By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
“One day, you’ll walk right out of this life and then you’ll wonder why you didn’t try to spread some loving all-around old-fashioned causes like that still stand”
Youth coaching is a gift a wonderful opportunity to impact and enrich the lives of the young players that you are lucky enough to work with. For far too long, like many other coaches, I have spent too much time with a myopic vision of success and a quality experience being dependent upon my deep knowledge of the game. The success and enjoyment of the players being founded upon how well I understood and could teach skill, tactics, nutrition, periodization, etc. It has taken a long time and a good deal of searching to realize how wrong I have been.
As I look back and search through my memory bank on some of the high level teams I have been lucky enough to play on, British Colleges XI, semi-professional teams in the UK and Glen Cove Xara, a semi professional team in NY that won the old Super League, I realize how blind I've been.
All my truly great experiences and the memories that stain my brain are ones that were enriched by a certain feeling. I wish that I could distill the feeling into a clear sentence, but the words escape me. It was a feeling that embroiled trust, caring, enjoyment, confidence, and desire, as in the desire to be the best teammate I could possibly be.
As a coach educator and developer, I've been lucky enough to spend some time researching this arena of team culture and chemistry and would encourage all reading this to spend some time looking at the resources I note at the end. If you can spare time reading any of this, it will be time well-spent. This research has led to me presenting at national soccer conventions and many courses on two key coaching tasks: Leading the Team and Leading the Player.
The facts are shocking, and I present them to entice coaches to become more than a soccer coach. Be brave and become a people coach.
“The research evidence for the benefits of creating a strong identity for sports teams is now overwhelming. It has been shown to increase resilience, trust, well-being and creativity. Our own research in collaboration with Sussex University has shown it can even increase team performance by up to a remarkable 53%.” Dr Will Thomas.
So Why a Gift?
In order to become a coach that puts people development and the building of a team culture at the foreground of your approach, you will need to reconsider and reflect upon how you coach, which type of role model you are and what life lessons your players have been taking away from their time with you. If you reflect honestly and openly, you will become vulnerable and in doing so you will grow and develop. To give a concrete example with an aspect of role modelling.
As you get back to the fields, explain to your players that you have spent some time during the Covid break researching how to become a better coach and that you have some new skills that you will be trying and working on in practice. Perhaps talking less and using questions more? After a few practices, ask the players how they think you're doing with the new skills. Do a hot review and present your own reflections and action steps on how you are doing and things you intend to improve. What do you think the benefit to the team culture and chemistry will be of you showing that learning is a struggle and that is okay? That it is okay to make mistakes and that at the center of the team is a growth mindset and that good teammates help each other grown and learn. Ask the players to help you and note when you ask a deep question that challenges their thinking. If they see your genuine desire to grow and how they can help what can they do for each other?
Seize the day...become more than a soccer coach, become a people coach.
The Culture Code – Dan Coyle
Legacy –James Kerr
The Captains Class – A new Theory of Leadership – Sam Walker
Togetherness – How to Build a Winning Team – Matt Slater
Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of team Chemistry – Joan Ryan
Listen to #102 Joan Ryan - Team Chemistry from The Sport Psych Show on Apple Podcasts. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sport-psych-show/id1434313037?i=1000487634213