Draft Chinqually New Coaches Handbook

This page is a working draft of a proposed Chinqually New Coaches Handbook. I have put this draft out to generate discussion and receive comments and wisdom to make this a really useful tool for new coaches. All input is welcome! Please email comments to me samhales@aol.com

I plan to add a section discussing the evolution of a player in Chinqually from super-mod to high school. Additionally, add a section discussing the option for players moving from recreational to select. 

Chinqually Coaching Handbook


Welcome to what will possibly be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Coaching a youth soccer team is challenging, fun and deeply rewarding. The difference you will make in the lives of your players will extend far off the soccer field and will impact them for years to come both as players and citizens of our community. Coaching is a big challenge and responsibility and the purpose of this handbook is to provide new coaches with a framework to approach coaching.

Chinqually Purpose and Values

Chinqually is a recreational soccer program in Lacey, Washington that has been committed to providing the youth of Lacey with a fun and rewarding soccer experience that encourages them to continue to play soccer throughout their youth and into adulthood. Chinqually is a grassroots player centric club and as such our goal is to excite and develop the players so they continue playing soccer throughout their youth and into adulthood.

Chinqually is a values-based club and expects all coaches and players to adhere to our values. Our values are respect, player centered, development centered and fun.

Respect means that all the players, coaches, referees and parents treat everyone in a manner that they would like to be treated. Even in the heat of a game we must always keep in mind that treating all involved with respect is a must.

Player-centered means that the player is at the center of everything we do. Especially as coaches our focus must be on the players and their fun, development and safety. This can sometimes come into conflict with what is “best” for the team, but in the end we always defer to what is best for the players involved.

Development centered means that we are focused on developing the players not only as soccer players, but also developing them to become contributing adults and citizens in our community.

Chinqually soccer should be fun. Children should be excited to come to practice and games and when the season ends, they should be eager to sign-up and play the next season. Fun keeps the kids coming playing and consistent regular playing of soccer is what creates a great soccer player.  

Six Tasks of the Coach

Following the US Soccer model, Chinqually sees that a coach has six categories of tasks to accomplish. They are leadership, , leading the team, leading the player, coaching the game, coaching a training session and managing the performance environment.

Leadership: developing and implementing leadership characteristics in all aspects of coaching and personal development in order to develop the team and players.

Leadership is the general set of tasks that pull all the other tasks together. The two main categories of leadership tasks are leading the team and leading the player.

Leading the team: leading a team of players in order to drive and improve team development.

Leading the team is about creating the desired culture for the team. This reflects the formal and informal values of the team at practice and during the games. If the coach is particularly successful the team values will extend off the field to non-soccer related activities like school, church, band, scouts, etc. It is hard to over-state the impact of personal leadership example of the coach on the players of the team. It is important for the coach to actively set the tone she wants for the team. For example, it is a powerful example for the coach to greet and welcome every player as they arrive at practice and a game. When the coach talks with the team does he have a threatening and an aggressive tone or is his tone respectful and instructive? Does she lead by her actions and words the value of respect she expects from the players?

There is also an important aspect of setting good sportsmanship standards early on with the team and enforcing them through the season. This is especially important with the younger players as they are new to team sports and learning how to get along with their fellow teammates. As the players age often this becomes a much more collaborative process with the coaches and the players developing and enforcing the team value together.

A really good book on this challenge and opportunity is Every Moment Matters by John O’Sullivan. It is a very thought provoking book especially on the subject of leading, leading the team and leading the player.

Leading the player: leading and guiding individual players.

Three of the main areas to focus on regarding leading the player are skills development, tactical development and personal development. In youth soccer the single most important aspect is personal development. At the younger ages it is about teaching them to be good sports and teammates. You focus on helping them learn the basics of being part of a team and focusing on a task. In many ways, soccer skills and tactics are secondary to treating people well and behaving well as a teammate. As they age all the way into high school it is about helping them be prepared for life challenges they face. A coach and a player develop an important relationship and this comes with great responsibility and opportunity for the coach to make a difference in the life of the players. To achieve this it is important that coaches talk and listen to their players. Make it a point to talk with players about life off the field. Players respond better when they know you really care about them as a person. Additionally, understanding what is going on in a player’s off field life may give you some important insight on what is going on with him on the field. For example, a coach may well deal differently with a player who is being rude and disrespectful with his teammates if he knows that player just found out his players are going through a divorce. Many of our players are dealing with big challenges and as coaches we need to be aware of these and adjust our leadership accordingly.

The two main aspects of soccer development will be skills development and tactical development. This can be challenging for coaches who themselves may not have played a good bit of soccer, but even a coach who is brand new to soccer can overcome this challenge. First, follow the Play-Practice-Play methodology and let the game be the primary teacher. You cannot go wrong letting the kids play the game. Next, if you have particular questions about particular skills or tactics reach out to the league and ask to be put in touch with a more experienced coach. This can be very helpful and senior coaches love working with new coaches. Lastly, YouTube has countless good videos on soccer skills and tactics. Always keep in mind, the game is the best teacher. Let them play.

