Soccer Coaching Stories



Instructive soccer coaching stories from the experience gained by soccer coaches, parents, and players, as sent to

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(NOTE: Some of the stories below are follow-on stories or “responses.” Please read earlier stories for context.)

I’m so [ticked] off at the United States getting bounced from the Copa America I can hardly stand it.  All of this was essentially due to the actions of one failed “team” member.  His selfish, uncontrolled, inexcusable, rotten conduct cost the team two games.  Worse yet, the coach did not address the whole affair properly.  First, there should be no occasion where a team member should over-react to the point of getting ejected.  Second, other team members need to get to him immediately.  Third, the coach needs to throw the book at him and make an example of him.  Suspension, dismissal, whatever it takes.  The player was dead wrong, but the coaching was worse.  Coaches must never allow this to happen in the first place and there has to be consequences if it does.  (07/05/2024)

I have had good luck using “hula hoops” as goal targets.  I put four on a full-sized goal in the upper and lower corners.  With decent rope, I tie two for the upper corners from the crossbar.  I tie the ones for the lower corners to the hoops hanging from the crossbar.  I then stabilize all four of them with a piece of rope from the near side of each of the hoops to the respective uprights.  (06/05/2024)

I couldn’t agree more with the previous writer.  I have had success with team photos that go beyond the standard usually made available by youth organizations.  Although there are local photographers that can add the team name, the year and player’s names, for a price, I have been able to do this with Photoshop and “drug store” printing.  They have extremely well received.  (05/05/2024)

For years there has been a smattering of debate regarding the presentation of “participation trophies” or “participation medals.”  I’m not taking a position on that other than to say that recognition matters.  This can take other forms, whether it’s a team photo or a signed “Certificate of Participation.”  Certificates, for example, can be inexpensively and easily obtained online through  Colleges may present framed jerseys to their seniors, but recognition applies at any age.  One never truly knows the benefits that accrue in the future due to this one simple gesture.  In addition, presentation matters.  Coaches, make sure your players get a social and psychological benefit that shows their effort was appreciated.  Provide a sincere handshake and “thank you,” for each player, in front of the whole group, no matter what the age.  (I’ll give you a personal bad example for contrast:  After a staff meeting, as everyone was leaving, I had a particularly poor supervisor say to me – as she spun a document down the conference-room table in my direction, together with a jewel case – “Here, this is for you, it’s been sitting in my desk for a couple of months.”  It was my 10-year service certificate and lapel pin.  Just coincidentally, she was asked to leave the organization shortly thereafter.)   (04/02/2024)

Many youth coaches have expressed concern or frustration at how to make substitutions to provide for fair amounts of playing time for all players.  In the past, it could be as simple as creating a four-quarter grid on a piece of paper.  Now, apps are available, both for desktops and iPhones, for making substitutions.  Coaches can Google or hit the app store using “youth soccer substitution apps,” or something similar, to get a number of results.  Many of these are very inexpensive, so one can be tried and, if it doesn’t seem satisfactory, a different one can be tested.   (03/05/2024)

When I was coaching college, I once had an opposing assistant coach approach me to schedule a game at his school.  Instinctively, I accepted but only on the condition that his team had to come back to my school the following year.  It turned out that his offer wasn’t some kind of favor, he was anticipating a win to set up his coach for a major milestone.  I was a bit naïve because I was unprepared and didn’t perceive the ulterior motive, but it all turned out okay.  Anyway, beware of opposing coaches bearing gifts.  (02/01/2024)

Coaches should learn how to use an auto-injector, otherwise commonly referred to as an EpiPen®, for players who have them and are subject to possible allergic reactions.  On soccer fields, this is usually due to insect bites or “bee stings.”  I had an older player, whose parents could not attend practices or games regularly, show me where he had his “bee kit” with him at all times and how to use the injector.  If a player with this propensity should have such a dire reaction that he cannot take care of himself, a quick response would almost always fall to the coach.  Search online, “how to use an autoinjector.”   (01/01/2024)

As a parent of a U-7 recreational player, we just finished enduring a Fall season like no other, all due to the coach.  If he had any training on the objectives of the program or how to behave properly, it clearly didn’t take.  This was in a large, “well-respected,” mid-Atlantic organization with a national reputation for its tournaments.  Players were supposed to be taught skills and tactics and all players were supposed to get at least half of the playing time in games.  The coach played his favorites, or most-skilled, players the vast majority of each game.  They never changed positions.  The goalkeeper was instructed that, every time he got the ball, he was to throw it to the one striker who sprinted off to the goal.  Defenders were taught to always press up and, if anyone got by, they were berated.  Midfielders and other strikers were afterthoughts.  The parents of the other players were incensed.  After the last game, one player who was in for only two minutes, left the field crying.  What gives?  Why should parents and players be subjected to this?  Sure, it’s “volunteer coaches,” but training must be mandatory and coaches need to sign a statement that they will perform according to the specifically-stated goals of the program.  Parents should not be put in the position of having to “cry foul” and report bad coaches.  THERE SHOULD BE OVERSIGHT OF COACHES BY THE SOCCER ASSOCIATION.  If the association isn’t going to do it unilaterally, there should be a well-publicized process for parents to be able to provide anonymous feedback about coaches, WITHOUT REPERCUSSION, that will be responsibly addressed.  This would require the association to go observe the coach and then fix the problems.     (12/01/2023)

As a parent of a U-6 recreation player, I feel I just had to write.  This last game, the opposing team’s coach kept yelling to his team to beat “the bad guys.”  Seriously?  What kind of message is this sending?  Does he think this is some kind of take-off on video games?  I was absolutely appalled.  Some of the kids on my son’s team are friends and classmates with players on that team.  This is not harmless.  I just don’t understand the thoughtlessness.  If they must, coaches need to refer to “the opponent” or “the other team,” but not use any terms that are derogatory or demeaning.   (11/01/2023)

I don’t have a coaching suggestion.  I just want to thank all of the coaches out there who direct girl’s and women’s teams.  Although the US national team was a disappointment in this most-recent FIFA Women’s World Cup, my biggest concern was the failure on the part of the media to recognize that the final emergence of truly competitive world women’s soccer can be directly traced back to Title IX.  Everyone else has finally caught up to us.  This is a HUGE reason to celebrate.  [Editor’s Note: “Title IX is the most commonly used name for the federal civil rights law in the United States that was enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.” – Wikipedia.  This resulted in an explosion of female sports opportunities.]   (10/01/2023)

I just had to go back and find the coaching story you previously printed regarding female players grabbing hair.  It was 01/05/2021.  I saw it happen for myself in the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup where a player almost took down an opponent by forcefully pulling on her pony-tail.  Not only was I appalled by the action itself, but I was astonished when there was no call by the referee!  Do the refs not see it, or are they not looking for it, or they can’t believe that anyone would do this??? This goes well beyond “holding.” Besides being an affront to the sport itself, it is extremely dangerous and deserves at least a yellow-card caution. If the refs aren’t going to do anything, then administrative actions have to be taken.  VAR offers more than enough evidence.  This must be stopped!   (09/02/2023)

I’m writing to express my deep concern over the proliferation of so-called “energy drinks.”  My first problem rests with the naïve assumption by many that these overly-caffeinated products have some association with “sports drinks.”  “Energy drinks” are NOT sports drinks.  Legitimate sports drinks, like “Gatorade,” are designed to replace fluids and electrolytes lost in the process of sweating, not to get someone hyped-up.  My second problem rests with the deleterious effects of the consumption of massive amounts of caffeine contained in energy drinks.  These include dehydration (the exact opposite of a sports drink), heart problems, high blood pressure, nervousness, and the inability to get proper sleep.  Ironically, energy drinks may also contain large amounts of sugar which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Energy drinks are a marketing abomination that have no place for children and adolescents, especially in sports.   Up to U-19, coaches should ban “energy drinks” from their teams and take every opportunity to teach players and parents not to allow their use.   (08/01/2023)

I have heard of the benefits of jumping rope for soccer fitness and agility, like that performed by boxers.  Could you please do an article on that?  Thank you!  (07/02/2023)

If you have the time and the resources, consider exposing the team to Tae Kwon Do.  (06/03/2023)

When I was a college coach, we drove school vans to away games.  I implemented a “rule” that served me well and that I would like to pass on.  My observation was that most freshmen didn’t have the experience of driving long distances.  Accordingly, I did not allow freshmen to drive the vans.  We never had a problem dealing with far-away games, distracted driving, or drowsiness at the wheel.  (05/01/2023)

My son’s coach likes to celebrate birthdays and sometimes the losing of a scrimmage (all in the name of FUN) by placing players in a goal and having the team kick balls at the same time at their backside. Kids facing the net. Must stand there and take it. All kicks at the same time. I have reported this and was assured it would not happen but it just did again last week.  This is wrong on so many levels. WHAT CAN I DO??? I’M AFRAID SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HURT.   [Editor’s Note:  This is so very wrong.  The risk of concussion by being hit in the back of the head is extremely serious.  No coach should ever create a situation where balls are being kicked at players who can’t see them coming.  All players must be taught never to kick balls in the direction of players who have their backs turned.]  (04/02/2023)

