New Soccer Coach

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So, you've decided to become a soccer coach. Great! Geneva Lake United needs your help and values your contribution to the development of our players.

It is likely that you are doing this because your son or daughter wants to play soccer. You may or may not have any previous experience playing organized soccer and most likely have limited formal training in how to coach soccer.

You are not alone. Geneva Lake United Soccer Club supports you and and assembled the guidance below to help you have a successful start.


The statements below constitute a starting set of principles for coaching in Geneva Lake United Soccer Club. Obviously, there are individual exceptions to these principles, but all coaches should use them as simple guidelines to help them implement GLUSC's Coaching Philosophy.

Playing soccer is fun.

Effective youth coaches place more emphasis and value on having fun than on winning games. The website Changing the Game referenced a 2014 study by George Washington University that found that the number 1 reason kids quit a sport is because it is no longer fun. These kids listed 81 things classified as "fun." Here are the top five:
  1. Trying your best
  2. When coach treats player with respect
  3. Getting playing time
  4. Playing well together as a team
  5. Getting along with your teammates
Notice that winning games does not appear on this list (it was #48). Coaches can help keep sports fun by providing players with a positive environment, improving their skills, and allowing them chances to play.

We respect our teammates, opponents, and the officials.

This sounds simple and easy. However, our league receives complaints each season about adult coaches yelling at teenage referees who made real or perceived mistakes in soccer games played by nine year old kids. Experienced coaches will tell you that if you start yelling at the officials, blaming the referee for game results, and talking about how "dirty" the other team was, your players (and fans) will follow suit. Keep everything in perspective during games: we are volunteers working together to help children to have fun.

The game belongs to the players.

In many traditionally American sports (i.e. football, baseball, and basketball), coaches have direct influence over the outcomes of games. They can stop the action (time-out), have many chances to change the personnel, and "call plays" to make specific decisions on behalf of the players. Players control soccer games. There are no time outs. Coaches only get three substitutes per game (at the professional level), the game is far too fluid for set plays, and the game is too fast for verbal communication from the coach. Playing soccer can be summarized as a series of decisions made by the players without the coach's assistance about the best way to score a goal. This means two things
  1. a soccer coach's job is to teach players how to make good decisions in games
  2. a soccer coach's job is done in training, not in games.

The game is the best teacher.

Soccer players learn from playing soccer. While isolated activities focused on specific technical details can improve technical proficiency, coaches should strive to place players in "game-like" situations as often as possible. A corollary of this principle is that each training session should include a significant amount of time of open play where the players play soccer without much direct coaching.

Every player wants to improve.

GLUSC's recreational soccer teams include players with widely different skill levels. Because all players must play at least 50% of games in our primary league, coaches cannot simply rely on the more skilled players to "hide" the less skilled players. Players have fun when they are learning how to play the game better. Teaching players how to play soccer requires allowing them to play all positions in important times in games. Effective coaches improve the skill level of ALL players on their teams and expose players to all the positions on the field. Whether this results in game victories in generally irrelevant to whether the players have fun.

Getting Started

It's time to get your team started.

GLUSC will provide you with the key information you need:

  • Roster of players and contact information
  • Access to the League game schedule
  • Equipment including balls, cones, and pennies
  • Player passes for all the players on your roster
  • Money to pay the officials at Stateline League home games

As soon as you receive the contact list, we encourage you to call each player and introduce yourself to the parents (and players, if appropriate for the age group). You can provide them with your contact information, tell them about the scheduled parents' meeting, inform them of your practice times, and provide them with preliminary information about the season schedule.

This website includes a good section on the various rules of the game and you should review the rules and adaptations for the youth game.

Parents' Meeting

GLUSC requires all coaches to hold a meeting with their parents at the start of each fall season. It is generally most convenient to hold this meeting immediately before or immediately after one of your first three training sessions, but you can designate a separate time if that is more convenient for you. The purpose of this meeting is to convey information to the parents about the season, the Club, and your approach to coaching.

A potential agenda might include:

  • Personal introduction - who you are and your connection to the sport.
  • Season details - hand out schedules for games (including directions) and practices, your contact information, possibly contact information for all player families to facilitate ride sharing.
  • Club and personal coaching philosophies - fun and player development are the most important goals of the team.
  • Guidelines for parent behavior - ask them to cheer positively for their players while not telling them what do do; remind them not to criticize the referee.
  • Ask for volunteers - you should at minimum assign a Team Manager who can help with administrative details like contacting the team, bringing referee fees, etc.

