Bethesda Roadrunners: Coaching Philosophy

Ole's Coaching Philosophy (Written in August 2000)
Since the BSC Roadrunners has just been formed and several of you do not know me, I will outline a few issues related to my philosophies about youth soccer.

Naturally, the goal for the Roadrunners is to develop a strong and competitive soccer team. Equally important, we should aim to develop a very high level of individual and team sportsmanship, in the broadest sense of the word. I think the kids will benefit throughout their lives from having been taught good sportsmanship.

Also, learning to do their best at sports will spill over positively into other aspects of life. If the players on the Roadrunners can come away with something (such as confidence, sportsmanship, discipline, ability to focus, physical skills and/or friendship) to help them as they are growing up, I think the effort has been worthwhile and we have succeeded.


Below are 4 simple rules for good sportsmanship:

1. Respect your opponent.
If it were not for them, you would not play. Never gloat or degrade your opponent. Play hard, but don't willfully do anything to injure your opponent. Line up properly (and w/o delay) after each game and shake hands, no matter the result of the game.

2. Respect the referee.
It is not easy to be the referee. If you think so, try. Never complain about the referee's decisions. I do not mind "innocent looks" or "small gestures," but feel strongly we as individual players, as a team and as parents should train ourselves to respect referees, no matter how bad the calls they make. This goes for the coaches as well!

3. Be courteous to your teammates.
We all make mistakes. Even if bad mistakes are made, don't complain. Focus on encouraging your teammates. The Roadrunners should both win and lose as a team.

4. Respect your coaches.
Your coaches are there to help you and the team to develop soccer skills and to develop good sportsmanship. I encourage each player (and parent for that matter) to ask questions, but please understand that you should not challenge or complain about how the coaches do the line-up, substitutions or run the practices.

I do not believe it is a tradeoff between being a good athlete and a good sportsman. Most of the world's top athletes also show very good sportsmanship. In fact, by focusing on what you can do better yourself instead of complaining about others mistakes, you will also become a stronger player.

We as parents and coaches have a huge responsibiity as role models for the kids when it comes to showing good sportsmanship. The NCSL has just put out a Parent "Code of Conduct," which I think is quite good. I have made a copy for everyone to sign. While it may be a bit silly to sign such a "meaningless contract," I feel it may help each of us to marginally improve. Therefore, I ask both parents to sign and give the "contract" to Kenny. Phil and I will sign in the dual capacities as parents and coaches.

Last winter the BSC gave me one of their two NCSl slots for the current U-9 age group. Chip Emmet (BSC Thunder) was given the other NCSL slot (each club can enter a maximum of two new teams for each age group in NCSL).

In May/June, Phillip Gyau was putting together two BSC U-9 teams for OBSL. While Phil will coach one of the two OBSL teams (the Storm), he and I agreed that we would coach the Roadrunners together.

We will both attempt to come to nearly all the practices, games and tournaments. While we will both be involved in all aspects of coaching, Phil will pay particular attention to the development of all basic and advanced ball skills, and I will focus on the development of tactical and strategic aspects of the game.

We hope to develop an open communication with all parents and players and encourage you to bring up issues you may have.

Kenny has done an excellent job a manager this summer. In addition to getting the players carded and the team registered with the NCSL, he has created a great Roadrunner web site, put together a budget, and more. Many thanks to Kenny for a job well done.

Many aspects are involved when we talk about philosophy and the strategy for soccer games and soccer development. Below, I will discuss a few challenges and things I will focus on.

Focus on making it fun and defocus on winning as the only objective.
It is easy for us as coaches and parents to get our own ego in the way of the overall objective. When I today look back at my youth soccer experience, it is clear to me that the value I got was not a simple function of our win-loss record. Both Phil and I are competitive guys and will do our best to win, but all of us needs to make sure we do not take our desire to win too far. Having been involved in youth soccer for a while, I often observe that it takes kids only a few minutes to get over a loss, while it may take a day for the parents and a week for the coach.

Each player is different.
It is a huge responsibility to be a coach (as it is to be a teacher) Each child is different (I have 4, so I know). While I think it is important that we are consistent in both our demands and ways of relating to the children, I also understand that the most effective approach to developing each child may be a bit different. All I can say is that I will try my best. Helpful feedback from parents about what is the best approach for their child is welcome.

