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How to be the perfect Youth Coach

With the benefit of my 18 years of grassroots football management and coaching here are my top tips

1) Pick a philosophy and stick to it - This is the first and most important point in many ways as this is what defines everything you do. Everyone has different priorities in how they see the way you should approach football. Some like high tempo direct football, some short passing, some base their game around key individuals, some look at the whole team, for some the result is the most important thing while for others development is. Your philosophy will guide everything you do as a coach so is an important consideration whatever you decide remember this is youth football so we have to ensure that it creates a fun, positive, inclusive environment where no player is exploited for the benefit of others. Your philosophy must cover all the different areas that encompass your role; training, match time, positioning, social cohesion, style of play etc. There is no right or wrong as long as you treat everyone fairly, create a happy, fun atmosphere for the players and stay consistent to what you have said.

If you want to make sure you create a winning team and push the positive part of striving to win above all else that is fine. You will probably structure your training around tactical situations, give players set positions, maybe leave your stronger players on slightly longer. Please make sure this is only slightly though as I fundamentally disagree with a player getting hardly any time on the pitch (I classify this as less than half a game) and the frustration at seeing this is what got me into coaching in the first place.

2) Be fair - Always be fair in how you apply whatever rules or procedures you have set in place. Don't allow outside factors to dictate what you do; like the score line or opposition stopping you bringing off a player whose turn it is to go off. If one player is punished for poor behaviour everyone who acts up must be treated the same way which is why you have to be very careful what you do and say.

3) Delegate - This is important in many ways firstly it lightens the load on you, which at times can seem like a lot to juggle with work and family commitments. It also allows you to draw in help from parents which gets them more involved and associated with the team. This in turn help draw parents closer and should make the team a much happier entity.

4) Make your team more than a club - The football side is very important but a team should be much more than that. It is an opportunity for the children to possibly make friends for the rest of their lives and a group of children who they should look forward to meeting up with every week. Make it more than just a team by organising social events for players and parents trying to build friendships in both groups and making sure they can just have fun.

Social events like paintball, bowling, swimming, watching football matches anything depending on the age the players will love. Events like paintball, going for a meal or just a drink also work to get the parents together and talking so when they go there they can all enjoy the game much more buying into you and your team also.

5) Plan training carefully - Look at training carefully thinking about what you want to improve and plan everything you do in relation to one thing. For example if you wanted to improve the players dribbling then in the warm up they should all have a ball look at basic co-ordination drills. They should build up with dribbling games looking at technique, then maybe drills focusing on taking on players, before a match related drill that highlights on dribbling in a game situation, finishing with a conditioned game where you have to beat a player before scoring. Here you can see the whole session is build around one aspect so you get an understanding of how to perform a certain skill and then how to implement it in a game.

Make sure training is fun and the players want to go to training. Not everyone has the same experience and confidence to go through loads of technical drills, if nothing else if the players leave your training enjoying it then you can't go wrong.

6) Be honest - Never lie or try to hide things. Be up front honest and stick to what you say. Talk to players about how they are getting on but be honest tell them exactly what they need to improve or are doing wrong. Obviously we put it across in a constructive way and always try to sandwich negatives with positives. However it is important people trust and respect that you will tell them the truth to give what you say credibility.

Even more importantly don't tell someone you are going to do some thing and then not do it. If you tell someone you are going to put them up front the next game, or they are going to play the whole next match make sure you do it. If there is some reason that this cannot happen; like for example if a key defender was ill and they have to drop back, tell them the reasons why. Treat your players with respect and respect will be granted back.

7) Make it a positive environment - Although you should obviously be honest try to make everything you say or do as positive as possible. Be very giving with praise and encouragement. Keep encouraging the players to try things and motivate them to try harder. Make it a positive environment and your players will respond in a positive way; pushing themselves to achieve and facing the challenges you put in front of them.

With positivity comes motivation, enjoyment and focus. This should make your sessions much more enjoyable and you should enjoy it more also.

8) Fun - Lastly; and I mentioned it above as the two points link together, make everything you do (training, matches, social events, meetings etc) as fun as possible. Don't take away the reason the players are there in the first place otherwise you will find they won't be there for too long. The more they enjoy the more you will.

The key ways to do this are to be happy, enthusiastic and positive as the players will absorb this positive energy. Make your session fast, up tempo, and exciting. Base your training around competitive challenging situations, involve goal scoring opportunities and plenty of touches of the ball. Make sure that everyone has a go in an environment that allows them to take risks and enjoy them, rather than dread the challenge.

If nothing else if you make sure you do this you will have given the kids what they came for. Taking into account all of the above will ensure you get this every time and remember it is important for you to enjoy it as well.

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