An interview with Pete Johnson, former SSC president and Education Coordinator
ITK: If someone is thinking about coaching, how would you suggest they get started?
Johnson: That's easy! Just talk to the munchkin or transition group coordinators about helping with those practices, or if you are interested in coaching an older player's team (teams are formed from ages u7 - roughly first grade - and up) contact the SSC boys' or girls' coordinator - at the end of the prior season. The coordinators' contact info is listed on www.stowsoccer.org. Get to know the coordinator well as he or she will guide you through the administrative details until you get the hang of it.
ITK: Do you need a license to coach?
Johnson: To coach, no. To coach well, probably yes, unless you have experience coaching or teaching young children already. Remember coaching is teaching, and you will face all of the issues teachers face. You may know how to put an instep drive onto the upper 90, but you may not know how to TEACH that to an easily distractible 10 year old in a team practice environment.
More importantly, you and the kids will have more fun and learn more at training if you follow some simple time proven teaching strategies such as "Economical Training" and "Avoiding the 3L's: Lines, Laps and Lectures" as you plan and run your practices. Licensing courses cover these basic teaching strategies, as well as technique, tactics, conditioning, mentality etc. So while they are not required, they are highly recommended.
Licenses are easy to obtain through local courses offered by MYSA (www.mayouthsoccer.org). SSC will reimburse active coaches for the course fees.
ITK: Didn't most of the soccer coaches in Stow play soccer growing up?
Johnson: No, many did not play in any kind of formal program. We all know that organized soccer opportunities were not abundant when most of us were growing up. But there are also some coaches around who can really play!
I would say that most of the Stow coaches were athletes (many of them quite successful) growing up, but not necessarily in soccer. This does not have to be a disadvantage. Many principles of basketball carry over to soccer, and even hockey has a lot in common with soccer (e.g., offsides, the crossing pass, the back pass, etc.). So soccer experience probably is not necessary, as long as you are open minded, have a love of sports, and are willing to educate yourself on the principles of the game.
ITK: How can coaches continue to improve their skills?
Johnson: Regarding soccer skills, many of the coaches play in adult leagues, pick up games, and work on their own to develop juggling, shooting, dribbling skills etc. Also I used to jump into our intra team scrimmages and play with older teams I coached. There is no reason coaches can't have fun at practice too! And most practice progressions should end with the kids playing a soccer game - with no coaching going on - so this is the time for you to get in and play!
Regarding coaching skills, there are MYSA licensing courses running all the way from the starter "G" license, to the US Soccer issued "A" license. Also SSC puts on local programs periodically which will be publicized by the coordinators. There are also many periodicals, books, tapes, and websites available that address the World's Favorite Sport. One of my favorite internet resources is at http://www.dprsports.com/drills/MattsPlans.htm which offers excellent practice planning progressions for every conceivable training need at all ages. Building progressions on specific limited topics and sticking to the topics (as opposed to jumping all around and coaching everything you see) are the keys to successful training and teams.
ITK: Do you feel that coaching brings you closer together with your kids?
Johnson: That's a harder question. It will definitely help you to have a better understanding of kids in general. But as to your own child, that depends on how you treat him or her on the field. You will be spending more time together, which is a plus, but it is important for your child to know that when you coach you are the coach of 10 children and not just your child's Dad or Mom. You should evaluate whether your child is emotionally OK with sharing you that widely.
I have also seen some cases where a parent-coach is much harder on his or her own child than other children at practices because he or she does not want to give the appearance of favoring his or her child. So you should also try to evaluate how you will treat your child at practices and make a very conscious effort not to treat him or her differently than the other kids on the field. Before or after practice is the time for hugs and special treatment and if there are enough of those and your child learns when to expect them, then, yes, this can be a very positive thing for a parent and child to do together, with ultimately huge rewards.