Dr. Dina Gentile coaching last week
Development First: Report Card Time For Youth Soccer
As the academic year ends, so does the soccer season for many of us. It is a time to reflect, evaluate and plan for success with a review.
For many of us the soccer season is nearing the end. Our soccer seasons were undoubtedly filled with many moments of excitement, times of chaos, and even a few disappointments. As our youth players end a full season of playing we should take the final few soccer sessions to evaluate our coaching and the progress of our athletes.
US Youth Soccer publishes numerous coaching resources listing age specific objectives that we can use to measure and assess the skill level of each player on our team. At the start of the season, our town leagues and clubs set out a series of goals for each age specific player to become more competent in learning or performing.
Before we send our teams off for summer sport camps and vacation time, let’s spend time evaluating where we started, what the team/player learned, and what we still can teach these young players.
Start of the season: The beginning of any new activity has its own set of challenges.
Reflect back to the first few practices of your season (if you did not create a formal evaluation of the baseline skills of your players or the tactical play of your team).
What set of skills did each player bring to their first week of soccer practice?
Did each player have the basic core skills of dribbling and passing when they started the season?
What were the three areas of weakness the team or players revealed early in the season?
Heart of the season: Once the first few weeks are under our belts, everyone starts to feel more comfortable and at ease. Coaches can start really engage and connect with athletes at a higher level.
Create a list of activities used during the season that worked, meaning the players learned something new or elevated their skill level/tactical awareness.
Create a list of performance areas that you focused in on after determining any player/team weaknesses. For example, a U8 team does not spread out enough during a game, or a U10 player cannot strike a ball correctly, or a U14 team cannot defend as a unit. Determine the areas of weakness of your team/athletes that you worked to remedy and correct.
The end of the season: Sport participation develops not only sport specific skills but also, social skills which will develop the complete person not just the athlete in all of us.
Create a list of all of the achievements of the team. What special moments or achievements did the team experience? What words or terms resonated with the team during practices or games? Which players developed the most over the course of the season?
Evaluate: Spend time assessing the growth and development of each player on your team. Go back to the core skills or tactical awareness c
omponents listed by US Youth Soccer or other soccer specific associations and grade your players. Many towns and club soccer programs have their own set of evaluation standards that can be used for this exercise. The importance in evaluating athletes is that we can measure how much they have learned over time and what areas we need to focus on moving forward. We are truly teaching when we know what the strengths and weaknesses are for each individual soccer player and we devise a plan for improvements.
Grade Yourself: This is the chance to take a good look at the impact you made on the team this season.
Indicate your strengths and weaknesses as a coach at the start of the season and now at the end of the season.
What areas of concern(s) did you have at the start of the season? Did you overcome those challenges?
What were your best teaching moments?
How have you changed as a coach over the season?
What types of clinics or courses will you attend to elevate your soccer coaching abilities over the next few months?
Coaching entails the same responsibilities as an educator and most times without any formal training. Youth soccer coaches are a critically important influencing agent when we factor in the level of satisfaction and comfort a player will have over the course of a season. Coaches create a passion for the game, they create dynamic teaching exercises, they motivate at levels that parents cannot, they create team bonds that continue off the field, and they teach.
Every volunteer coach who has spent hours planning practices, organizing starting line-ups, handled many of the dramas associated with youth sport parents, and has tied a few shoelaces earns an A+ in my book. Congratulations to all of the youth soccer coaches who have made a difference in the lives of so many athletes this season!
Related Article: Learning Valuable Lessons in Soccer from Other Sports and Dr. Dina Gentile's Column
SoccerNation News is proud to welcome Dr. Dina Gentile as our newest contributing writer. Dr. Gentile is a Professor of Sport Management at Endicott College. A volunteer youth coach herself, Dr. Gentile understands from both practical and theorectical experience what happens on the soccer field.
Gentile has also coached the Endicott College Soccer Team for 11 years. Gentile is the owner/director of Precision Soccer, LLC, which operates camps, clinics, and coach education training throughout the year. She is a former All-American and Academic All-American at Adelphi University. Gentile has been inducted into the Adelphi University and Endicott College Halls of Fame. She is the Pre Kindergarten and Kindergarten Coordinator for Beverly Youth Soccer Association. This season she is the proud coach of her daughters 1st Grade team in the Wilmington Youth Soccer Association. Gentile is also a Soccer Ambassador for Korrio.