Coaching games: coaching the team during soccer games focused on achieving predefined objectives.

Notice that is says “predefined objectives” and not winning. Winning is not the priority of coaching the game at the grassroots level. This is worth emphasizing again. Winning is not the priority of coaching the game in Chinqually. As the players age the coaching priorities evolve, but winning is never the priority of coaching within a recreational environment. At the younger years, the priority is having fun and learning the game. At the older years, it is about growing the players as players and people.

At the younger age, give the players positions and assist them during the game in learning the lessons you focused on during practice. This may also include helping them learn the rules and adhere to the rules during the game. Additionally, provide positive motivation leading to their enjoyment of the game. Be directive in helping them understand the rules. For example, it is your responsibility as a coach to ensure that your team is following the rules regarding the build-out line at the younger years. This is the rule that says the defensive team must back up behind the build-out line once the opposing team’s goalie has the ball or they have a goal kick. Be very careful of your tone of voice as you approach coaching the game. As adults and coaches, it is easy to get excited and use our directive voice while coaching the kids. That is not the voice they need to hear. Tone is very important. The way we talk with the players on the field shapes how they enjoy the game. Remember, the most important outcome of the game is that the kids enjoyed it. That enjoyment brings them back season after season.

Coaching training sessions: preparing the team systematically during training.

Chinqually recommends following the Play-Practice-Play methodology for practices as outlined by US Soccer. In this methodology every session begins with small-sided games which is the first Play in Play-Practice-Play. These can range from 3v3 to 5v5. Coaches can jump in and play as they want. These small-sided games have the purposes of being fun and getting the players to have lots of touches on the ball in a game like situation. The kids love this and their skills below the knees are honed as is their tactical decision making in tight spaces.   

We recommend that for kids 11 and below that practices last no longer than an hour. With this being the case the first fifteen minutes should be dedicated to small-sided play. The next fifteen to twenty should be dedicated to the practice portion.

The Practice portion should also be game like. In these games the players focus on either the skill the coach wants to develop or the tactical lesson the coach wants to focus on. For example, if the coach wants to focus on getting a defense to operate as a team and pressure and cover she could create the following drill. Three players (red) versus two field players (blue) plus one goalie. Red tries and scores against a big goal on half a field and Red tries to score against two pug goals. Red starts with the ball and attacks. The coach focuses on teaching Red to have a defender pressure the attacking player with the ball and having the other Blue player cover the pressuring player.  

Finally, every practice should end with a scrimmage. This reinforces the skills and decision making from the Practice portion of the session and kids love playing.

A quick comment on fitness. Prior to puberty youth soccer players should not do fitness focused and isolated training. Even after puberty, within a recreational environment players should be developing their fitness through games and game like drills during training sessions. If you really want to focus on fitness have your players play short and intense 3v3 games. 2-3 minutes of high intensity 3v3 soccer is exhausting.

A quick note on stretching. There is no need to go through elaborate stretching exercises. Simple warm-up games like Rondo and Keep away are good ways to get players ready to practice or play.

Managing the performance environment: creating and developing a performance environment

This aspect of coaching faces the most practical of challenges. This includes coordinating uniforms, coordinating practice times and locations, emailing parents, acquiring balls and pennies, and all the other little factors that go into making practice and games possible.

Uniforms. Most teams in the league coordinate with Wembley Soccer Shop in Lacey for uniforms. If you are a new team go to Wembley and pick out the uniform you want. Then have your parents go to Wembley and order the jersey. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the best place to start is to go to Wembley and talk with the staff. Do this early because it can take up to three weeks to actually get the jerseys in and on the players.

Practice times and location. Email the league and request the field and time you want. Do this as early as you can as the fields will fill up. If you are unsure where you would like to practice email with the league and she will tell you what fields are available and where they are.

The Team Sideline email system is your primary means of coordinating with parents. This is a pretty dependable system, but can have a few challenges. Sometimes parents will enter a bad email address into the system and those parents need to go back in and update their email address. The other challenge is that some email systems will see these Team Sideline emails as spam. After the first practice it is important to reach out to each parent of any player who was missing to make sure they are getting your emails. The parents telephone numbers are listed on the player page in the system. If you can do this prior to the first practice that is ideal.

Email the league and ask for a bag, balls, cones, first aid kit and pennies. If you are coaching a team that plays on a full-size field request four corner flags.

Recommended Reading and Education

The US Learning Center is the first step in soccer coaching education. Go and create an account and start with the free introduction to coaching soccer. Following that there are numerous online and then in-person courses that are available for coaches. They teach the Play-Practice-Play methodology for different ages. This is the Chinqually practice format.

An excellent book on coaching with a special focus on leading the player and leading the team is Every Moment Matters by John O’Sullivan. This is a thought-provoking book that also has some very practical lessons on leading the team and the player.

Soccer Skills & Drills by National Soccer Coaches Association of America is an excellent book for skills development. It discusses the different soccer skills and has a list of drills to develop and improve them.