Wow, was I surprised by the February 2023 story because it was so similar to a situation I knew about.  The coach actually libeled my college roommate in a written document saying demonstrably false accusations.  My roommate took it to the Athletic Director under his advertised “open door” policy.  The Athletic Director promptly reported the entire visit back to the coach!  The coach then absolutely tormented my roommate.  When the Administration heard about it, the coach was reassigned (with pay, big deal) and NOTHING happened to the Athletic Director.  My roommate quit the team but finished school.  His mother talked him out of filing a lawsuit.  (03/01/2023)

Players are strongly encouraged to have and maintain consistent and candid conversations with their coaches, but coaches must not destroy this privilege without suffering serious credibility issues.   Coaches with a solid “open door” policy must never abrogate their responsibility to keep communications provided by players in confidence… confidential!  Options for addressing a problem are to be worked out with the player one-on-one.  Yes, there are certain rare times when a direct, immediate, safety concern may require outsider participation, but these are few and far between and any actions can still be discussed with, and approved by, the player first.  I’m aware of a case that went horribly wrong:  A player spoke with their coach in confidence and the coach took it to the Athletic Director.  The Athletic Director was an incompetent, unprepared, irresponsible individual who couldn’t handle the situation and spoke to the world.  The player wound up leaving school.  The coach never had the confidence of his players ever again.  The Athletic Director ultimately resigned.   (02/02/2023)

Many soccer fields in urban and suburban locations are surrounded by houses and members of the direct community.  I’ve seen a number of young “adult” players who don’t really show much courtesy or respect for these neighbors, parking too close to driveways, parking on their grass, making unnecessary noise, drinking, littering, getting water from outdoor home spigots, and even lying down resting on front lawns.  I don’t see much in the way that leagues have any influence over this improper behavior.  I am at a loss to figure out what can be done.  It just works against the whole sport and gives all of us a bad name.  Does anyone have any ideas?  Thank you.  (01/01/2023)

I succeeded in making two mistakes on one incident with my U-15 boys that I still regret to this day.  My goalkeeper made a clean high catch and had clear possession when he was barged in the chest by a late-arriving attacker.  The ball was dislodged and went into the goal.  The referee did not call the foul and awarded a goal.  Unfortunately, I let a past experience with a bad referee cloud my judgement on my response.  I did and said nothing.  Not only did I not address the incident on my referee evaluation, but most significantly, I did not tell my goalkeeper that he had done nothing wrong.  Don’t let prior events keep you from acting properly in the present.  I don’t regret not dealing with the referee, but I still regret not reassuring my goalkeeper.  (12/01/2022)

I recently took my girls’ team to lunch at a national chain fast-food restaurant during our break in a tournament.  The place was absolutely packed with regular customers and lots of other teams and we didn’t have a viable alternative.  The staff was overwhelmed and it took almost 45-minutes to get our food and another 30-minutes to eat.  It created a tight schedule and not the most ideal conditions for my players in the next game.  Coaches, beware when “fast food isn’t fast.”   (11/01/2022)

Coaches need to tell parents to get in touch with them as soon as possible if their child suffers any kind of injury (outside of soccer or otherwise not known by the coach).  Although this is important on general principle, it had a personal impact on one of my players.  Unbeknownst to me, he had broken a finger and arrived at our next game wearing a metal splint.  I did not have sufficient padding and the referee correctly did not allow him to play.  He was devastated and his parents and I could have avoided the entire situation with some simple communication.   (10/04/2022)

On two separate road trips with U-19 teams, I had players get sick the night before a match because of bad sushi and bad pulled pork, respectively.  One couldn’t finish his game and the other was so bad off that he couldn’t play in his game at all.  Coaches, insist that your players not try new foods, or to eat foods known to present problems, when away from home.  (09/03/2022)

I have yet another example for Contingency Planning.  Unfortunately, this is because during a college road trip, one of our State vans was involved in an accident on an Interstate highway.  This required a response by State Police and, although no one was injured and my driver was not at fault, it took a LONG time to resolve.  This was because it was in the middle of nowhere and the first responding officer had to call in a different trooper since the location of the collision happened to be just beyond his jurisdiction.  First, we needed to uncover State paperwork regarding the van. Next, we had to fill out a lot of forms.  We wound up having to change clothes in the van because of the length of the delay.  We made it to the field 15-minutes before kickoff, just barely enough time to warm up.  If something can happen, it will!  (08/01/22)

I have another item, drawn from experience, that needs to be added to Contingency Planning: Scouting out and knowing where and how to get to restrooms on extremely short notice.  This can be a dire emergency that may require immediate action.   This may seem like a no-brainer, unless it happens to you in the “middle of nowhere.”  (07/01/2022)

Long ago, I once had the unique pleasure of playing in a pick-up game with former Scottish professional footballer Billy Fraser. Prior to starting he announced in his wonderful brogue, “Sorry lads, but I don’ know ‘ow long I can play ‘cause I’ve got this ‘orrible rash on me knockers.”  Coaches, remember that players need to take care of their total health, not just their feet!  (06/02/2022)

Coaches, tell your parents and players that they should not kick balls into chain-link softball or baseball backstops. Not only are the backstops rough on the surfaces, but curled or improperly wired chain-link will easily pop a ball.  (05/01/2022)

I’d like to add more to “track etiquette” (Soccer Stories, 12/02/2020).  -You have to see where you’re going. –Never assume that the track is clear. -Look for obstacles. -Don’t just stop or stand arbitrarily in the middle of the track. -Wear the right shoes. -Do not play music that interferes with others.  -You must be able to hear! If you feel that you just have to wear earbuds while on the track, keep the music really low or only wear one. -Pass on the right. -Notify before passing. – Be careful and courteous when crossing the track to-and-from the infield. (People on the track have the “right-of-way.” Look both ways before crossing. Wait for people to pass, leaving a good break. Do not try to sprint across between people.)  -Note that many people have no clue about track etiquette.  The worst offenders are generally the ones who walk on the inside lanes, but then there are those with any type of wheeled vehicles, like bikes, strollers, and scooters. -Do not confront people who behave badly (or are just clueless). If it’s really worrisome, you need to go to the coach or to a school official.  (04/03/2022)

Coaches, remember that a concussion is a concussion is a concussion, no matter where or how it happened.  Players and parents must be informed that it is MANDATORY that they report any concussions to you as soon as possible after they happen.  It doesn’t matter if the concussion was associated with soccer or not.  Prior to our spring season, I had one of my U17 girls properly report to me that she had received a concussion from a knee to the head playing high school volleyball during the preceding winter.  I praised her for doing so and worked with the parents to develop a program for her continued participation, excluding heading.  After asking her permission, I also explained the circumstances to the team, told the players how proud I was of her, told them to pay special attention to not allow errant air balls to go in her direction, and asked them to show understanding during times when she had to work on her own.  (03/01/2022)

Let’s re-visit “r-ICE” and the initial treatment of injury.  Unfortunately I recently had a player suffer a significant injury to his arm due to landing on it with his full body weight.  ICE treatments needed to be applied for over two weeks.   r-ICE works!  The only times r-ICE doesn’t work is when it’s not used!  (02/07/2022)

A number of years ago I was asked to create a set of tiebreakers for a tournament.  After entering all of the possibilities I could think of, for the last item I put “coin flip,” absolutely certain that it would never come to that.  So, of course, in one of the age groups that’s exactly what it came down to.  The organizers had to stick to the rules and the team that lost the flip was totally dejected.  I felt miserable.  Clearly, the last item should have been “co-champions” and the organizers should have paid for additional trophies.  I’m sure the second team wouldn’t have minded the wait for the trophies to be prepared.  Coaches and administrators, whatever the odds, file this one under “If it can happen, it will;” and please learn from my error. (01/10/2022)

With my 5-year-olds, I went over to visit an adorable little girl who was having trouble participating because she was afraid of getting knocked down by the boys.  Just as I was about to reassure her that everything was going to be okay and that I would look out for her, her mother says to her loudly, “Here comes the coach.  He’s mad at you because you’re not playing.”  So everyone nearby could hear I stated, “I don’t get mad at anyone!”  The little girl let me take her hand and escort her back onto the field.  And now I’ll admit that I wasn’t just mad at the mother, I was furious, but I didn’t let it show.  I just can’t understand a mother trying to put words in my mouth to berate their own child.  Coaches, this is just another cautionary tale of the craziness that can occur in soccer and how dumb parents can be. You always have to expect the unexpected and be able to maintain a calm demeanor to respond properly when the unexpected occurs.  (12/07/2021)

You would think in this day and age that the following sad experience would be totally gone but apparently it still exists:  Beware the Foreign Coach that Thinks he’s God’s Gift to American Soccer.  The first indicator is, “I know what’s wrong.  I’ll fix it.”  Others include bending or breaking administrative rules, the inability to actually teach, and playing favorites at the expense of others.  Further, they may tout an extensive resume of questionable validity that is mostly un-verifiable.  Do not give this person a long-term contract or one that has any kind of buy-out clauses or termination fees.  (11/03/2021)

Parent:  How do you dry out wet soccer shoes?  Me:  Stuff them repeatedly with wadded-up newspaper.  Parent:  None of us subscribe to a newspaper.  Me:  Then I guess it will have to be used printer paper, if you have a printer.  (10/04/2021)

