Coaching Education

Posted: April 4, 2011 in Coaching Philosophy, US Soccer

I’m a huge fan of coaching education, and I’ve been very involved in both sides of it as a candidate and as an instructor.  I think it has been one of the great benefits of pursuing a career in coaching soccer that I never thought would be much of a benefit.

This weekend I was an instructor at a “D” License course and it just reminded me of how great our profession is.  Each night I had the opportunity to sit down with other coaches and pick their brains about a million different things.  We covered tactics, coaching psychology, vented a little about parents, and got to know why we all fell in love with this crazy career path.

Does a coaching license determine how good of a coach you are?  No, there are several good coaches out there who do not have a coaching license, and there are a lot of coaches who have several licenses and we wonder how it happened.  But here is the reality of the process, promoting coaching education the way soccer associations do is a very unique attribute of our sport.  Having a license program (or diploma program) is a great way to bring coaches together and promote professional development.  Most coaching associations have an annual convention, but there aren’t too many that have a progressive educational process that can take a parent coach to be a high level competitive coach, and maybe even the director of other coaches. 

I sat down with a young coach yesterday and we talked for three hours about being a collegiate coach in the women’s game.  She had just finished their first year coaching and some of the insights she had were things I had never considered.  Her views on physical conditioning and the psychology dynamics of being a female coach for a women’s team compared to the male coach of a women’s team were really interesting (another topic for a future post).

One thing I noticed, as an instructor, were the different motivations for coaches attending the course.

  1. They were being forced.  Our state association has a rule that any coach who works with U15-U18 must be a D licensed coach.  Or the club I work for requires all competitive head coaches to be at least a C licensed coach.
  2. It was free.  The hosting association was waiving the registration fee for active coaches to help push the numbers.
  3. Coaches who wanted to grow.  These have to be the best candidates to work with from an instructor’s point of view.  They want to learn, they ask good questions, and look for application to their current coaching situation.
  4. And finally, the coaches who need it to move on.  These are the coaches who might think they are too good to learn anything from you and they just need the “check in the box” to move on to the license level they really want.  Or they are simply doing it so they can say they have it.

The coaches in groups 1 and 2 are challenging because we need to grab their attention and show them the importance of the course in the first day or they’ll probably drop out.  You see it all the time, they show up for external reasons and once they get there and see coaches from high schools, or top level clubs, and even college coaches they start to get really nervous and just realize it’s probably not for them.

The coaches in groups 3 and 4 are internally motivated, and they will stick it out, but there is a major difference in the quality of their interaction and demeanor.  Coaches in group 3 are engaged and help create a positive learning environment.  They are participating in the activities and discussion, they look for real world application, and they usually ask the best questions that benefit the whole group.  Coaches in group 4 can be a positive influence, but sometimes you get the coach who thinks there’s nothing to be gained from the course.  Someone in the Federation made a mistake by not letting them go directly to the A license and they don’t want to learn anything because they already have it figured out.

Coaches in group 3 are the reason I’ve decided to be so involved in coaches education.  Getting together after the sessions are over to talk shop is one of the best parts of these courses.  If you get a group of professionals together (whether in coaching or otherwise) that have a passion to grow as an individual and have an attitude that they have something to learn from almost anyone the conversation can flow for hours and hours into the night.  The amount of knowledge and experience in a room full of people like this could shorten the learning curve for some of us by years!

True leaders of any field are the men and women who have a thirst for knowledge and growth.  This is the purpose of this blog, to give us an opportunity to sit down and hash things out across the internet instead of just at a coaching course.

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