Coaching Irish Grassroots Football

A Coaching Philosophy……

One of the most important aspects of coaching is to have a Philosophy. Your club should definitely have one and so should each and every coach involved with the set-up. The coach should have a guiding principle for training and coaching the team. A few bibs, some cones and balls is not what I’m talking about.

The right attitude and coaching principle is what i’m referring to. Your philosophy will be ideas that determine everything you do as a coach; from how you speak to your players, how you handle the parents and communicate your coaching style.  The style in which you want your team to play. Your coaching philosophy will give you and your players an insight to what your all about.

What is a Philosophy?

Coaching Philosophy is a set of values, governing principles and beliefs, which determine why you do what you do and how you behave in the context of your coaching role. You must ask yourself the Question, Why do I coach? 

Why have a Philosophy? 

Your philosophy should be a long term project, in which you never stop learning and adding to along the way. You will see the benefits if you stick to the plan. Knowing the way you want your team to play provides a clearer outlook on how to structure your sessions and what you work on over the season.  This season I worked solely on possession. I wanted the kids to always play from the back, be able to move the ball across the back, middle and front under pressure. Every session was planned always with a different possession exercise that challenged the kids both physically and mentally.  This way I was able to see how the players developed over the season. Having a plan for the season you will give you clearer idea on what goals you want to achieve as individuals and as a team.

“It is your consistency in behavior which creates respect and trust in your players, leading to a quality relationship”.

Stick to your Philosophy

My philosophy teaches success is many different ways, getting a group of kids to play together, as a team, play to their very best, and reach their ultimate potential while having fun. As you gain more and more experience coaching, your style of play might change but how your direct and coach the kids, your core values and beliefs as a person should stay the same. If you have a philosophy, the only thing that should change is what you believe in, never try to be anyone else.

Everyone talks about other coaching philosophies, adopting someone else’s won’t give your own identity. If you start you use words and actions taken from other coaches, that are not consistent with you, the players will expect the same in the future. If you expect your kids to behave in a certain with respect and dignity then you too must also behave the same. Coaching is about life skills, more then it is about you and/or the game.

Don’t let your standards drop and be consistent with everything you do. The kids will respect you more for that. Everything you do will rub off on the players, that’s why it is so important to stick to your philosophy.

The greatest managers in the world all stick to what the believe in and instill that into their players. Repeating the same things over and over again until the players themselves are the ones repeating it back to you.

“Essentially all coaches utilise a Coaching Philosophy”.

o-SOCCER-BALL-facebookThe Club philosophy – Must be clear and concise

The philosophy of the FC BARCELONA is, “that the team is most important, the team is more important than any player (individuality) and the players have the obligation to meet and defend the IDEA of the CLUB”. 

If a clubs has a philosophy and sticks by it, then a coach who is serious about developing his players will benefit from this. If a club does not have a philosophy or fails to stick to it’s beliefs then they are on the road to failure and disruption within the club. Each and every club should have a clear pathway from the small kiddies in the academy all the way to the senior team, this will be the key to the success, not to mention the respect the club gets amongst it’s pears and within the community. No player, coach, manager or member is bigger then the club.

It is the clubs responsibility to challenge the players and progress them to the next level. Two of the reasons Kids play the game; is to have fun and improve. That’s why the philosophy should be the same from bottom to top in order to develop and maximise each and every playing members ability.

To often what happens within the club is coaches stay with the same year group each year, without a clear idea of what they need to teach in order to progress the players. Or they continue with the team, lacking the knowledge to teach a different age group. Either way the players are the ones who are losing out and soon will be come disheartened with the game and give up altogether. The dropout of kids in Irish sport is huge and one of the main reasons is because their mentors haven’t a notion what they are doing nor do they ever intend too.

Having a proper philosophy will attract people to your club, you only have to look at some of the best youth soccer clubs in Ireland and see why they are attracting good coaches and players. They have a philosophy and someone who makes sure it is adhere to, this in turns creates the culture and ethos of the club and improves the performance of all the members.

“The very best coaches teach you more then the techniques and tactics of a sport, they teach you about life”.

What is my Philosophy?

My personal philosophy is something I have worked on a lot over the last year. I am certainly a much better coach then I was last year.  My club philosophy is being re-written as I type but will be written with the same ink.

My philosophy teaches success is many different ways, getting a group of kids to play together, as a team, play to their very best, and reach their ultimate potential while having fun. I want every player to enjoy their experience as part of the team; everyone on the team is expected to put the best interest of the team first, before any thought is given to individual accomplishments.

I read a lot of Horst Wein books and use his Guided Discovery way of teaching, a teaching model where students learn through explorations, but with directions from the coach, these I believe is a great method for coaching.

I expect my players to give 100% in training and play as if they would come Saturday. I do everything with the ball and use a a lot of possession games. I’m reading a book by Jesus Enrique Gutierrez Mayor, (Former Real Madrid Coach) ‘Possession: Play football The Spanish Way’ a collection of some brilliant possession games, I highly recommend this book.

I coach players to play not to win but to give their very best and when you do this they win most of the times. For me it’s about getting a group of kids to play together, as a team, give their very best regardless of the score, play with desire, and reach their ultimate potential while having fun.

No individual, coach or player, is more important than the team. I firmly believe in repetition as a key tool to prepare players to be the best they can be. I’ll always start with the fundamentals, work on techniques and individual skills and teach team defense in depth. I take every opportunity to coach and demonstrate teamwork, sportsmanship and respect for everyone, starting with the coaches, teammates and the opposition. I expect every player to treat others, as they would want to be treated. I will not tolerate bad manors. Every child must appreciate each other, respecting each another is fundamental part of my philosophy.