In one of my recent college games, I was confronted with an interesting tactical decision.  From the very start of the match, it was clear that the opponent was packing the defense and hoping for a breakaway or quick-counter to score.  The entire first half we covered the possible counter and took a ton of shots.  At halftime I had to make the decision to either a.) continue with our same approach, or, b.) pull back, play possession, and try to draw the opponent out.  I opted to stay the course, mainly because we had not practiced for this and I was concerned we might make that one fatal error.  I also just thought for sure that we would get a goal to fall in the second half.  The game ended in a 0-0 tie.  We set the school record for shots.  We now practice for “catenaccio”-like events and I guess it was a compliment that the opposing coach felt he had to try this tactic in order to blunt our attack.  Anyway, the game was ugly and my players expressed their displeasure with the other coach for messing up the beautiful game.  But I still wonder if I should have chosen the other option, been less conservative, and tried for the win no matter what the consequence.  (09/01/2021)

I’d like to relate my experience introducing the overlap to a college team.  By way of background, I already had an aggressive, attack-minded group that was scoring plenty of goals.  I was also using both a formation and a system of play that sent numerous players forward.  So, I provided the instruction, and how and when I wanted overlapping to be performed.  Then I proceeded to full-sides, match-conditions implementation.  And… it turned into a mess!  By sending another body into the attack, players were literally getting in each other’s way and there was not enough space to properly execute the existing attack.  So, I scrapped the overlap.  Coaches, just because an option is available to you, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it.  (08/02/2021)

Years ago, before truly competitive women’s soccer, I played on a college-aged men’s summer-league team and we were short a player for a playoff game.  One of our player’s girlfriend, who had been a high school all-star, was in attendance so we asked her to fill in.  The game was high-caliber, fast, intense and it was very hot. She played exceptionally well in the first half, but when the time came for the second half to begin, she couldn’t stand up and wouldn’t go in.  When pressed, all she could muster was, “I had no idea.”  For girls and women playing serious soccer today, the concept remains the same, to be challenged by coaches to perform at another level. Coaches of females must recognize that it’s “soccer,” not “girls’ soccer.”   (07/04/2021)    (Editor’s Note:  Coaches of female players must still take into account the accommodations for older girls and women, as demonstrated in a number of reputable scientific studies, for differences in the physiology of the knee and too much heading.)

I once had an excellent soccer coach who gave his players the following first-rate advice on skills training:  “Learn them, practice them, and use them properly in a game the way you would if you had to teach them correctly to others.”  (06/07/2021)

I just finished reading your article on Coaching to Field Conditions.  It brought to mind a situation I encountered as a high school coach years and years ago.  I had a very reliable winger who was particularly good at corner kicks, so I had him take them all – on both sides of the field.  During one game, he kicked the ball directly out of bounds at the corner arc farthest away from where I was standing. He had never done this before and was obviously very upset.  After the season I learned that the field sloped dramatically downhill at that corner and my player could not keep the ball stationary.  Apparently, he had appealed to the referee for some kind of assistance but the referee offered nothing.  It is significant to add that we only used one corner kick play, deep to the box.  So, my player wound up trying to kick a moving ball, essentially while he was backing up.  He was devastated by the result.  If I had properly looked at the field, or had provided for any type of “short corner” option, this could have been avoided, if only by setting the ball against the corner post and kicking it to a teammate nearby.  (05/09/2021)

I read  your article on Coaching 3 & 4 Year Olds and the previous letters talking about old, outdated approaches used by organizations that don’t know how to change from the way they always did things, like competitive games for this age group.  Where it’s available, I strongly recommend “Soccer Shots.”  (04/08/2021)

Referencing the 02/01/2021 story, I had a similar circumstance with a parent of one of my U-12 players.  The mother of one of my players would routinely announce to her husband, loudly enough that I could always hear it, “I don’t like that man.”  Before the end of the season, she had told her husband that he was to form a new team and take their son with him.  They did leave, but no one else on the team went with them.  I considered this to be a huge benefit from two perspectives.  Not only was I relieved of this parent, but the league also gained a new coach and a new team.   I didn’t have to take any action at all but this could a suggestion for a coach to submit to a parent in an unfortunate situation.  (03/03/2021)

A number of years ago I was the manager-player of a talented senior men’s team.  Unfortunately, one of the players decided to engage in an ugly habit of making snide remarks and routinely criticizing how I managed the team.  When I was subsequently deployed, I ensured that he took over the team.  When I returned three years later, I asked him if he wanted me to take back management.  He quietly and immediately responded in the affirmative.  From that point forward he never made an inappropriate comment.  Coaches, if you experience something similar, consider inviting them in or offering to let them take over.  It could be very rewarding.  (02/01/2021)

I recently was watching a U.S. Women’s National Team game on television where a player for the opponent grabbed and pulled on the hair of a U.S. player.  The referee and assistant referees missed it entirely, but it was clearly visible to the audience.  Free kick and yellow card aside, this action on the part of anyone is both appalling and inexcusable.  Coaches, don’t ever, ever, ever allow this!  (01/05/2021)

Many coaches have access to public tracks and make good use of them for sprint and endurance training.  Unfortunately, both a lot of coaches and players do not have any experience with “track etiquette” and it needs to be taught.  -If the track is associated with a school, school teams like track and cross country have priority. -Be respectful of others and do not create dangers. – No clothing, bags, keys, or water bottles are to be placed on the track itself. – No soccer balls. – Go counter-clockwise only. – No bunching. -No running backward. – Pay attention; no horseplay. -Runners to the inside.  -Joggers to the middle. -Walkers and rehab to the outside. -Overtakers must always be the ones to move, allowing sufficient room to avoid collisions if someone should do something unexpected, just like in skiing.  (12/02/2020)

I have another version of “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” (Soccer Stories, 01/11/2017):  When I coached college soccer, I was a member of the conference’s coaches association that, at the end of the season, “voted” for the Coach of the Year.  I put “voted” in quotes because, even though there was a formal ballot process, it was “understood” that the Coach of the Year was always the Coach of the conference champion.  If that was the way it was going to be, why bother to have a vote at all?  There was never any real consideration that someone else might be deserving.  The whole process was a waste of time, but that was the way it was always done.  (11/06/2020)

Back to “Clinic” (Instructional) soccer, I was another one of those volunteers in a 3- and 4-year olds program with the dumb approach of playing competitive games on Saturdays.  I had the naive expectation that the players would be randomly distributed by the Association to their respective “teams”.  I was astounded to later learn that one of the coaches had selected her players by going to a group of parents in advance of registration and asking them to request her as their coach.  The Association obliged.  Not only did she do this, but she started practicing before the program began and the other teams had even had a chance to officially gather.  She achieved her purpose – every Saturday her team rolled over and demoralized her opponent.  The children were crushed.  Every team played every other team twice.  The second time our two teams met, my children didn’t even want to take the field.  Not fun.   (10/07/2020)

Regarding the August 2020 story, I was a member of a collegiate association that misspelled the name on their Most Valuable Player award and presented it that way.  It was most embarrassing and it does happen.  (09/04/2020)

I once had a former coach of one of my son’s teams incorrectly provide a list of names for the caption under a team photo.  The one name he left out was that of my son.  Not only did he fail to include my son’s name, but his error also caused most of the other names to be off by one.  This lack of attention to detail upset my son and me for years.  It also made the memento worthless.  If you’re going to do awards or mementos, get them right.  (08/03/2020)

Around age 12 we were playing a small-sided game in practice.  At one point, I did everything “right”.  I broke clear up the sideline, cut for goal, and received a perfect pass with no defenders.  I was so elated, I cranked up as hard as I could and missed the goal from three feet away.  Everyone laughed at me.  It became a self-taught lesson that I tell my players to this day:  finding composure on goal is a very real thing, even if it is learned due to humiliation.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, just put the ball in the back of the net.  (07/03/2020)

This is for all coaches of High School age players.  As a former university soccer coach, please tell your kids not to just show up at college and appear unexpected at a general, open tryout.  Tell them that this does a tremendous disservice to them and to the coach.  Once they decide which school they are going to attend, and that they want to try to play soccer there, they need to contact the coach before the end of May.  Most coaches want to provide information in advance.  (06/02/2020)

Came upon the Mercy Rule in Local Rules.  I have some thoughts.  I agree with the concept whole-heartedly.  But sometimes things just don’t work out and kids keep scoring.  After teaching kids to score, score, score, how do you tell them not to?  Actually, kids understand a whole lot more than they are usually given credit for.  They will understand that it’s no fun for the other team to get clobbered and they wouldn’t like it very much if it were happening to them.  On the flip side, you can talk with the other coach about ending a match early.  I’ve seen coaches on the receiving end who were grateful for this option and others who declined because it was “the way the game was played” or it “taught character”.  (05/03/2020)

I had a player once who had heard the term “Play the ball, not the man.” from a number of previous coaches.  Unfortunately he was routinely getting called for going over top of opponents on jump headers, even though he was clearly getting to the ball first.  I explained to him that he needed to adjust his technique to try to go straight up for jump headers and he responded that he didn’t understand because he felt that he was playing the ball, particularly when an opponent did not even jump.  After discussing what was happening, including about the opponent having position, we agreed that the phrase should be, “Play the ball, avoid the man.”   (04/02/2020)

