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Just Like Schools, Great Soccer Clubs Have Great Teachers and Active Parents

For 24 years, I had the privilege of making an attempt to impact young people’s lives whilst serving as a physical education teacher. For 12 of those years, I wore two hats; that of PE and health teacher as well. I was a firm believer that not only were educators responsible for educating kids from the neck up so to speak, but from the neck down as well.

Leaving school each day brought about the next phase of my day; that of soccer coach. In the early years I spent time at the youth level as well as coaching high school soccer. Following my years as a high school coach came 24 years at the collegiate level.

My interest in educating soccer players at all levels became a passion which led me toward becoming a coach educator with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

I don’t know when the light came on or even why, but lo and behold the crystal clear correlation between coaching and teaching became apparent. That notion of correlation very quickly turned the terms coaching and teaching to being absolutely synonymous. Fundamentally, the very things that make for a great classroom in any school anywhere must be exactly the same on the soccer field.

I believe parents should be involved in the youth soccer experience of their children just as they are involved with the school experience of their children.

With that in mind, I have identified some parallels between coaching and teaching, in an effort to empower parents to be more involved.

3 Reasons Why Coaching Soccer is Exactly the Same as Teaching School

1. The Field is a Classroom.

The very same dynamics that go into creating an appropriate environment conducive to teaching and learning in any classroom must be the same on the soccer field. A good teacher has his / her classroom arranged in a manner that allows for a clear exchange of information, encourages collaboration, and ultimately keeps the students engaged. When I taught health education, there were days when the desks were in a circle as I was looking to bring about conversation on a topic. There were days when desks were facing each other in a situation where I wanted two students to collaborate and others when the desks were in the more traditional rows. The walls of any good classroom are graced with information designed to capture the attention and maybe at times the imagination of the students. Above all, there was organization; everything had its place.

The soccer field should always be organized in a manner that reflects the topic being presented and the methods that are to be used. Although no desks are present, the idea of grouping players to perform tasks must be evident. Coaches must always arrive early so as to manage the field with all of the appropriate equipment needed for the days training session. A good coach has a variety of organizational equipment so that activities can be laid out beforehand and with a simple adjustment or picking up of a colored cone transitions into the next activity. Flow.

Parents: If the soccer field where you kids’ practice is not organized and well run, then it may be time for you to get more involved. Take a coaching education course, become a youth soccer coach yourself!

 2. The Players are Students. 

The young people who enter a classroom are there to absorb information, be challenged intellectually, and be inspired to want to learn and explore more. If those things are achieved, they’ll want to come back… every time. There are indeed times when student’s abilities vary from child to child, but despite that, the aforementioned dynamic cannot and should not change. Might it be altered or modified to achieve the same results? Yes, of course.

Youth soccer players are exactly the same. The more they learn, are challenged, and certainly inspired, the more they want to play and execute their new found “stuff”. And when it happens, there is that moment of excitement and satisfaction which fuels the desire to want to know even more great “stuff”!

A key component to each of the above dynamics is time on task. There is a reason why kids attend school 5 days a week. Continuity and support is vital to the learning process. If a soccer player only attends practice once or twice per week, the developmental or learning curve is compromised; maybe even flat lines for some. Couple that with the fact that kids in general just don’t go out and play, or in this case joyfully practice their soccer “stuff”, it’s no wonder why we lose so many by their teenage years and for those who stay; they often don’t develop to their potential. grow to become average players. (I’m not sure there is anything wrong with “average players”…)

Parents: If your child doesn’t possess the excitement about going to practice that you would hope, you need to consider it could be the result of a poor coaching environment, not necessarily your child not enjoying the game.


3. The Coach is the Teacher. 

I’ll start by stating that the outstanding teacher is an educator above all. The difference is that someone who just teaches primarily shares information whereas the educator can take information and put it into context, broaden its scope, and bring the student to a higher level of understanding and reason. In my role as a coach educator, I have seen numerous teachers, but too few educators.

Like any good teacher / educator, the coach must have a command of the content, the ability to articulate it in a manner that is understandable; learnable if you will. He / she understands the appropriate methods by which we teach / educate as it relates to age, gender, and ability. He / she inspires their players to want to learn and experience more. Ask yourself who was your favorite teacher? That person in all likelihood was a dynamic and knowledgeable person who could inspire you to really make you think and want more.

Lastly, the good teacher / educator constantly is on the path of personal and professional growth for they at their core are students as well.

Parents: Maybe your end of year gift to your child’s coach could be pooling parent money to pay for a coaching education course instead of the typical gift certificate?

In every NSCAA coaching course I have the privilege to instruct, I offer closing comments which includes the opportunity to inspire the coaches in attendance to not only continue to learn more about the game, but to learn how to teach / educate. If that means taking an adult education course, shadowing an accomplished teacher / educator, or virtually via a computer; then do so. All the soccer “stuff” they have absorbed in a course is great, but is diminished if they do not have the capacity to articulate it appropriately.

Great schools have great teachers and active parents that typically produce great students. So should our soccer fields.

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Giovanni Pacini

Giovanni Pacini is a U.S. Soccer Region I Staff Coach, NSCAA National Staff, and NSCAA National Goalkeeper Staff Coach. He serves the NSCAA as State Director for MA, NH, and RI and was Chair of the NSCAA Technical Committee and a member of the NSCAA Education Committee as well. He owns and directs GP Soccer. Moreover, he served for 24 years as a health and physical education teacher, student-teacher supervisor, and mentor to first year teaching professionals. He can be reached via e-mail at- gp4soccer@yahoo.com.

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