claim, they have nothing to do with the athlete's or team's performance.
  13. Great coaches CONTINUALLY CHALLENGE THEIR ATHLETES TO DO BETTER AND PUSH THEIR LIMITS - One way that great coaches inspire their athletes to believe in themselves is by continually putting them in situations which challenge their limiting beliefs.
  14. The best coaches CONTINUALLY CHALLENGE THEMSELVES - Good coaches practice what they preach. They continually model the attitudes and behaviors that they want their players to adopt.
  15. The very best coaches are PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT THEY DO - Success in and out of sports very often comes out of a love for what you are doing. The more you love your sport, the better chance that you have of reaching your goals.
  16. Good coaches are EMPATHIC AND TUNED INTO THE FEELINGS OF THEIR PLAYERS - Empathy is the ability to tap into another's feeling, experience what they are feeling and to then communicate your understanding to that other person. When you are empathic you demonstrate the skill of being able to step into another's shoes and walk in them long enough so that you truly can feel what he/she is feeling from his/her model of the world, NOT yours!
  17. Good coaches are HONEST AND CONDUCT THEMSELVES WITH INTEGRITY - What else needs to be said about this one? Your most powerful teaching tool as a coach is modeling. How you conduct yourself in relation to your athletes, their parents, your opponents, the referees, the fans and the media is never lost on your players.
  18. The best coaches MAKE THE SPORT FUN FOR THEIR ATHLETES - It doesn't really matter what level that you coach at from the pros all the way down to Little League.
  19. Good coaches are NOT DEFENSIVE IN THEIR INTERACTIONS WITH THEIR PLAYERS OR PARENTS - Part of being a good communicator is that you have to be open to negative feedback and criticism. This is not something that is very easy to do and most of us respond to this kind of negative feedback by getting defensive, closing off and going on the counter attack.
  20. Great coaches USE THEIR ATHLETES' MISTAKES AND FAILURES AS VALUABLE TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES - One of the bigger teaching mistakes that coaches make is to get angry and impatient with their athletes when they mess-up or fail.