I’ve always been interested in how soccer coaches can be heard over long distances.  I often refer to this as the “120-yard yell.”  I finally saw something in the Parade newspaper magazine that may be of interest to other coaches (“Ask Marilyn” by Marilyn vos Savant; Parade; February 16, 2020): “It’s [a combination of] volume and pitch.  The resonant frequencies of the human vocal tract are known as ‘formants.’  Those loud-talkers have what voice experts call the ‘speaker’s formant,’ meaning that their voices will be heard well at greater distances.  This kind of voice is learned.  Some people simply want to get attention when they speak.  Others acquire it while training to sing.  Readers can learn it too, just by trying, finding a pitch that works and making it a habit.  You too can pierce through a crowd!”  (03/02/2020)

I had a high school player recently who sent a long ball to empty space upfield and then started yelling, “Where’s the wing, where’s the wing?”   Well, the right wing had correctly been back playing on defense before the ball suddenly changed hands.  This gave me a golden opportunity to stop practice and discuss situational awareness and the need to take personal responsibility for one’s own decision-making.  This struck me as a prime example of what is called “Soccer IQ.”  (02/03/2020)

After reading “Foot Care,” I’d like to bring up my experience with two of my players that had plantar warts.  In the first instance the player had no idea what he was dealing with and let it go much too long.  He underwent countless acid treatments but it had gone so deep in one toe that it went down to the bone.  This had to be burned out with an electric-arc needle.  In the second instance the player recognized the problem immediately and it was resolved with one treatment. Coaches need to talk to parents of youth about foot reviews and to older players directly so that they know what to look for and to not let problems go untreated.  (01/05/2020)

I played soccer for almost 30 years and, fortunately, I never experienced a concussion as a result of the game.  I did have two concussions as a result of accidents.  One was when I was 12-years-old.  I knew exactly what had happened and I immediately told my parents.  This was well before today’s training became common.  Children can be taught about concussions, how to recognize the symptoms, and how to report, at a very young age.  Coaches must do this teaching and not put it off.  (12/03/2019)

Coaches, PLEASE talk to your players about the significance of concussions.  It is vitally important that they know the symptoms and that they self-report when they have a problem.  They must be taught that the long-term effects can be so significant that they can not afford to be concerned about loss of playing time in the short term.  They must be reassured that reporting is the right thing to do and that nothing will be held against them.  It appears that girls/women are better at self-reporting than boys/men.  (Teenage boys, in particular, seem to want to “tough it out” and keep knowledge of their injuries to themselves.)  It must be emphasized that their health is all that matters and that failing to report can impact their over-all playing career.  Youth coaches also need to have this same discussion with the parents.  Further, coaches MUST be aware of events that happen on the field, such as head-to-head and head-to-ground collisions, in order to respond properly when the event occurs, and then to perform follow-up.  (11/07/2019)

When I coached college soccer I had a player who came down with a massive case of mononucleosis (mono).  Coaches need to understand that this is very serious and must not be treated lightly.  A case of mono that includes an enlarged spleen can have potentially deadly consequences if the spleen bursts when struck by a ball.  Players who are diagnosed with mono must be seen by a doctor and must not be allowed to participate in any way until they are medically cleared.  Players with particularly bad cases also need supplemental nutritional, lifestyle, and academic support.  (10/06/2019)

I have more on the strange behavior that certain parents may exhibit. I was officiating a high-school-age girls’ recreation game when I heard a parent persistently screaming at one of the players. As I edged closer, much to my surprise and chagrin, I discovered that he was yelling at the wing fullback on the other team, who was opposing his daughter. He was basically right beside her because of her position near the sideline and he would move along the field as she moved. I stopped the game, warned the coach to have the parent cease and desist, and said that the next actions would be to toss the parent and then terminate the match if the behavior continued. Most fortunately, the screaming ended. To this day, I remain absolutely amazed by this situation and by the fact that the coach had taken no action before I addressed it.  (09/07/2019)

Previous coaches have provided examples of goal celebrations that have caused injury to teammates.  I have another.  In my case, the girls were jumping up and down and one of them landed a cleat directly on the big toe of the goal scorer.  It caused a massive blood blister under the nail and the goal scorer could not put on her shoe, walk, or kick a ball the next day. As a result, she missed the championship final of the tournament we were in and spent weeks recovering.  (08/02/2019)

Back in the day, when I had a U-15 girls’ team, I had an occasion where we had a legitimate penalty kick called against us during the normal run of play.  Our goalkeeper made a fabulous save and held onto the ball.  Two of her teammates rushed in and gave her a big hug.  I could understand the enthusiasm, but this was a LIVE BALL.  Penalty kicks, other than those used to decide a game, are RE-STARTS.  Unfortunately, one of the girls hugged the keeper from behind, hit the ball with her hand, and DISLODGED THE BALL.  The referee then awarded another penalty kick for a handling infraction, which the opponent converted!  (07/05/2019)   [Editor’s Note: It is not coincidence that this submission arrived just after undisciplined members of the U. S. Women’s National Team did the same thing in the World Cup.  The only difference is that they didn’t suffer any consequence.  On replay, it appears that the U. S. goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, is yelling “Get off me, get off me!” as she securely covers as much of the ball as possible with her arms and body.]

When creating directories of any sort (phone numbers, addresses, e-mails, etc.), be sure to perform a careful double-check of all entries before distribution.  My home phone was once listed with two of the digits transposed.  When I called the incorrect number to explain and apologize for the mix-up, I was met with a completely incomprehensible response by an individual regarding her “unlisted number.”  No amount of discussion could get her to understand how it happened and that, if she were to receive a mis-directed call, it would be deeply appreciated if she could just provide the proper number.  The directory was re-issued but remember that errors have a way of living on.  (06/08/2019)

It’s spring, and here we go again with inconsiderate, ill-behaved, soccer players, and the parents that allow them to do it, wearing muddy cleats into restaurants.  Our local Chick-fil-A even went so far as to have to post a sign on the door – with a large picture of a pair of muddy soccer cleats – asking that people not wear them inside.  It gives all the players, coaches, parents and fans of soccer a bad name, not to mention that it’s just plain rude.  Stop it!  Have flips or slides!  Change your shoes!  (05/02/2019)

I am absolutely appalled by recent stories, both in print and on-line, that leave the false impression to casual readers that icing [an injury] can be counter-productive. Somewhere in these articles, buried deep and to be missed by the sensationalism, may be the fact that this doesn’t apply to an initial injury! But the damage and the overall disservice from these stories promoting heat is already done. Don’t be fooled! “R-I-C-E” is still correct! Like the article on “Treatment of Injury” in states, properly ICE an initial injury for at least 24- to 48-hours starting immediately with the event, in order to reduce swelling. Only after the swelling no longer continues, then proper heat treatment is used to promote healing. (04/02/2019)

Keeping up with equipment can be a problem. I lost a brand-new whistle and lanyard on the very first day I had them because I set them down to play with my team and forgot them. Needless to say, when I returned an hour after practice they were gone. Coaches need to develop their own process for making sure they leave with everything that they brought. This can include counting supplies or asking the team to help. In any case it needs to become a standard routine. I learned to just tuck my whistle under my jersey. (03/03/2019)

Do not ever, ever, get into a discussion – argument – with a referee regarding rules interpretations. As people have said before, if you have a problem, write it up and send it to the proper authorities. (02/01/2019)

You should start a section on officiating and dealing with referees. Prior to two of my select games, I went out to confirm the length of time and substitution changes with the officials. I was met respectively with, “Why are you here?” and “I know these things. You don’t have to tell me.” When I tried to explain that league procedures required me to discuss and provide a card of local rule changes, he responded, “No they don’t.” These were a direct contradiction to referee training. Like all people, referees come with different attitudes. Most are reasonable and responsible. Some are not. Coaches, don’t engage with the ones with bad attitudes. Simply report the facts of your encounter according to your league procedures. (01/10/2019)

I recently read a discussion thread on-line that included a belief by one of the participants that soccer should not be considered to be a contact sport. I must express some amusement at this belief because I suffered a severely broken leg in a college scrimmage on a mis-timed, poorly-executed, slide tackle. I spent six months in a cast and another six months rehabilitating. The effect of the tackle was definitely unintentional, but the contact was very real. I can only speculate that the writer has never played the game. Coaches, don’t let anyone try to suggest to you that soccer is not a contact sport. Teach your players well. (12/06/2018)

I have another item to suggest for “Soccer Coach, Protect Yourself.” Coaches who transport a significant number of players in vans, especially institutional or rental vans, need to confirm their insurance coverage for this type of activity. In addition, they need to see if they are required to have any special licensing. They should also check the licensing and maintenance of the vehicle(s) themselves. (11/09/2018)

Internet and iPhone apps changed everything about finding field locations. (For the better. Long gone are the bad old days of huge, photocopied directories.) I have three cautionary tales for coaches about becoming too reliant on these apps, especially at the last minute. 1.) An app may not recognize a certain address because it may be expecting a building; 2.) “Common” (local) names may be used that apps may not recognize; 3.) Field names and locations may not be obvious – for example, we have a local field that carries a county park name that sits behind an elementary school with a different name. The field can not be seen from the road, there is no park sign, and the parking lot for the school is the parking lot for the field. It still pays to scout out locations in advance, if possible. (10/02/2018)

