By Tim Bradbury
Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

There are many reports that become essential reading for soccer enthusiasts and fans. One of the key ones is published every year by The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). This key group has just released its 2021 U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report. Somewhat surprisingly it contained good news for soccer.

“Even amid the pandemic, four other team sports grew in 2020, including indoor soccer, outdoor soccer – now the number two team sport among 18–24-year-olds – ultimate frisbee, and flag football,” the report said.

Good news indeed and it was followed in the report with another key statement:

“Another positive trend SFIA found was an increase in coaching training, and trained coaches help provide better experiences for players, which can lead to a higher retention rate.”

Hopefully, the above statement can be displayed in all club and league meetings for the rest of time. One of the most frustrating myths that is frequently used by many to prevent coach education and training is that we can’t ask volunteers to do more. “If we ask them to do this, they will leave, etc.” I must admit hearing this has driven me daft whenever pushed my way for the last 25 years.

Most parent coaches who take on the role of trying to teach the game are proud and motivated individuals who want to do a good job. Yes, they are fueled frequently by a desire to spend more time with their own child and yes, it is a priority. This in no way means they do not want help. Far too frequently and insanely, they are placed in a vacuum, given a ball, a few cones and some shirts and told off you go. Every time I have been confronted with this, I have said we must train them. We must give them enough basic information that allows them to feel some level of confidence and degree of competence in the age groups with which they coach.

Being a volunteer does not mean they have no interest in learning how to do the job well. It does not mean they wish to be placed in an educational vacuum and treated like they have no pride in the job they do. It really is well past the time in youth soccer that all leagues and governing bodies stopped perpetuating a myth that does untold damage to the youth game.

Imagine if we changed the narrative around volunteer coaches and based all actions on the fact that they want to be an effective coach, they want to be educated in key principals and are eager to do the best possible job they can. Any club who embraces this principal and creates a culture which empowers volunteerism will blossom.