Guest Post

Let’s shed some light on our role as youth soccer coaches

Irish Coach with Shelbourne FC Alo Byrne sheds some light on the role of a coach:

Another typical Saturday, early morning coffee sat in front of the sports news with the laptop running updates ahead of my usual log on to plan pre season sessions and presentations for the weeks and months ahead. It’s a routine, a ritual at this stage if you like. Everybody has various and diverse reasons for taking a route into coaching, some as straightforward as a natural progression from the pitch to the sideline and others more intricate and detailed a road was travelled. Whatever our reasons may be, for those of us that have put the hours in over the years, both on and off the pitch. Countless hours planning sessions, delivering sessions, hours spent on the phone going over minute details that you hope will make a major difference to your preparation and outcome, one thing is for sure , there are moments when we stop and ponder the question , why do it?


For some I’m sure the answer to that question is a simple. Others will espouse a romanticised version of what they believe are honourable and admirable reasons for taking on the responsibility and demands that are presented to us when confronting the sometimes thankless task of youth and grassroots coaching in soccer. Personally after years of consideration and contemplation for myself the answer to that question is quite a straightforward and to the point. I coach FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME.

This very reason is the intrinsic motivation that drives my every want and need to grow and develop both my practical knowledge and ability as a coach,to be able to help the players that I coach to reach the upward limits of their potential. Coaching I have come to realise after years of coach education and time spent on the sidelines and learning from coaches that are infinitely wiser than I could ever hope to be, is a simple and yet strangely complex interaction between you and your players. This process I believe has been over complicated at times by new methods and trends, courses promising to give you the secrets to developing players, techniques and gimmicks disguised in clever marketing has clouded the simplicity of the coaching process.


Our own development as coaches can at times become intertwined with that of the children we coach. As we improve our coaching skill set , we would hope that the kids we coach reap the benefits of this improvement. The important factor for me personally has been to find a balance between seeking my own education and finding the time to spend refining what I have learned in a practical coaching sense on the pitch. Some coaches I find enter into a badge collecting race without sufficient time spent coaching and developing practical coaching competences.

The more coaches chase the “holy grail” of learning , the less it seems they learn. It is my belief that the whole coaching concept at youth level has turned into a proverbial merry-go – round  where coaches continually chase the next piece of information that will help them stand out from the crowd and put them at the cutting edge of coaching. This constant race to become the creme de la creme of coaches has left us dizzy, dis orientated and disconnected from the real reasons why we are there to coach in the first place. We are here to facilitate a learning process, but not necessarily ours! We are a facilitator, the kids are the learners and the game environment as set and adjusted by the coach is the teacher. It is my opinion that we must keep this at our core of understanding when it comes to coaching kids, this is their journey, their sporting experience and we are guilty at times of making it all about us adults. We must keep coaching more child centred and as much as coach education and learning is a vital component of our own development, it must never take precedence over the learner! One day we may wake up and realise that we are not as important as we make ourselves out to be in terms of development in soccer, what if given the right environment and circumstances that development is a child centred and child driven process?

With this in mind, where does that leave the coaches role? There are numerous and varied ways we can help aid learning and discovery, without having a hand in every decision. It is my belief that having an atmosphere that promotes risk, creativity and free thinking will ultimately lead to better decision makers and kids that will play without fear. Too often do we micro manage and hijack kids decisions on the pitch.

Coaches can help simply by keeping track of moments during learning that they can help the players to reflect upon during natural breaks in play, a mistimed pass or what we may perceive to be a poorly timed run are crucial parts of the learning process and must be allowed to take place without our needless constant intervention. If we were to use the analogy of a child doing their maths homework, do you think they would develop greater numeracy skills if we shout at them every time they get a sum wrong or on the other hand constantly supply them with the answers, this is their journey, their childhood experience, we must remember this!

There are countless amounts of research currently in circulation in relation to pedagogy and teaching methods in youth sport, I’m not writing this to direct you towards the research, but more to highlight my own general observations into the need for coaches to re-examine our role in the coaching process and bring a spotlight to issues that I believe are crucial to the sporting experience of the kids we coach.

If we can begin to view our role as that of a facilitator of learning and promote a environment free of fear and anxiety for our young players, built on a solid foundation of fun and love of the game, then we may just be on the cusp of a new dawn of coaching, until that day comes I feel we may continue to lose participants at a young age in what has become an adult dominant and driven process.

