This coaching manual is meant to be a resource for coaches of all abilities. For the new coach it can be used as a step by step guide to teaching the techniques, tactics, fitness and psychology specific to youth soccer. For the more experienced coach this manual can serve to refresh and remind what it takes to be a successful youth coach.
Before I had children of my own I volunteered as a youth coach. I became involved when a friend asked if I would help out with his sons team. I thought it sounded like a great idea and jumped right in. My friend later professed his gratitude readily admitting that he found the prospect of coaching a group of 7 & 8 year olds the most intimidating thing he had faced in recent memory. This from a top executive at a major international retailer!
My concept of coaching at that time was that anyone knowing the basic fundamentals of the game could coach children simply because kids of that age knew next to nothing about the sport. Basically, any adult with a minimal knowledge of the game could coach a youth sport, right?
The truth of the matter lies somewhere between my friends feelings of trepidation and my own flippant self-confidence. This was not an instant realization for me, but came about as I gained experience coaching my sons youth teams. As my eldest son, Grant, and his friends finished 6th grade it occurred to me high school was not far off and I wondered if I was doing an adequate job of preparing them to play soccer at that level. To discover the answer I went to the high school coaches to study their program.
As luck would have it I was invited to observe the high school programs team camp that summer. Graham Ramsay, then Director of Training and Education for the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association, was the camp clinician. It took only a few brief moments of the opening session for me to realize there was a substantial gap to bridge between the preparations I had helped my son and his team with and what it would take to truly prepare them for high school soccer.
That team camp lasted for 5 days. We met three times a day for 2+ hours each session. It was the most intensive athletic experience I had ever been a part of on any level. I was awed by the physical, mental and emotional demands that freshmen players would be subjected to. I was amazed by the level of skill and tactical play being required of the athletes. I quickly realized there would be a lot of work to accomplish in the two short years before Grant and his friends began playing high school soccer.
Now, it should be noted the high school team would make it to the State Final Four that fall. The team was gifted athletically and skilled in soccer techniques and tactics. Beyond that, the team had a work ethic that was simply amazing and team chemistry that helped overcome obstacles that might have waylaid other teams.
That season I was able to attend some practices and was even allowed access to the sidelines and locker room on some game days. It was a wonderful learning experience on many levels and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
I also took Grant and four of his friends to the University of Michigan's camp that summer. Then head coach, Steve Burns and his staff proved to be welcoming of me and became a phenomenal resource for coaching education in subsequent years.
While coaching Grant's 7th grade team that fall I came to the conclusion a manual for soccer coaches might be the best way to preserve what I was learned and thus began the long process of writing this manual.
As the next summer unfolded I found myself in attendance at the high school teams mini-camp and the team camp conducted by Graham Ramsay once again. This time Grant tagged along with me and was able to participate in some activities during these camps. He had been invited to attend the summer before, but was really intimidated by the prospect of competing with players as much as 5 years his senior. I cannot blame him for feeling this way. Now, the summer before his 8th grade year he realized the opportunity Graham was extending him to prepare for high school soccer. As a result, Grant became something of a guinea pig and I revised parts of this manual based off his camp experiences that summer.
By some stroke of great fortune I was allowed complete access to the high school team that fall. In return I kept statistics and did anything else asked of me. That 2002 team was not as talented as the previous years state semi-finalists. but had an incredibly successful season in their own right. At one point they won 11 straight matches in a row and had an unbeaten streak of 15 games. That team was ranked as high as #5 in the state of Ohio Division II poll and set numerous records including 8 consecutive shut outs and the fewest (12) goals allowed in a season, The also claimed an outright Western Buckeye League Championship.
The pages that follow are a culmination of nearly 30 years of experience in coaching youth, high school and club soccer. The foundation of this document is rooted in those first two years of Graham's camp, the University of Michigan's camps and Shawnee High School soccer. They are now augmented by experiences at Indiana University, Findlay University and noted coaches like Ken White among others.
Some area coaches received advanced copies of the original document in the summer of 2002. You served well as my editors and proofreaders. Some of you contributed valuable information as well that was eventually included in revised editions. Thank you once again. And now those of you reading this rewrite will have the same opportunity to contribute.
It is my hope that youth soccer players and their coaches will benefit from this coaching manual for years to come. The original version was a two year process that has survived for 13 years. It is my fervent hope this re-write will serve the soccer community for at least another dozen years. The original was a labor of love as this one will be. Love for the sport of soccer certainly, but more so a labor of love for the youth in our community who have a passion for the game of soccer.
If the ball is in the attacking third and especially inside the 18 you should be performing a double team with the other center defender.