Soccer is upon us again, and I'm coaching Abby's team. This year, I've decided to sign up as head coach, which is a big step in my head, but probably not much more than I've done in previous seasons. Conceptually, I wanted to be able to run practices and games in a way I see fit. It's not that prior coaches didn't do a good job - we took the field - just that I have some changes in mind for how to run things.
This season we'll be using incentives for the players on the field. I've acquired a bunch of little soccer ball patches to give out to the kids that perform well at practice and games. I hope this will give them some incentive to do their best, whereas in seasons past, I feel like they haven't all given their best effort for lack of it feeling like it meant much to participate.
I'm slowly constructing a training schedule. I think this is one of the more important changes this year. With only three training sessions before our first game, we need to fit in some quality training time. And that's a distinction I'd like to make on the first day: We're running training sessions not practices. Practice is what you do when you repeat the same things every day to get better. We won't practice every day, so I'm going to be doing something else. I'll show the players what they can practice at home, but focus our training on how players should work together during the game.
By our first practice I will have our team mantra finalized. I know what I want it to consist of, but not how to shorten it into something memorable and effective. Essentially, the idea is that every player is playing the game mentally all the time. On the field, you need to be thinking about what you're going to do with the ball even when you don't have it, so that when you get the ball, you don't need to think. I think this will effectively address some issues we've had in the past like players kicking the ball away and multiple players running to the ball instead of just one. It should keep players looking up at their surroundings and engaged during the entire game, not just when they have the ball.
This season I want to encourage the team to become a passing team, with as many one-touch passes as possible. I want them to grow to intuit passing routes, which I think will be my teaching focus for the season.
I'm currently planning on breaking up my three training days into basics, attack, and defense days. Our first training session will help us get a feel for the players' abilities and how we can position them on the field during a game. We'll drill heads-up dribbling, sprinting to the ball, shooting, down-field passing, and throw-ins. We'll also need to identify a keeper, which always seems difficult. I don't think I want to let the slowest kid volunteer for keeper like we have in seasons past, at least, not for entire games at a time.
One of the more challenging aspects of coaching is finding succinct ways to convey information to the players, but the same thing can be said, and is probably even more true, of conveying information to parents via email! If I don't reduce the message to its essence, they don't bother trying to understand.
We're already seeing how fall soccer is an extra sport to keep some kids warm between other fall sports, which is kind of depressing. Some players won't be able to attend soccer matches because they've got practices for other sports at the same time. Why did they sign up for both? I don't think it's fair to the kids that show up every game to have to sub out for kids that show up when they feel like it. I realize this is just rec league soccer, but for some kids (like Abby), it's all they do, and these multi-sport kids that don't really care about soccer are taking away from those kids. I'm sure I need a different perspective on this, because it simply seems inequitable.
I got a set of 6-foot goals to use at our training, and a set of pinnies to break the team into three small groups for some of our drills. We've got balls from the league. I need to check if we have cones or not, which we'll need on our first day. Apart from the cones, I think we're good for equipment.
Here's looking forward to a good first session.