Lessons Learned — Advice from a first time volunteer soccer coach

Our Recreational Soccer League is made possible by our volunteer coaches. Every season parents step up to coach and co-coach their kid’s teams. We often answer questions from apprehensive parents who are unsure whether they are qualified or have the time to coach a team. We thought it would be helpful to hear from someone who was once standing in their same shoes. We sat down with Jasmine, a first time volunteer coach during our Fall 2017 season, to ask a few questions about her experience.

1. We talk to many parents who are hesitant to coach their child’s soccer team because they don’t have any soccer experience. Is it possible to coach without being a former soccer star? Did you have to do a lot of research?

Yes, it’s definitely possible. My two co-coaches, Arun Srinivasan and Joe Zambuto, had no soccer experience but did a great job helping lead the team. I played soccer for years in high school, but definitely was never a star. Quite the opposite — a bench warmer! I did develop a lifelong love for the game in high school, which is what led me to coaching.

So, no experience needed, but coaches do need energy, patience, and the ability to encourage players. ASA sent out coaching plans before every practice, but if I thought those were too complicated for our first grade team, I googled “soccer drills for 6 year olds,” and came up with a bunch of ideas for activities.


2. Did you find that you had to organize, plan and do all the work yourself or were you able to get other parents involved?

I did have to do the majority of the coaching planning. Still, my co-coaches and I attended almost every practice and game and also came up with activities and coaching plans. It was a significant time commitment for all of us. If I had to do it again, I would have divided up responsibilities, so not every coach had to be at every practice and game. Several parents and caregivers attended practices and helped us run drills when the kids got out of hand. Some parents brought after-game snacks for the team, but I didn’t make this a requirement. I felt that parents had enough on their plates already, and most players eat before and after the game at home anyway!

When I signed up to coach, I was worried that parents would complain about practices, playing time for their kids, and so on. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. The parents were positive and supportive at practices and games. The co-coaches and I made it a priority to give each child equal playing time, regardless of ability. The families responded well to this approach.

3. Like many parents, we know you have a full time day job + parenting — how did you find the time to fit soccer practices and games into your busy schedule?

Volunteering as a coach means you can set the time and location of practices in a way that works for your schedule. That helps. Most of our games were played early Saturday morning, before social and other commitments for the weekend began. To tell you the truth, it was hard to get out of bed some weekend mornings, but if you have young kids like I do, the household is up early anyway (especially on Saturdays!). Soccer games were a nice way to spend time together outdoors. In the future, I hope parent coaches know that they do not have to be at every single practice and game. By having co-coaches, you can adjust schedules so that there is coverage, and, occasionally it is okay to cancel a practice if no one can make it.


4. What has surprised you most about coaching your child’s soccer team? Is there anything you have learned about yourself or your kid that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

My child is 6 years old — still at an age where he is proud to have his mom coach the team. I know it won’t be long before he’s rolling his eyes and telling me that I’m embarrassing him! Several times during the season he told me how happy he was that I was his coach. I had no idea it meant so much to him. As a parent who works full-time, I usually cannot volunteer during the school day. Soccer gave me a chance to spend time with my son and his classmates and teammates during the evenings and weekends. I also enjoyed getting to know the other families in our community.

I was surprised by how much players responded to positive encouragement. One was excited that I gave him 2 high-fives during practice. I tried to encourage even the smallest improvement — and the kids responded. Over the course of the season, I watched all of the players improve their skills and discipline. The last game of the season was on a 28 degree morning. I gave families the option to play or not based on their preference. The few kids who did show up didn’t complain once about the cold! I was impressed by their positive attitudes and love for the game.


5. Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to another parent stepping into the role of coach what would it be?!

Divide and conquer! I was lucky that two co-coaches, Joe and Arun volunteered. They helped run practices and coach games. They were both enthusiastic and easy to work with. In the future, I’d have us each rotate running practices to decrease each of our individual time commitments. We coached 6 year olds, and there were usually enough other parents and caregivers who stayed at practice that they could have lent a hand. Also, bring a whistle!

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences Jasmine! We appreciate your time and investment in our community. If you’re interested in volunteering as a coach or co-coach please contact our Recreational Director, Peter Kallin at [email protected].


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