The flip side of an hysterical parent reacting to their child being injured is the parent who freezes and can’t do anything at all. (Then there’s the nuts who keep doing their iPhone video thing as if it’s some kind of crime scene.) Seriously, because the Coach is “in charge,” parents will look to him or her to respond promptly and correctly to whatever situation even if it means abrogating their own responsibility. Be prepared. It can’t hurt one bit to discuss injury procedures in advance with the parents as part of contingency planning. (09/03/2018)

Regarding your 6/4/18 post, it’s not just parents who can do dumb things when a player gets injured; the player can be their own worst enemy. I had a situation where a 17-year old boy had the misfortune of getting headed in the nose. The injury caused a very severe case of bleeding. He refused to follow directions to keep his head back, allow the nose to be packed, breathe through his mouth, and put ice on the area. Instead, he kept walking away from trainers and kept snorting blood out of his nose. He only relented to some form of treatment after the game ended, guaranteeing that he would never get back in. He never would provide an explanation for his behavior. (08/06/2018)

I have been watching the 2018 FIFA World Cup in amazement considering your article on Special 5-Minute Segments in a Soccer Match. Through the tournament so far, Group Stages to Belgium-Japan quarterfinal, match after match have seen goals being scored over and over again during the segments identified in the article. I strongly recommend that this article be required reading for all soccer coaches at the high school level and above! (07/02/2018)

Regarding player injuries, coaches should note that, at the youth level where parents are almost always present, there is a fine line between how the coach may wish to respond and how the parents may respond. As a referee, I had a case where a young goalkeeper jammed his wrist into a goalpost so forcefully that it was clearly either broken or dislocated. I suggested to the coach to call “9-1-1” for professional assistance and apply ice. Before we could do anything, the boy’s father came running over yelling, “I know what to do! I know what to do!” He then proceeded to grab the boy’s hand, yank it as hard as he could as the boy screamed, and lead him off to their car. I guess you defer to the parent first… (06/04/2018)

Young players can also get very frightened when they “get the wind knocked out of them” after falling to the ground. Although nature usually takes care of this fairly quickly, directing them to lie on their back, bring their knees up by putting the soles of their feet on the ground, and repeatedly telling them to use all their strength to “force your chest out,” a child can be distracted from the event while the diaphragm relaxes and normal breathing returns. (05/11/2018)

Young players can become extremely traumatized and very frightened when they experience an “injurious-type” event, especially for the first time. Simply getting them past the shock and surprise can help lead to reaching a successful outcome. One of the tricks that can be used is distraction. Gently hold one of their hands (being 100% sure that the hand/arm/shoulder is not hurt), look the player directly in the eye and tell them to squeeze your hand as hard as they can. Then say it’s not hard enough and repeat that it needs to be harder still. Obtaining full concentration by the player on the act of squeezing allows the impact of the event to subside, sometimes completely.  [Ed. Note – This also works for adults.]  (04/04/2018)

I had a three-year old routinely stand directly behind me whenever I lost sight of him. This wasn’t malicious or even conscious. I equate it to seeing boys this age do the exact same thing to their mothers when mom is trying to shop for clothes at the mall. Coaches, be careful! If you get one of these and you back up, you’re going down… right on top of them! (03/07/2018)

Regarding the 3-to-5-year-olds youth coaches who parked defenders or cherry pickers, I think I can do you one better: As is common when we scrimmaged, coaches are allowed on the field to give instruction. One of the coaches in our group would give his instruction by him standing directly in front of his team’s goal so the children on the other team couldn’t score! This goes way beyond being “clueless.” (02/05/2018)

This past season I purchased a number of inexpensive American footballs for my pre-teen boys team. We practiced using the instep drive kicking “field goals” over the crossbar of a regulation soccer goal. They had a blast. I would strongly recommend it.  (01/06/2018)

I have the exact same problem with a coach who stations a “forward” right in front of the attacking goal as a “cherry picker.” This has a similar effect at the offensive end as parking the not-a-goalkeeper in front of the defensive goal – no one gets to play with the ball or move it around the field. These guys are clueless when it comes to letting all of the little kids have fun with the game. (12/01/2017)

I’m about to finish a youth instructional season (3-5 year olds) that unfortunately involves competitive games, but supposedly uses no goalkeepers. I say “supposedly” because one of the coaches parks a defender right in front the PUGG goal to block the net. This contradicts the entire concept of allowing the kids to play and to get the enjoyment out of scoring goals. If this is you, stop doing it! (11/02/2017)

Just saw the story about the failed PK decision. Coaches are human. We make mistakes. In my long experience, I have two things to offer. One, it doesn’t hurt to admit to players that you will sometimes mess up. They’ll usually respect you more for it. Two, when you make mistakes, apply the lessons and move on. Dwelling on a bad decision will just needlessly continue to tear you up inside. (10/16/2017)

I made a bad decision in a game because I applied a “coaching axiom” promoted by the USSF in their national courses years ago regarding “freshmen on the team.” The axiom says not to put new players into pressure situations too soon, maybe gently inserting them into an away game where the outcome has already been decided. So, with this playing in the back of my head, I didn’t select a first-year player to take a penalty kick that would have tied a home game in the last minute. The player I did select missed and I have regretted this decision ever since. Whereas some axioms may have merit, the real lesson here was to go with your gut. (09/11/2017)

I’m not so happy about dogs or more particularly some dog owners. I had to deal with a player who had the great misfortune of performing a slide tackle right through a big pile of recent dog [poo]. Some person who shouldn’t even have a dog let theirs crap on an active soccer field without having the courtesy or decency to pick it up. So coaches and parents, you have yet another thing to look for in your pre-game field inspection. Remember to bring a plastic bag along with everything else. (08/02/2017)

Back again, briefly, to friendly, ball-chasing dogs: We had a big guy get loose at practice and successfully grab a fully-inflated Size 5 ball in his mouth, albeit by catching two seams with his canines. When we were able to get him to let go, he had punctured the ball and seemed to be quite fascinated by the hissing sound it made when the air came out. A bit expensive, but a funny adventure on the soccer field. (07/12/2017)

When I was a college coach, I had a schedule one season that had a significant gap between two games. Since the competition had been very exhausting up to the point of the gap, I decided to give the players two full days off from practice for rest and recovery. I didn’t provide them with any “guidance” for this break. When we reconvened, much to my shock, one of my players appeared in a cast and using crutches. He told me that he had played in a pick-up basketball game, went up for a rebound, came down on another player’s foot, and severely sprained his ankle. Now whenever my teams have a break, I tell this cautionary tale and instruct my players (among other things) to not play any sports at all. (06/08/2017)

I’ve been around long enough that I have seen too many coaches criticize their players for “something they should have known” [to do or not to do]. This is as counter-productive as it gets. Coaches, if you haven’t taught something, then own it. The players will immediately recognize how inherently unfair criticism like this is and you will lose respect for it. Suck it up, teach what you should have taught to have avoided the mistake and then move on. It’s one of the dilemmas of coaching that there is never enough time to do everything, or to think of everything that can go wrong, but you must not take it out on the players. (05/02/2017)

Thank you for your article on Contingency Planning. This past fall I had a serious flat tire on the way to practice. I was able to contact one of my parents who easily took over the session. Because of our prior planning we never missed a beat. (04/02/2017)

Things get interesting when players get their drivers licenses and jobs. I had one player in particular who didn’t discuss his job schedule with me and was significantly late to a common meeting point for a two-hour trip to an away tournament. We arrived late with a couple of starters and lost the opening game and the tournament, that we could easily have won if we had been on time. In fairness to the player, his job and its income was very important. In fairness to his teammates, he should have told me that he could not properly make the departure time. Coaches need to discuss safe driving and the impact of job commitments with their players at age 15 and above. (03/05/2017)

I had a player called for a foul and yellow-carded that was excessive by the referee, if not totally incorrect and undeserved. My player just lost it and went off. He was yelling and heading for the referee when one of his teammates ran up to him and kissed him on the cheek. This so startled my player that his focus was instantly redirected and he stopped in his tracks. The remarkable, quick-thinking action by his teammate saved both the player from an ejection and the team from having to play short. It points out that coaches and the team need to discuss how to immediately quiet and de-escalate situations like this. (02/06/2017)

Commenting on the prior stories, I have been associated with a lot of soccer organizations for a long period of time. I’d like to warn that those people saying “That’s the way we’ve always done it” may be more than just closed-minded and regressive about the advances of soccer. They may be threatened because they have something to hide. Any organization that works with money has to be concerned about the long-serving “trusted” individual who has access to funds and no oversight. In business this is a lack of “managerial controls.” There must be detailed financial accounting and reporting regularly presented to a supervisor and to the organization as a whole. In addition, there needs to be annual audits that can confirm and reproduce the reporting. (01/11/2017)

The previous writer hit the nail on the head continuing to discuss the money. In one Association for which I was a volunteer coach, I finally got a chance to see a budget. That’s when I found out that the large amount being charged each family per child in their “clinic” (instructional) program was more than twice the amount needed to cover costs. The dramatic overage was being used to subsidize their travel programs! (12/05/2016)