I believe ”Perfect practice makes perfect”, players should properly practice the skills being taught on a repetitive basis, so that these skills become as natural as walking and talking. They then get an opportunity to practice with opposition, just like the game.

I always strive to make my session an enjoyable experience that both develop skills, game intelligence and provide positive life long memories for every player involved. Playing football should always be FUN.

I love football and I want the kids to play with a smile. I try to instill in every player, that hard work pays off and the harder players work, the more they will achieve. While being successful is a goal for everyone, at the same time each player should focus on effort – not outcome. A team can always control effort but seldom the outcome of a game.

I expect my players to set goals for themselves and the team. Goals should be challenging enough to require players to extend beyond their present skill level, they must look to improve year on year and develop game intelligence. Every player should have the chance to achieve success and/or failure in game situations, this is the only way they can learn.

When they do things right, I’ll give them positive feedback. When they make mistakes I’ll give them feedback in terms of advice or instruction to help them improve, but always looking for the positives from every outcome and always guided by what they think and say. I listen!

My goal is to keep kids in sport for life; this is the ultimate.

John Wooden – He never coached his teams to try to be better than their opponent. He taught his athletes to prepare themselves to be the best they could be and the result would take care of itself.

 “Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.” – John Wooden

I want to create a coaching philosophy?

So you know the importance of having a well-articulated Coaching Philosophy. It is a critical component of any coaches careers and if you want to be impactful, we are always learning and evolving. The challenge is to define your philosophy and stick to it.

It’s something that has been mentioned before but it’s true; coaching courses are only a small part of your journey as a coach. The lessons we learn outside our coaching courses as well as on our courses will allow us gain a better idea of what we want from our coaching. All the best coaches in the world have mentors, who have defined their philosophies.

Every coach has certain things they never compromise on. If a coach values ability, they will never let their players sacrifice on technique.

By making a distinction between which values you want to have, but could perform your coaching role without, and those which you must have, you are able to evaluate how your coaching behavior is impacted by these values. The list of what different coaches’ value is as diverse as there are different types of coaches. So it is important once you have established your values, to identify which are your most critical values to you. Most coaches learn from others, they are usually the example of what to do or what not to do.

“be a leader and be player centered”

Many players can talk about a coach who they did not feel had shown the correct behaviour nor treated their players well and as such, you may use these coaches as a reminder of what type of coach you want to become.

So the question to ask is, Why did I start coaching? You must then right down all the reasons and start from here. As you have read, my philosophy has evolved from reading various coaching manuals and books and listening to other coaches. Your’s will be the same. You can define your very own Coaching Philosophy in a short brief  statement, similar to a Mission statement in business. I still need to do that with mine and write down my core values.

This will help you get started:

  • What are your Coaching Motives – The reasons why you took up coaching will affect how you coach.
  • Player- Adpapt a player centered approach
  • The Situation – There are situations in which a particular style of coaching is more appropriate than another.This will deffer depending on the level, ability and background of the players you coach.
  • Your Personality – We are human, therefore, have individual personalities. Some coaches may be extroverted, outgoing and lively in their approach to coaching, while others may be more introverted and go about their coaching in a quiet, calm manner. Personality does not matter, provided that appropriate actions and behaviours are maintained, which relate to the every single situation.
  • Your Knowledge – The more knowledgeable you are as a coach, the more options you will have available to you to plan and deliver effective sessions. You never stop learning. Knowledge will also help you to feel confident and create a positive environment for your players. A coach lacking in knowledge may come across as low in confidence and may be perceived as lacking skills or the ability of knowing how to deal with certain situations, they will more than often have a direct approach to coaching and not very good at listening.

The key to player centred coaching is you, this is the key to success. Build Strong Relationships; Effective Communications; Understand your players and their personalities; Understand yourself and your coaching style; Develop a Coaching Philosophy.

Develop a style

You will then develop a style that you are comfortable with, every coach has a coaching style which is largely defined by their Behavioral Style (Personality). This coaching style will have strengths and weaknesses. Essentially understanding you coaching style will help you to comprehend you motivations, the environment you perform best in, and how you communicate best with your players. – Athlete Assessments 

Find out what your Philosophy is?

This is putting it altogether. Understanding the behaviour you wish to exhibit consistently, how you wish to conduct yourself, how this behaviour will impact on your players and the results of this impact, you can then create a the foundations to control your conduct in your coaching role.

This foundation will control how you conduct yourself in your coaching role. This is a big part of your coaching philosophy and should link to where you discovered your core values in relation to being a coach.

Another aspect is how you define success. This is linked to your values, people will always keep score and define success by what you have won but defining what truly is success is often not a simple matter of who has more goals at the end of a game. It has been said on so many occasions that Winning,  is only part of the measure of success…….however, this solely depends on what your philosophy is going be, correct? – Athlete Assessments 


The creating and implementing of a coaching philosophy allows a coach to gain a clearer idea of what they want from players, parents and any other individuals associated with the and/or club.. This in turn will allow more coaches and the club to create a clearer development path for their players, therefore allowing coaches to set more effective, measurable and attainable long and short term goals.

Understanding and developing your Coaching Philosophy is the key to success. Start with your Core Values.


Thanks to the Research from British Cycling Study  and  Bo Hanson – 4x Olympian, Coaching Consultant & Director of Athlete Assessments for helping with this post. 

Download the The Ultimate Coach handbook for FREE. 

Read InsideSoccer: Philosophies – Guardiola, Shades of Michels


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

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