Another point is that some players are more skilled than others. While I believe in the celebration of your child's talent, I do not think we do anybody a favor by creating "primadona" players. Even if your child is the best on the team, you would want him to improve further.

Parent involvement.
I encourage parents to be actively involved and supportive. However, please be sensitive to not give the kids instruction during the games. While I think it is great if the parents praise and encourage the kids and the team, it will be important that Phil and I do not have to give instruction "in competition" with instructions given by parents.

Playing time.
Phil and I will try to be very fair, but in general we will play the strongest and most committed players more as we see needed. I encourage parents and/or players to raise issues relating to playing time (and positioning) at practices.

Passing and Positioning.
Invariably, the best soccer teams have developed a strong passing and positioning game. It is one of the most important keys to the game. With any given talent pool of soccer players, one of the keys to creating a good team is to develop a good passing and positioning game before others in our age group also do so. I believe we have a very strong roster. Sometimes that can actually be detrimental to the overall team performance, because the players more or less consciously will "compete" with each other in terms of number of goals scored, etc.

A lot of what I will be doing relates to ways I will try to improve our passing and positioning game (e.g. you should expect to see lots of small-sided scrimmages with 1-, 2- and 3-touch restrictions during practices).

Game Formation.
We will play 7v7 with a 3-3-1 formation (right, left and center forwards and defense, plus a goalie). I will not bore you with a long discussion about it, but thought I would give a few comments for those who are interested.

I hope to be able to move the 3 defenders and 3 forwards up and down as a relatively compact "unit." Thus, all 6 field players in effect also play midfield. I want our defenders to move out very quickly when we are going forward and I like to see the left and right defenders go all the way up to the other goal from time to time ("Brazilian style"). Our left/right defenders will need to run back quickly after having attacked. Normally our central defender and one of the other defenders will cover a bit if one of our defenders is going "all the way."

Similarly, I will try to have our forwards some back quickly to help out on the midfield and in defense. This formation may demand a bit more running than a more "spread out" formation, but I think our kids can do it and I think it is good for their development.

One other advantage of this formation is that it is easier to help our kids to use the full widths of the field. Teams that go up and down in the middle of the field are usually not as effective as teams using the whole field.

Being goalie is a specialized position in soccer. Currently, we do not have anyone on our roster who would like to be a permanent goalie. That is fine with me at this early age. I expect to rotate the goalie position quite a bit over the next several seasons. Furthermore, I expect to let out goalie "come out" a lot, in effect participating in field play. We will give our goalie other "bonuses" from time to time, such as shooting penalty kicks. This will hopefully make it fun to play golaie for the Roadrunners.

"Fast Game."
Often kids at this age take their time in transitions: e.g., the players either stop or walk when the ball is out of play. If we work on a fast game, we can exploit this and teach the kids to play smart soccer. Examples will be taking free-kicks and throw-ins quickly and get the ball to a teammate in a good position, before the other team "wakes up."

We will have two practices per week. At this point, it looks as though we will do Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. While I hope and expect that each player come to as many practices as possible, I understand that families may have other commitments and priorities from time to time. I would like to see that we set up a simple system for everybody to give notice about conflicts, etc., so we can call off practices whenever that is necessary. It is also helpful for Phil and me to know how many kids we should expect to show up for a practice. Maybe our website or email system can be used for this purpose.

I strongly encourage the kids to find opportunities to "kick the ball" as often as possible outside of our practices. Even juggling a bit for 10 minutes in the backyard or basement from time to time will be helpful, not to mention playing with siblings. Ultimately, such "unscheduled" practices will help to improve the "first touch," which is a key skill for soccer. Because kids in the U.S. have a lot of demand for their time--like homework and other sports--they will often not maintain a very good first touch, and so limit their potential very significantly. If you think your child may want to play soccer in high school (and in college), it will be important to acquire good ball skills. We will use balls in nearly all activities during practices for the same reason, but two practices and one game per week will often not be enough in the longer run for the kids with ambitions of playing in high school.

Coach Ole

August 2000