Boy, did the previous story open up a can of worms. It’s no wonder that Associations and Clubs can’t get enough volunteers or that the drop-out rate for volunteers is so high when the word gets out. The Associations and Clubs are their own worst enemy. Instead of supporting their volunteers, they always side with the disruptive parent (who feels “entitled”), however unreasonable and irresponsible they may be, because that’s where the MONEY comes from! Volunteer coaches, do not assume that you will be supported; get all soccer instruction/objectives and administrative guidance – in writing – before you start. Otherwise, entrenched “directors” assume you know all about the “history” of the Club and then they make up rules as they go! (11/02/2016)

I had to write because there doesn’t seem to be any other forum around to get something off my chest. I am a volunteer coach in what is perceived to be a well-respected program. Unfortunately, I very recently endured abuse from a parent who made up a bunch of fiction about me and how he perceived that I ran the team. This individual also constantly berates their own child. It appears that he falls into the category of believing that because he pays a fee (“…all this money”… -direct quote) for his child to participate that he has the right to make irrational and unsubstantiated claims about anything he wants. Fortunately, he is the only bad apple. The other parents understand that the Association sets the fees and the volunteer does the best he can. I spoke with a friend of mine who said it just comes with the territory and that you always have to remember that the kids come first and to have a thick skin. The fact of the matter is that I do this for the children and to give back to the game, but that I certainly don’t have to be subjected to this. Why do some people behave this way? They ruin everything. These must be the same people who don’t volunteer for anything, think that they can buy their way around, and live to criticize. The Association had to turn kids away this season, expand team size beyond a reasonable limit, and couldn’t field an even number of teams because there weren’t enough volunteer coaches. It doesn’t surprise me; if anyone who has volunteered in the past had to deal with people like this, I can understand why they wouldn’t volunteer again. I won’t. (10/16/2016)

I had a somewhat similar experience with the USSF national coaching school and licensing program. Given the expense involved, both in terms of time and money, you would think their approach would be more oriented toward getting as much information to as many people as possible. Instead it appears that one of their primary objectives is to maintain exclusivity and to ensure that only a certain type of people are allowed to “join the club.” I’m checking out the NSCAA. (09/04/2016)  [Ed. Note – The NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of American) is now “United Soccer Coaches.”]

I was very fortunate to be able to attend one of the USSF’s national coaching schools. The information presented is fantastic. I did not get my license, however, because I ran afoul of two very significant unspoken rules. First, I apparently “insulted” a presenter by needing to leave what I thought was a voluntary review session before the exams. I was literally surrounded in an empty hallway by three members of the coaching staff who confronted me about my “actions.” Second, I was told that I failed one of the portions of the tests for not using an acceptable tactical approach in a response. So, coaches, if you are able to attend one of the national coaching schools, remember to remain “politically correct” and to not be a “free thinker.” Behave the way they want you to behave, go along with the crowd, and spew back the training exactly the way it is presented. (08/03/2016)

I once coached a U-19 team with a player whose parents never attended any of his matches. After a couple of seasons the player asked me if I would call his parents and talk to them about it. I did so only to find that they said they were concerned that their attendance would “make him nervous.” I assured them that would not be the case. They came to the next game and every game thereafter. Their son’s motivation soared and he played significantly better from then on. Parents, coaches, and players need to communicate and never take anything for granted. These parents wound up loving to come to their son’s games, but they had missed so many other opportunities due to a lack of discussion. (07/02/2016)

A number of years ago I volunteered to be a substitute (back-up) coach for a local instructional soccer program. The program was large and I was called-in on every Saturday. Sadly, I was also over-weight and out of shape. At one session, a parent yelled at me, “Hey coach, at least show a little enthusiasm.” She was right but it really hurt. I finished out the season and then I didn’t return to coaching for ten years, until after I had retired, lost the weight, and regained my skills. Enthusiasm counts, motivation counts, and fitness counts, but the unfortunately-yelled comment had the opposite effect from what was intended: taking away a volunteer coach for a decade. (06/02/16)

In your article, “Become a Student of the Game,” you talked about possibly finding a willing “mentor.” This is an excellent concept, but I wish to suggest a degree of caution. When I was a player in college, my coach brought in a “consultant” for a week. The coach thought that this guy was just the “be-all-end-all” of soccer smarts. Indeed, compared to the coach, maybe he was. This consultant had a good reputation. Unfortunately, it also included being of foreign extraction and thinking that he was god’s gift to American soccer. My coach bought into it all and implemented countless suggestions without any thought whatsoever to their impact. They blew away the team chemistry and discounted the foundation laid by all of the hard work of many players. It’s one thing to latch on to a consultant, but it is quite another to apply your own intelligence toward what to use and how to use it. (05/06/2016)

I ran into a bizarre situation a few years back during a youth recreational game. The opposing coach was teaching his kids to take goal kicks as fast as they could in order to “catch” our players before they could get out of the Penalty Area. At one point I even heard him yell at the referee to “call the penalty.” After the game I asked the referee what he thought about all this. He responded that it was a most unfortunate scenario where a.) it was yet another case of a coach who didn’t understand the rules and their application; b.) the referees were instructed not to try to teach the rules to coaches (“a no-win”); c.) stopping the game to try to do so would just have taken play time away from the kids; and, d.) if the ball had ever struck one of my players who wasn’t given enough time to get out of the Area, the kick would have just been retaken anyway (it never did). The referee further volunteered that this coach stated during the game that he “had to teach the referees the rules.” It’s one thing for coaches not to know the rules, but to make things up and teach them incorrectly is irresponsible. Leagues need to assess coaches the way referee organizations do. (04/05/2016)

As a college coach, while I had a “comfortable” lead in one game, 2-0, early in the second half, our opponent continued to make penetrating runs and I was greatly concerned because I thought we should be beating this team handily. Although we finally got a third goal with ten minutes remaining, I expressed my disappointment to the team in our post-game analysis. Frankly, I felt that we should have beaten this “inferior” opponent by at least 5-0. I carefully explained about not letting an opponent stay in the game, never letting up until the final whistle, and living up to our potential. I don’t know that I made any converts. My players thought I had gone off into the deep end and basically responded with, “we won,” and maybe I should “move on.” (03/05/2016)

I was once on the receiving end of an interesting application of gamesmanship. As a college coach, I had my team successfully playing a possession-style, ball-control, game with a lot of short passing on the ground. I assume we were scouted well by this one opponent because, when we played them, their coach had intentionally let the grass grow high and did not have it cut to a normal height. Throughout the match, the pace on our passes was consistently slowed and eventually my players became fatigued. We wound up losing 1 – 0. This was definitely not a contingency for which I had planned and I failed to recognize what was happening until it was too late. (02/08/2016)

After we went up on an opponent 7 – 0, I asked my team to play possession and to stop scoring. Unfortunately, one of my players didn’t understand the concept and proceeded to dribble all the way to the goal, touch the goalpost with the ball, turn around, and then backpass to a teammate. He had absolutely no idea that this was much worse than actually scoring the goal. Coaches, before being put in this position, you clearly need to explain to your team why you are asking them to do this and what it means not to demoralize an opponent. (01/05/2016)

Last week I saw a team of pubescent males and their coaches, visiting for a select travel tournament, invade a local McDonald’s. They were loud, rude, disrespectful of the customers and wait staff, and left a jumble of tables, chairs and trash in their wake. The so-called “adults” didn’t seem to care, offering neither good direction nor proper example. They just got up and left with them. Like it or not, players-parents-coaches, YOU are the direct face of soccer to hundreds of thousands of people: Behave yourselves and clean up your mess! (12/06/2015)

I used to have a “Parents vs. Players” full-sized game for my U-9 and U-10 select teams. Everyone loved them, kids and adults alike, until I decided to stop them after one incident. I had one parent get so excited by the whole thing that he smashed a full-strength instep drive directly into the stomach of a nearby nine-year old. The kid went down in a heap and looked like he may have been severely injured. Fortunately, he just had the wind knocked out of him and was perfectly fine. I don’t know what would have happened if he had been hit in the head. These games can still be great fun, if the parents are warned how to behave. Tell them this story. (11/11/2015)

I agree that sometimes players need to be taught how to be good teammates. I experienced the exact opposite in college. I had a teammate who had his leg broken by a poor tackle attempted by a less-skilled player. The player who had his leg broken never once said anything negative or condescending to his teammate. He was an exceptional example of good sportsmanship and how to be a great teammate. Coaches should use these opportunities to applaud the good examples. (10/01/2015)

Some players just never learn how to be good teammates. In college, I watched in amazement how a player who was contacted by a teammate in a scrimmage – no injury, not even a foul – berated him and then proceeded to never speak to him again for the rest of the season. This guy was really full of himself. Coaches shouldn’t assume that players know automatically how to be good teammates and should start teaching cooperation and partnership early and keep reinforcing it. (09/16/2015)

As the manager of a semi-pro team a number of years back I had an outrageous incident with a player regarding finances. He got it in his head that because we had a “sponsor” (who paid for our uniforms) he didn’t have to pay his share of all the other expenses. I had fronted the team fees so his failure to pay was a debt to me personally. After repeated written requests were refused, I confronted him and he made a nasty scene. Ultimately the whole team had to meet with him to resolve the situation and I was reimbursed. To this day I don’t know whether he paid his own bill or the team took up some kind of collection. Either way it got quite ugly and I still resent it. Coaches, get payments in advance. No pay – no play. (08/05/2015)

