Monday, December 16, 2013

The parent coach is very important to soccer

As people get more serious about soccer they shouldn't distance themselves from the grassroots level.

Let's give you the punch line right now, as I see it, of course.  The mom and pop coaches are THE most important component in soccer's sustainability as an organized sport in Canada.

You may hear the sentiment that parents should not be coaching their own children.  Maybe so, but that's not a realistic scenario. so why go there?

When it comes to elite programs involving talent identification, tryouts, selections, uneven playing time, etc, parent coaches may not be suitable.  If it's avoidable, I agree 100%. (Unless you're Walter Gretzky, you will probably not have 100% comfort as a parent coaching a travel sport)

Before that age arrives, there is an army of soccer players out there looking to play.

Kudos to the Ontario Soccer Association and other provincial federations for investing in and stressing grassroots soccer.

In June 2013, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in a 4-day FIFA Grassroots Workshop
hosted by the OSA.  It was awesome in taking a room full of experienced, licensed coaches all the way back to square one.  "Simple" was the word of the day.

If Canadian soccer doesn't sustain critical mass with participation at the younger ages, the rest is a waste of time and money.  We need as many players as possible to get to U12/U13 in order to have a proper "crop" from which to choose those who will enter the Elite stream. At some point along the way, some players will be identified and splintered away from the masses .  This usually begins at U8/U9.  But make no mistake, there must still be a critical mass of players when we hit U12/U13. 

To have the proper numbers, grassroots soccer must all inclusive, inexpensive, easy to deliver and accessible to everybody who wants to play.  The grassroots philosophy looks for soccer to be played in school grounds, backyards, picnics, neighbourhood parks and streets.

But there is also the component of the younger age groups at community clubs, U4-U12. This component is important as it shapes the attitude and feelings about soccer when players are most impressionable.
The mom and pop coaches are THE most
important component in soccer's sustainability
as an organized sport in Canada.
As each year passes in a players experience they ask the same question: "Do I want to play next year?"

A lot of things are done to help make the answer "yes".  We buy nice uniforms, the balls are shiny and new, nice websites and maybe a bouncy house and clown at the field for the year end tournament.

But never, ever forget; Your club's true backbone is the army of parent coaches who make the U4-U12 grassroots soccer possible. 

What has your club done to give parent coaches the tools they need to succeed?

Your travel coaches probably had their coaching education paid for, a nice club golf shirt and jacket, maybe a few coaching seminars and visits by the club head coach.  I was never comfortable with how some grassroots coaches are made to feel second class.  "I only coach house league" is a line that really bothers me.  Not because the coach thinks that, but because the coach was made to feel that.

How many clubs do everything possible to make sure all coaches in their system receive the same benefits?

If you are an experienced coach, think about your first few years as a coach.  What information or resources would have helped you do a better job?  How did you feel in terms of how you fit into the whole scene at your club?

What can you offer your grassroots level parent coaches?
  • Club coaching education, including demonstrations.
  • Formal coaching education
  • A season's worth of plans and ideas
  • Direct help if possible
  • Personal support for soccer and non-soccer issues
  • Delivery of resources and equipment BEFORE opening day (you know what I mean)
  • Proper schedules and information for parents to free the coach from having to act as an agent for your club.
  • Access to all club resources
  • Respect/feedback/advice from experienced coaches.
Your parent coaches collectively bring your club a varied and useful skill-set from a wide spectrum of professions and occupations.  That is a resource that most clubs do not tap.

In most cases, every coach a player has until 10-years-old is a parent coach.  The number of kids who keep playing is directly tied to how successful your coaches are in delivering your program.  Think about that before pushing parent coaches out the door with a bag of balls and a pat on the back.

The better equipped your parents are to facilitate a well designed program within your club, the more engaged and confident your players will be.

Respecting and nurturing your grassroots parent coaches is good for business, good for soccer and, most importantly, good for the kids.