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Soccer Leadership - Leading a Group

by Stewart Flaherty

Being the figure of authority for a group of people is the most challenging aspect of soccer coaching for many. With teams consisting of many different personalities and abilities, all of whom have different expectations of you the role of soccer coach can be overwhelming at times.

In youth soccer, the intense glare and unrealistic expectations of some parents can make your task all the more difficult. It is important to not let others dictate your success as a coach, as every individual has a different opinion, and to listen to them all would be to sail a ship in the wind without a sail!

The most important thing you can do is pay attention to what you believe is important in leadership, form a plan before the season about how you plan to deal with players and stick to your beliefs during the season when the storm and criticism hits.

Take into account the following sub topics when planning how to lead your team, hold a preseason meeting with players and parents before the season. Give as much detail as possible in the meeting with regards to your values, expectations and the procedure should players not follow the expected behavior standard.


You should use your personality and character to guide you as a soccer coach. The most effective way to lead is to be a role model, and it easier to do this with an authentic character, than it is if you are trying to put on a show. Any discrepancysoccer leadership between your words and behaviors will be quickly picked up on by your players. To have integrity as a leader, you must act in a way you are expecting your players to.

If you value enthusiasm and energy, then you have every right to demand this from your players. However, you should lead sessions in such a manner.

If you value selflessness and team pride then you can expect it, but you must act in a selfless manner that does not draw attention to your influence on any success the team has.

Set standards and consistently encourage the right mentality and attitude every day you are together as a team.


Playing time is a huge area of contention on a soccer team. One of the biggest poisons to team unity, is to have players who believe they are not being treat fairly complaining on the bench and during practices.

Your philosophy and plans on playing time is absolutely something you must share with players and parents before, and not during or after a season begins. Some coaches believe practice is what you are entitled to, and all playing minutes are earned on game day, whereas some coaches believe all players should get even playing minutes to enhance development, even if team performance during a game is negatively impacted.

This article is not intended to debate those schools of thought, merely to emphasize the importance of being up front and honest regarding your philosophy with your players and parents. A large financial and time commitment is being given to you, and you must be up front.

If you explain beforehand your playing time philosophy, and parents and players commit to it, they are then bound to your decisions as long as you are consistent, and you have every right to defend yourself against criticism.


Put simply, player communication is the life blood of coaching. Your knowledge of the game of soccer is not what will define your success, it is how much of that knowledge you can successfully pass on to your players. To effectively teach you must have a relationship of mutual respect with a player.

Players open their hearts and minds to people who they respect. It is sometimes easy to become frustrated when coaching and say “they won’t listen” after an error in a game goes against what you worked on in practice. The fact is, if you do this it is just a form of passing the buck, and what they have learned is a direct reflection of your ability to teach.

If the only time players hear your voice it is feedback or criticism, your world will have less impact. Converse with your players on a regular basis every day you are together as a team. Take time to chat with your players and as a relationship forms, your potential to teach and influence will grow.