US Youth Soccer has resources about these meetings including this article, "How to Conduct a Pre-Season Parent/Guardian Meeting."

Training Sessions

Training sessions (practices) are the main place that coaches "do coaching." As such, they are the most important events you manage as a coach.

GLUSC assembled written guidelines for training at all ages. You should read these guidelines and seek additional resources in this website.

Here are a few tips useful for executing effective youth soccer training sessions. They summarize the information provided on the full Running Effective Training Sessions page.

  • Be organized. Spend time before the practice planning what you intend to do in that session.
  • Minimize down time. Keep the players moving from activity to activity.
  • No lines. Plan activities that involve most of the players and leave only a few resting at any one time.
  • No laps. Youth soccer players generally do not require focused fitness work (running without a ball).
  • No lectures. Listening to you talk is boring. Keep your instructions, corrections, and other coaching comments short (think 15 seconds each).

US Youth Soccer compiled soccer activities into several books. You can refer to this guide for coaching U6-U8 soccer as an additional resource.

Game Day

The best approach for having a smooth and fun game day is to be prepared and organized. GLUSC suggests having players arrive at the game location 30 minutes before the game start time. This will give you plenty of time to go through the various pre-game rituals, including:

  • Warming up the players
  • Player check-in by referees
  • Coin toss
  • Pre-game instructions to the team

You need to have the following things at all games:

  • Player pass for each player in the game
  • Roster(s) for all players in the game
  • Money to pay the referees (best if divided into the correct amounts for referee and each AR - referees generally do not have change at the field)
  • Player rotation form (see below)
  • Your state-issued Coach Pass
  • Inflated soccer balls
  • A watch to time the game

On game day, you are the organizer and leader, but not the tactical commander of what happens on the field. Games are fun for players when they are free to play and express themselves. Players need to take reasonable risks in order to play the game and coaches should not punish players (or even verbally correct them) for trying and failing to perform some task.

The coach's most important responsibility during youth games is managing substitutions. In recreational games, all players MUST play 50% of each game. Coaches should also insure that all players play multiple positions in each game. Exposure to every position during important times of games is vital to player development. No youth players should "specialize" in a single position.

GLUSC assembled the following tools to help you manage substitutions:

  • U8 Player Rotation Form (blank) - this requires substitution and rotation every six minutes (games are 12 minute quarters)
  • Example Completed U8 Player Rotation Form
  • U9/U10 Player Rotation Form (blank) - this requires field player substitution and rotation every 8 minutes and keeper changes every 12 minutes (games are 25 minute halves)
  • Example Completed U9/U10 Player Rotation Form
  • U11/U12 Player Rotation Form (blank) - this requires substitution and rotation every 15 minutes (games are 30 minute halves)
  • Example Completed U11/U12 Player Rotation Form

Organizations & Terms

Recreational Soccer
Recreational soccer teams are those that participate in recreational leagues. Recreational teams do not have cuts. Players are rotated between teems each year and team assembly is geographic or random. All teams U10 and under are recreational by rule. Each team will have experienced and brand new players on it. Most recreational leagues require specific amounts of playing time. Most GLUSC teams are recreational teams. Recreational leagues do not maintain standings or award championships. Recreational teams only receive participation awards in tournaments.
Stateline League
GLUSC recreational teams play in the recreational Stateline League operated by the Stateline Soccer District. The league includes teams from clubs throughout Walworth County. Stateline League rules stipulate that every player must play at least 50% of each game.
Competitive Soccer
Competitive teams participate in competitive leagues. These teams may have tryouts and invite selected players to join. The WYSA and other competition authorities have a much larger number of regulations that apply to competitive teams and players. Competitive leagues have promotion and relegation and extend all the way to the Midwest Regional League encompassing several midwestern states.
South East Classic League (SECL)
The SECL Is the lowest-level competitive league in our area. GLU competitive teams start in this league. Teams in this league are located in the greater Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha areas.
Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association (WYSA)
The WYSA is the organization that controls most youth soccer in Wisconsin. When people refer to "the State," they generally mean WYSA. GLUSC is a member club in the WYSA and is bound by the Association's rules.
United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA)
The USYSA is one of several national organizations relating to youth soccer in the United States. The Association publishes rules for youth soccer that area adapted by the WYSA and the local Stateline League.

Soccer Rules

Links to the various rules affecting soccer in our area can be found on the main page, Geneva Lake United Coaching Resources.