PESTS stands for parents, excitement, selection, time and success windows and sums up the elements you need for a successful youth soccer coaching philosophy.
Regular communication. Parental influence plays an important part in the mental and physical well-being of your players in soccer training and on match day. A handout of the “parental responsibilities” at the start of season is not enough. Arrange regular meetings so key points can be reiterated and worries shared.
Future soccer coaches. Part of your philosophy should not just be about developing the players, but also the coaches. And parents of current youth players are ideal candidates, not necessarily to start now, but in the future. Can you turn one of your parents into a soccer coach?
Fun, fun, humdrum. Does every soccer coaching session need to be fun? Don’t get caught in this perception because it is not going to be possible every time. Why not adopt “excitement” as a better philosophy.
Challenge the skill level in your soccer drills by putting pressure on the players. Turn skills into games, but don’t become a slave to the call “Coach, when are we going to have a game?” A way round this is to start with a game, highlight a problem (useless tackling, hopeless passing!) and take them into a soccer drill, before returning to a game
Rotate scientifically. One of the biggest reasons for player drop out is non-selection. In surveys, young players say they would rather be selected for a bad team than not selected for a good team. Keep selection scientific, in other words, use a system which gives players equal game time as far as possible.
Best team time. Identify a couple of games a season (or a cup run) as “best team time” when you will select the best players. Tell the players and parents early, so help to avoid clashes with other commitments. Best team can act as an incentive for players. But don’t revert to a “bad team” in some of the other games, because this has very little merit.
Start on time (and tell the parents). Children are rarely late, parents are. Clear starting times (and finish times), help you plan and deliver the session effectively, and this needs to be reinforced with parents.
Encourage the children to encourage the parents. Give them help in organising the “lift” to training and games. Use slips of paper or group text messages with directions and timings, and remind players to get their kit ready the day before it is needed.
“Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing”. Regional champions of anything is an achievement. Any coach who has made it this far will tell you that they had some close scrapes along the way. What does that tell you? A bad decision or some illness at a stage in their progress could have meant no cup. A slight slip and the goal, or measure of success has not been reached.
Instead, try having a “success window” for the season. This means a lower limit and an upper limit of time for the measure of success to be achieved, say between four and eight weeks. Can be for both team and individual.
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