Youth: Choose Your Coach, Not Your Team

May 28, 2020

It’s common for parents and young players to want to play for a specific team. Prestige is often a motivating factor. But a team that appears ideal for a player because of its reputation is sometimes detrimental for that player’s development and wellbeing. 

If a coach has a win-at-all-costs attitude, this may cause a player to overexert themselves, burnout or get injured. That’s why parents and kids need to choose a team with a great coach, rather than just choosing the team for its name alone. This piece gives pointers on how to do so.

“Choose Your Coach, Not Your Team” - What Does That Even Mean?

The headline may read like some sort of proverb. But, it’s an important truth highlighting an important concept in the development and wellbeing of youth players. 

It’s typical for parents and youth themselves to try out for a prestigious team. Prestige comes in many forms - the obvious being teams that win tournaments and championships like clockwork. Other teams are prestigious because of their connections to higher leagues, giving kids more opportunity to be spotted by scouts. 

And what parent wouldn’t want to expose their child to such opportunities, especially if they are talented? 

What if the coach of said team is a “hot head” with little regard for the wellbeing and growth of his or her players? Some coaches place winning above all else including health and safety. Young players on such teams may be overworked, which raises their risk of sustaining serious injuries. 

What if a coach plays “favorites” devoting all of their time and energy on a select few “stars” while failing to invest in their teammates. True, coaches are only human and can only do so much to help improve their players’ skills. But there should still be a concentrated effort to challenge all players equally, regardless of who will emerge as stars and who won’t. 

What if a coach allows players to demean each other? Bullying can occur on sports teams and players can be criticized for their weaknesses, mistakes they’ve made on the pitch or the fact that they're the coach's “favorite”. 

All of these scenarios can happen on a prestigious team. 

We’re not telling you to avoid a squad because it’s a championship team or holds scouting opportunities for your kids. These are exciting prospects to embrace where possible. However, you should really get to know the coach of such a team (or any team for that matter) before getting your kids to try out for them. 

The Ideal Coach for Youth Soccer Players

The coach of your son or daughter’s team doesn’t have to be, and will not be, perfect. Nevertheless, the ideal coach possesses qualities that will help your kids develop into the best players they can be without sacrificing their health or morale. 

The ideal coach isn’t overly concerned with many trophies and accolades. Sure, all great coaches would love to hoist a trophy with their players, but ultimately, they show up for the love of the game. 

A passionate coach focuses on their players putting forth their best effort, showing grit, determination, and a desire to improve their skills. More importantly, the coach ensures that their players are good sportsmen. 

The ideal coach isn’t going to overwork his or her team. They won’t encourage players to push through the pain when it’s clear that the player needs to be substituted or even taken for medical observation. 

The ideal coach knows that an injured player will be a poorly performing one. More importantly, the ideal coach will also encourage players to pay attention to their training habits, nutrition, and playing style to remain healthy. 

The ideal coach is above all else, a great mentor. They won’t just stand on the sidelines shouting commands at players. They’ll challenge players who may lack the confidence to play a position to build their mental toughness. They’ll spend extra time with a player who might be having some difficulty with an aspect of their game. They’ll also discipline players who act poorly or as a bad sport. 

Ultimately, the coach helps players to be better players on the pitch and better people in the world. 


  • Meet and greet them - If you can meet a coach and speak with them, ask them about their approach to coaching. If they seem standoffish about this, then you might want to be wary but if they’re open and welcoming, this indicates that they might be a good fit for your child.  
  • Read reviews about online - Parents are pretty candid about their experiences with a coach and team in online reviews. So pay close attention to their sentiments. Along with the ratings, their testimonies will give you a good feel for whether a coach will be good for your kid or not. 
  • Sit in a game or watch a recording - Actions speak louder than words, so a great way to get a feel for a coach’s style is to watch them in action. You can see how they communicate with their players during a game, and this will give you an idea of whether their coaching style may be right for your kid or not. 

    Note: In lieu of ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, we strongly advise against in-person meet and greets with coaches or practices in general. For now, you can speak to a coach via phone or video apps (where possible) to discuss try-outs when lockdown measures have been lifted. 

    The Coach Makes or Breaks the Team

    Don’t make the mistake of choosing a team because of prestige. Even professional teams in elite soccer leagues suffer in the hands of poor managers and coaches, sapping the performance and morale of their best talents. If it can happen at the level, it can happen anywhere. So get your kids off to a good start. Put them on the right team by first introducing them to the right coach.

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