After one senior game in Washington, DC, my team was approached and I was specifically accused by a person who identified himself as an “(Country-name deleted) diplomat” that I was wearing his sunglasses. These were common, mass-produced sunglasses that my coach and teammates had seen me wear forever to protect my contact lenses. I can understand that my teammates were cowed by his actions and said nothing in support of me, but the coach didn’t say anything either. All of them were a bunch of jerks. Coaches, you may be called upon to stick up for your players outside of the game. If they’re in the right and you fail to do so, your credibility may be shot in all cases for good. (07/11/2015)

If you get involved in imprinting sponsor names or a logo on your jerseys, clothing, or kit bags, be sure you get it right. I messed up the very first one that I ever did, lettering a “Realty Co.” that actually had a name “Real Estate Corporation.” Show the design to the sponsor and get approval in writing before printing anything. (06/04/2015)

Coaches, when asked to provide club linesmen (assistant referees), be careful who you select! Not only do they have to know what they are doing, but they also have to remember not to get too involved with the game as a fan. I had one parent acting as a linesman get so excited about a legitimate breakaway goal that he raised both hands to cheer, which included the flag. The referee called offside and disallowed the goal. (05/08/2015)

A number of contributors have discussed former college coaches. I had a college coach of direct German extraction who knew nothing about how to treat young men. His approach was to “break” players so that he could “re-mold” them in his image. He never touched anybody, but his verbal abuse and tirades were outrageous. He literally brought nice guys to tears. It was a good school and I got a good education, but the four years of soccer was a lousy experience and certainly no fun. Yet another example of behavior that no coaches should ever employ. (04/06/15)

An example of “Yours” being a bad call couldn’t have been more dramatically demonstrated than in the U.S. Men’s National Team game against Panama in Carson, CA, on February 8, 2015. In the 14th minute, Panama presented a cross to which goalkeeper Rimando, probably incorrectly, did not go to collect. Having not heard anything from Rimando, instead of properly staying on the ball, right-back Yedlin hesitated and pointed for Rimando to make the catch, essentially telling Rimando that it’s “Yours.” The ball then landed between the two of them. This was a bad mistake, currently typical of the problems being exhibited by the National Team, and the U.S. was fortunate not to have been punished for it. A stronger opponent would have scored. This is a prime example of “Yours” as a bad call and can be used by coaches to teach why. (03/04/2015)

We had a Referee Instructor who told stories about games that he had officiated in order to make certain points. One story he told involved a high school goalkeeper who, every time he caught the ball, had an opposing forward run past him and then the goalkeeper would appear to wince. Upon getting a closer look, the referee found out that, when this happened, the opposing forward was sticking the goalkeeper with a pencil! The Instructor concluded that, “No matter how many games you officiate, you will never have seen it all. You must be prepared for anything.” This is equally true for coaches. (02/06/2015)

Years ago I knew a high-school-age goalkeeper who broke his back as a passenger in a severe automobile accident. As part of his recovery he was fitted with a restrictive brace around his chest, back and torso. Surprisingly, after sufficient healing, his doctor allowed him to return to the field as long as he continued to wear the brace and not dive for balls. As a result he turned into the best “position” goalkeeper I have ever seen before or since. Coaches don’t have to create a brace, but they can use this concept of not being allowed to dive in order to help train their goalkeepers on how to position themselves properly to cut down the angle. (01/07/2015)

I just learned of the untimely death, due to a most unfortunate bicycle vs. truck accident, of one of my former assistant coaches. We worked together for four years almost two decades ago. He was a most wonderful person who was always willing to help with whatever was needed to support the team. Good assistant coaches are absolutely critical to the success of a soccer team. Please write an article regarding the importance of assistant coaches. (12/02/2014)  [Ed. Note – See article on Assistant Coaches.]

It pays to know multiple languages on the soccer field. I had a good laugh when a player on my senior recreational team called out “Ici, monsieur” to the ball handler of our French-speaking opponents. Upon hearing the English equivalent of “Here, sir,” the dribbler turned around and back-passed the ball to my teammate! Seriously, it helps to be able to understand the oral communications of non-English-speaking players. For the future of American soccer, coaches should learn Spanish. (11/03/14)

I had a relatively new coach come up to me once and ask me if I had any drills he could use. When I asked him the topics he needed, he responded, “It doesn’t matter, I just need something to keep them busy.” After I got over my surprise, I was happy to provide him with a wide range of drills but I never forgot this exchange. Coaches, it doesn’t matter if you are new or have been around for awhile, drills need to have a purpose as part of a plan. If you can’t explain to your players how a drill applies to the game and why you are asking them to do it, you either need different drills or a whole lot better coaching instruction for yourself. (10/06/2014)

Thanks for talking about the need for backup shoes. I remember a very dramatic example for this in college years ago when a teammate of mine had the sole of one of his shoes break in half during the middle of the game! He didn’t have any backups and couldn’t play for the rest of the game. This was very extreme, but it did happen. Coaches can use this example when explaining the need to their players. (09/09/2014)

More on goal celebrations. I had a player get yellow carded for taking his shirt off and he couldn’t understand why. Coaches should explain to their players that the carding isn’t being shown on television. (08/05/2014).

I couldn’t agree more about warning players about goal celebrations. I had a player try to “slide” and he tore up his knee. (07/03/2014)

Coaches should warn their players about some of the dangers of over-exuberant goal celebrations. In my case, I had a player get his arm broken at the bottom of a huge pile of bodies as players jumped on top of the goal scorer. (06/14/2014)

I’ve been coaching nine- and ten-year old recreational players for years. I use the convention of calling out one of my player’s names and then saying “Look at Mikey (fake name)” in order to let them know that they are in an offside position and need to move. So, we had one game where we were in offside positions A LOT and I wound up saying the phrase repeatedly. After the game the opposing coach came up to me and, in all seriousness, told me that I needed to “let up on Mikey” because it might hurt his self-esteem. The convention works, but I got a real laugh out of this unintended consequence. (05/11/2014)

I strongly concur in the effectiveness of using a “bangboard” or a wall by an individual to practice skills. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that the wall not have any windows!!! I had a player who smashed out a school window which resulted in setting off an alarm which resulted in the police coming. (He also didn’t get his ball back and had to buy a replacement.) Coaches must not suggest that players use a wall for skills without telling them that the wall can’t have any windows. (04/04/2014)

I coached my own children for years, including instructional, recreational, select and travel teams. It was years later that I realized that, because of my own personal involvement, I didn’t have any real pictures or video of them playing or growing up in the sport. Frankly, it made me very sad. I strongly recommend that, if coaches find themselves being caught in a similar scenario, they make arrangements with other parents to specifically take pictures and video of their own kid(s) for future enjoyment. (03/02/2014)

Speaking of dogs, lots of dogs love to play with soccer balls and this can be great fun for kids. Needless to say, the ball needs to be appropriately sized for the dog and the child needs to be instructed to be very careful never to hurt the dog. Players can dribble or pass the ball out for the dog to get it. Both should be properly monitored. Large breeds, like shepherds and retrievers, can handle full-sized balls. I have personally witnessed a German Shepherd that didn’t want to actually contact the ball, but would play “defense” until he was exhausted or, because nobody could get past him, the dribbler would finally give up. I guess it helps to have four feet! Anyway, coaches can suggest to players and parents that they can play soccer with the family dog! (02/05/2014)

In addition to loose children, I’d like to point out the need to restrain loose dogs. I had a problem with a large, very friendly, dog that his family just expected to stay politely on the sidelines. He just couldn’t restrain himself and he charged out onto the field to “retrieve” the ball. Players and parents really have no idea how a dog will behave in this situation and coaches need to inform parents that dogs need to be kept on-leash during practices and games. (01/07/2014)

I had an experience that I would like to share with coaches of really young instructional or recreational teams. Parents with siblings come to the games. Unfortunately, younger siblings really have no idea what’s going on. To them it looks like just great fun with a ball. At one of my games, a two- or three-year-old younger sibling ran out onto the field and tried to pick up the ball, falling down on the ball and getting kicked by a player in the process. Parents need to be told this story and need to be told to diligently watch their younger children in order to protect them. (12/09/2013)

I had a college coach who thought that he was so perfect he wouldn’t let us players talk about anything involving soccer in his presence. This included when we were trying to get the team amped up before the start of a game. Seriously, coaches should know that it’s really wrong to squash enthusiasm among their players. (11/10/2013)

I’ve got another item for “Soccer Coach, Protect Yourself!” I was that “tough, outdoors guy,” olive skin and dark hair, with no need for sunscreen or to admit to myself that I was balding… until I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my forehead. Guys out there, unless you have some lush head of hair, you must wear a hat and do it sooner rather than later. (10/06/2013)

In the bad-instruction phase of American soccer, still not that long ago, one national organization was teaching coaches to tell their players to extend their arms out and throw their elbows back in order to “clear space” while they performed jump headers. I personally witnessed a player on the receiving end of this action. His entire cheekbone was shattered and it had to be rebuilt by packing the space in his skull from behind. He never played again. Hopefully this is no longer being taught and coaches were smart enough to have ignored this instruction as unsafe and inappropriate. (09/14/2013)