Yours in Sport

Alo Byrne

You can check out more of Alo’s writing at For The Love Of The Game


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

Guest Post

The Importance of A Club Philosophy

This week we have Erki Tarro guest posting for the blog.

Erki Tarro is a football enthusiast and a blogger at a sports tech company Sportlyzer – a software platform for sports team administration and training management. For more stories about club development and coaching, visit their blog.

Why is a common training philosophy important to the development of the whole club? 

A lot of coaches can be impatient. We want results and progress and we can get lost in the everyday business. Though we may realise the importance of long-term development, at times it can be hard to implement. Training planning goes on in cycles, but how to formulate and find your goals in the long-term perspective? Perhaps a club-wide training philosophy accepted and followed by all the coaches and training groups can give you a good start to bring the development of the club and the athletes to the fore.

What good will it do?

  1. Rise the quality of your training

Your athletes will go through different stages of development and different quality of training. In the long term, they will have several coaches. In my own years in youth football, I had about 10 coaches, all of them with different methods and motivation. Athlete’s own motivation may change in their athletic course as well. With all these changes over the years, someone, somewhere, really has to be a clear overview of what goes on.

In a lot of clubs, coaches change every few years as the kids grow older. For an overarching idea of what the goals and methods are, a club-wide training philosophy is the most essential tool. A shared vision and strategy helps to develop the kids in a concise, informed way. Getting the coaches on board with a common training philosophy will also help them plan their own trainings accordingly, with the overall picture as a canvas to paint his or her masterstrokes on.

“A basketball team is like five fingers in your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist.”

  1. Formulate mission and values

A big part of a club’s philosophy is defining the values and the mission of your club. What do you stand for? Are you the Barcelona of Dublin or the Bayern of Belfast? What kind of players are you developing? Who they are and should be, on and off the pitch? Are you producing only top talent and high performers or are you more focused on the social aspect of your club?

What kind of world do you represent?

These questions can all be answered with a well-defined club philosophy. It’s like the Bible of your club, of some sorts at least. It helps to define your club, both to yourself, other stakeholders and to the wider community. If you know who you are and what you represent, you have a much clearer view of where you should be in two, five or 10 years’ time. A training philosophy will give you the inputs to predict the outcomes of club development in the future.

  1. Remove the gray areas

A football club consists of teams, players, coaches, parents, managers and so on. Inevitably, we come from different backgrounds. Yet we fight for the same cause, which makes sport so special. However, there’s bound to be some differences of opinion which a club philosophy can address. It will remove the fog from your windshield, allowing coaches and managers to get everyone else on the same page.

In times of doubt, a club training philosophy is a handy text to turn to. Not sure whether a coach should be the one responsible for the equipment or is it okay for the players to take responsibility? Define it and add it to training philosophy. It can be the littlest thing or an overarching idea – the main goal is to align everyone in your club with the same values and guidelines. Gray areas can cause you problems and take your time.

Basketball coaches have a good saying: “A basketball team is like five fingers in your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist.” For the long-term, sustainable club or team development, you need to have a fist to fight for the same cause.

  1. Communication with the parents and the coaches

As discussed before, a training philosophy helps you define your club, your values, your goals and what you teach your players. Still, it cannot be a document just for the head coach or the manager, but rather a set of principles to spread around the whole club. Communication is the key here. Having a fancy document is not a magic key to success in itself, but if your whole club follows it, it can be.

This is especially true when it comes to parents and in larger clubs, coaches as well. The philosophy will communicate your message in a clear and holistic way. If you’ve underlined the key principles to follow, parents will know why you do trainings the way you do without having to doubt every single action you take.  It will create trust in what you do and help both overactive and under-active parents to contribute to their kid’s success in the best possible way.

  1. Line out the general guidelines and codes of conduct

In addition to knowing why your club and coaches do what they do, it’s beneficial to line out how do you do it. This can apply to all the stakeholders in your club – coaches, athletes, parents, volunteers, the club itself and the fans.

Having codes of conduct in your club’s philosophy can help you deal with parents shouting at referees, coaches not being diligent enough or the club not being fast enough to respond to emails. Whatever rules you feel can help you move toward your goals in a simpler, faster and better way can be taken into consideration to write down in the guidelines. Something to refer to and educate your club members!