Thank you for your article entitled “Soccer Coach, Protect Yourself!“. I would like to suggest another item that you might want to add due to my unfortunate experience. When called upon at the start of the season to lay out a soccer field, I contracted the worst case of poison ivy in my life. The inflammation spread to my whole body and I was on steroids and other medications for weeks. Soccer coaches need to learn how to identify poison ivy and the other poisonous plants in order to avoid them, not only for their benefit but for the benefit of their players. (08/05/2013)

The last refuge of the coach who doesn’t know what he is doing is to hide behind the excuse of the over-riding need for “fitness.” This manifests itself in running the team all the time, sometimes for great distances, and always at the expense of work on technique and tactics. Coaches may win a total of three games a season by driving the opponent into the ground this way, but it is a gross injustice to the players. Coaches who engage in this approach and can’t see the need to learn and teach the whole game need to get out. (07/06/2013)

You talk about the importance of captains on a team and how they need to work closely with the coach. I certainly agree, but it is equally important that they know how to properly behave with the team. I had a captain in college, elected by a popular vote of the team, who would call team meetings only with the players that he liked. This was inexcusable and really screwed things up. I have no idea if the coach knew anything about it or if anyone told him and he decided he couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t do anything about it. Under any circumstance it created a real mess and the coach should have known better. (06/05/2013)

I had a senior club coach who couldn’t make up his mind on rules for team conduct. The team had asked him to take a “professional” approach, but he had announced that he felt the team should be conducted more for “fun.” On a road trip to Florida one season, during halftime one of the players tried to meet with his cousin who he hadn’t been able to see for years. The coach blasted him for not being serious enough. It is reasonable and proper to have team rules, but you can’t have it both ways, announcing one thing and then acting another way. Coaches have to set responsible rules and then be consistent in their application, otherwise the coach has no credibility. (05/08/13)

Years ago, I played for a city college team where we forfeited a game because the coach did not secure the use of the field. We didn’t have a field of our own and the coach scheduled the game on a municipal park field apparently just assuming that the field would be available. It wasn’t. There were adult recreational teams playing on the field the whole day and they had a proper permit. After waiting around for hours, we ultimately had to apologize to the opponent and the referees and then leave. Coaches, get those field permits. (04/03/2013)

As a youth coach I experienced an odd case of racism at one of my games. I had a boys team composed of white and hispanic players and we were competing against a team composed of African-American and hispanic players. At one point from the opposite sideline a male (either the coach or a parent) screamed, “Come on, are you going to let these white boys beat you?” Racism in any form or direction has no place in society or on the soccer field. Coaches must not engage in it or let their parents or supporters engage in it and must stand up to it if it occurs. (03/16/2013)

In college, I had an extramurals soccer coach who decided to appoint an older, foreign, graduate student as substitute coach for a day. He had no coaching experience. This substitute coach directed the players to do a “V-jump straddle” (like cheerleaders might do) as part of warm-ups. The team tried respectfully to perform, but two players promptly pulled their groins and wound up being out for three weeks. Two lessons: 1. Don’t appoint a substitute coach if they aren’t capable. 2. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t fake it. (02/06/2013)

There’s a certain type of parallel-frame metal goal with round pipe that institutions should never buy. These have backstays identical to the front of the goal, which are closely connected with horizontal pieces from front-to-back at all four corners, forming a box. I have personally witnessed a perfectly-struck penalty kick (also caught on video) that rebounded into the field off the back upright and was not recognized by the referee as a score. If coaches have any input into purchasing decisions, they should never let their athletic directors acquire this box-like type of goal. (01/08/2013)

This is a warning to coaches that a number of PARENTS of young soccer players need to be taught what it means to be a member of a team. It is clear from personal experience that parents who never played a team sport themselves may not understand the commitment involved for their children. At the last game of the season one year, admittedly it was cold and damp, I had three parents fail to bring their children to the game and did not tell me in advance. This was even though they knew the team rule that the game was to be played if they had not been contacted otherwise, and they had not. When called desperately to try to get them to the game, they simply did not care. We didn’t have the minimum number of players and we forfeited the game. It was our only loss of the season and it had the effect of putting us in second place. These parents cost the entire team an undefeated season, acknowledgement of the players’ success and hard work, and the trophies that each of them had earned. Use this as an example to all your parents that they have undertaken obligations when they join the team and that their decisions can have huge consequences for everyone involved by not living up to those obligations. (12/06/2012)

It is common for youth teams to line up and “shake hands” as a show of good sportsmanship at the end of the game. This is a highly recommended procedure, but I have seen certain poor to rotten behaviors that must not occur. I suggest using a “low five” approach and teaching the players to hold their hands out as far away from the body as possible while going through the line. I have observed cases where opponents have spit on their hands and have actually punched one of my players in the stomach. As a result, I recommend that a number of parents be designated to go out with the team and be close enough to the beginning, middle, and end of the line to discourage inappropriate activity. After going through the line, players should turn to the outside and immediately return to the team sideline. It is further recommended that players be taught to use hand sanitizer after coming back to the team. Further, it must be stated clearly to one’s own players that nothing other than “good game” is to be said to the opponents and that any inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. In addition, coaches must never try to make some kind of stupid “statement” by not sending their players out for the handshake. Players should also be encouraged to individually thank the referees. (11/06/2012)

My senior year in high school, we had five guys on the team named “Steve.” For oral communications purposes, we had to nickname all of them so that there would be no confusion about who was being called. Even if a coach has two players with the same name, they should either use nicknames or their last names when communicating on the field. (10/11/2012)

We once played in an out-of-state tournament that did not require Medical Releases. Unfortunately, one of my players fell on a rock and cut his knee significantly. He had to be taken to the local hospital emergency room but, because his parents were not there and we didn’t have the required paperwork, they would not treat him until we had an order from a juvenile court judge. Imagine what we had to go through to get this order on a Sunday morning! We were able to do it, though, and my player received excellent care and five stitches. Those Medical Releases and other paperwork ARE important and coaches must make sure that they have them in their possession and in proper order. (09/03/2012)

Without telling the Commissioner or making any attempt to contact me, I had a coach in my organization schedule a makeup game over top of my practice. I arrived at the field to find two teams setting up to play. When I asked her what she was doing, she said I “had to leave” because her game was “more important than your practice.” I couldn’t believe the total lack of courtesy. I deferred but, because there was no place to go, I had to sit all 16 of my children on a hillside and talk to them for over an hour. I later informed the Commissioner who said that she would set her straight. At the field the coach had no clue that she had done anything wrong and wondered aloud why I was even questioning her. Some people don’t have any common sense. If she had contacted the Commissioner in advance, proper arrangements could have been made for an open field or time or I could have re-scheduled my practice. (08/02/2012)

My college coach broke out and smoked a cigar every time we won a game. Wrong. Coaches have got to set the right example at all levels at all times. No smoking, drinking, cursing, getting angry, screaming, etc., in front of players… ever. (07/11/2012)

My ex-college soccer coach didn’t pay attention to the school administration. He made commitments to some players that he wasn’t authorized to make and he didn’t take the courses that he was told to take. He seemed to think that creating a winning record was all that mattered. He was so oblivious that he didn’t have a clue why the Athletic Director didn’t renew his contract. Coaching involves so much more than just making it to practices and games. (06/24/12)

My former college coach brought in a bunch of players whose personalities and attitudes did not mesh with the existing players. It had the effect of splitting the team in two and resulted in a lot of resentment by both groups for years. Smart coaches know to take more into account in recruiting than just perceived skills. (05/20/12).

My high school soccer coach did not know how to evaluate the abilities of his players. In order to compensate for this he simply played all the seniors. It wasn’t until the Captain of the team went to him and told him that the junior goalkeeper was better, and the guy that we were all used to playing with, that he changed the goalkeeper and we started winning. Coaches must establish a good relationship with their Captain and then listen to him. (05/08/2012)

When I asked my junior varsity high school coach what I needed to do to become a starter, he couldn’t answer. He fumbled and stumbled until finally saying something about not moving my arms around so much. Not helpful. Coaches need to analyze their players and present helpful feedback on how to improve. And teach them before they ask or at least be able to respond intelligently when they do. (04/30/2012)

My old college coach (now dead) condoned the worst case of cheating you can have in soccer. If the goalkeeper had been beaten, he didn’t have any problem with a defender grabbing the ball to keep it from going into the goal! And he’s in the Hall of Fame! This even happened in the 2010 World Cup! FIFA should be ashamed of the fact that they didn’t do anything about it publicly and loudly! It’s a horrible, horrible affront to the sport. No player or coach should ever be associated with this kind of behavior. (03/26/2012)

My college coach didn’t know anything about soccer at all. Prior to a game against a school that used artificial turf, he had us warm up extensively on the surface. It was a hot day in September. Needless to say, we died in the second half and gave up two goals in the last twenty minutes due to exhaustion. Artificial turf can be stifling!  If you’re used to regular grass, don’t drain yourself doing warm-ups on hot turf. Drink fluids and pace yourself. Hopefully the coach will know how to substitute properly. (03/06/2012)

At one practice, my high school coach had the team do the “duck walk.” It became immediately apparent, even to fit 17-year-olds, that the strain on the knees and ankles from this activity was totally unjustified. Coaches should never use the “duck walk.” (02/12/2012)

© Copyright, John C. Harves