  1. Create a long-lasting legacy

In the end, we all want to leave a mark behind. We want it as individuals and as a club as well. We still rave about the Netherlands national team of 1970s, even though they didn’t exactly win too much. It’s about the legacy they left behind, their style of play, the players who moved on to revolutionize football in more than one way.

Their philosophy of Total Voetbal is still talked about and respected today on a global level. And even for a grassroots club, it’s absolutely possible to leave such a legacy to your community or to your players. Maybe the next superstar will fondly remind your club as a place where he got the proper nurturing environment to grow as a player and as a person. Or even on a local level, wouldn’t it be amazing if your “school of thought” was talked about decades from now, because it gave so much to the players and to the community?
Whatever the most relevant reason for applying a common training philosophy for your club is, life has shown that with a shared club-wide philosophy, you will reap the rewards. It can be success on or off the pitch for your team or your club. The next La Masia or a valuable part of the community. It’s not just a document, but a clearly defined mentality and spirit of your club.

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– End

I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me, if you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Guest Post

Football Fitness Feature

Check out the guys at Copa90 

There are many important attributes needed to play football to a good standard. Technique, tactical understanding, and love for the game are all absolutely vital. However, as you go up the leagues, a larger emphasis is placed upon the physical part of the game. Tactical and technical coaching is necessary to become the best player you can be, but there is always more physical training that you can do independently not only improve your performances on the pitch, but also improve your health off it, helping you extend your playing career.

With this in mind, here is a football fitness video from popular youtube football channel Copa90’. The boys at Copa90 aim to help out football fans and football players as much as possible in any way they can, and they teamed up with youtube fitness channel ‘TheLeanMachines’ to help you take your physical training and ability to the next level.

Check out their video ‘Get Hinch Like Ronaldo’


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me, if you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary


Guest Post Psychology

Sport Psychology: Developing Sport and Life Skills

This week I chat to Sports Psychologist David McHugh. David is graduate from Liverpool John Moore’s University University with an Msc in Sport Psychology having studied psychology for four years in Galway and Nottingham.

TCD: When asked what sport psychology is how do you reply?

DM: I reply with the saying that it is strength and conditioning for the mind. It gives players and teams the ability to develop the mental attributes that will enable them to improve as players, supporting some on their journey to elite playing levels and supporting others in developing personal attributes that will enable them to develop as a person.

When the focus is on developing players a holistic approach should be taken focusing on physical, technical, tactical, psychological and lifestyle skills. However in Ireland are we teaching our players the skills that will enable them to develop as people and players? I do not believe we are. In most cases players are lucky to get adequate physical, technical and tactical support in their development.

What makes this lack of focus on the psychological skills of players surprising was when a group of researchers asked 8 coaches in different Premier League academies what the key attributes of those making it into the first team were. They all concluded that the psychological attributes of the players determined their success, not their technical, tactical or physical attributes.

TCD: So how can we address this deficiency in the development of our young players?

DM: Here are some practical ways coaches can support the development of player’s psychological skills:

Persevere in the face of failure: Players must be encouraged to view failure as a learning experience and as a part of the process in improving. Failure should be seen as feedback on ways you can improve as a player and team. If the player and team plays to the best of their ability and still loses the player should be made feel like a winner. This takes success beyond the traditional concept of winning and losing, and makes sport about being the best that you can be every day. This is not only important in sport, but an important life skill.

Your biggest competition is yourself: Players should be encouraged to view their competition as being themselves. This is something that is in their control. They can control the level that they play at and consequently they can focus on being better on a daily basis. They should not be encouraged to focus on the opposition or winning as this can lead to lowering of the player’s motivation for self improvement when they lose a game. The focus should always be on self improvement.

Take responsibility for your performance: When the players and team go onto the pitch they must be encouraged to take responsibility for their performance, good or bad. In how many schoolboy matches do coaches and players give excuses such as the weather, the opposition and the referee as the reason for poor performances and results? These are a result of not taking responsibility for performance. If the players and team are not encouraged to take responsibility for their performance they will always find an excuse as to why they did not reach their potential.

These three strategies can develop an environment which supports the development of young players so that they have the motivation to be the best that they can be. Some of Irish football players are getting the required technical, tactical and physical training necessary to improve as football players. However none of our young players are getting the support to develop the psychological skills necessary for what would be termed a holistic approach to development. Sport Psychology can fill this gap to support players and teams in becoming better people and players.

If you would like to find out more on sport psychology in football you can email David his website is


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me, if you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary