Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

The dad on the touchline isn’t happy…

This is exactly the kind of thing that happens more often than it should in youth sport. Get the parents of your players to watch it and make them realise how awful they can appear…

Why grassroots coaches matter

davidscwnewOne of the positives to have come out of the opening of St George’s Park in England is the recognition being given to the thousands of coaches up and down the country that make grassroots football tick. St Georges will hopefully be putting coaches at the forefront of football in England, much like the situation is in Europe and America.

Without coaches there wouldn’t be matches taking place every weekend. The hours you coaches spend getting the right advice and the right sessions not only helps to create a development culture at your club but is also vitally important to the children you coach.

I know how hard it is for all of you because I’ve started clubs too, and have stood in front of parents wondering how on earth I was going to fulfil their wishes. Like you, I’ve stood at the end of a game when my team has lost, wondering if we would ever win again. Yes, it can be hard sometimes, but coaching is also a wonderful experience, with some amazing highs.

I spoke to a coach this week who has set up his own team because the side his son played for no longer saw the boy as part of their future. His son sat on the bench most matches and when he was allowed on, he was screamed at and told what to do. That’s not being a coach – coaches make football fun.

To rescue his son he created a team and set about learning what he should be coaching and how to manage. He hadn’t realised all the things he would have to do: the amount of emails to players, the collection of subs, the payment of referees, coping with training, getting a kit and buying the right equipment.

But I went to one of his matches and it was great to see him doing everything the right way, encouraging his players and making sure they all got a game. And at the end, when his team had won, he was bubbling over with delight. By doing it all himself he is learning the hard way that coaching is a huge responsibility.

As Head Coach of Soccer Coach Weekly I want to recognise all the hard work that goes into the role of the coach by shining a light on some of you who do the job. In our Coach Of The Month feature, the magazine recognises grassroots coaches with all kinds of experience, whether it be for putting so much into the game every week or maybe just for making the kids happy.

If you want to nominate someone, or even yourself, to be Coach Of The Month, please tell us why and you could be featured in the magazine. Email your nominations to

Why I hate being the linesman

davidscwnewIt’s rarely regarded as the most popular of gifts when you have to hand the linesman’s flag to one of the parents of your team.

You might, like me, have also found it strange how mobile phones start apparently ringing, pulled muscles come into the conversation and urgent dog walking needs to be taken care of… any excuse so as not to have to run the line!

As coach of the team, I haven’t had to run the line for a couple of years… that was, until this week, when I’d gone to watch one of my boys play. Over came the coach, and before I knew it, I was the one preparing to stand up to the shouting and ridicule!

So off I went tripping over the siblings sat too close to the pitch whilst trying to avoid the potholed parts of the touchline.

The referee was chairman of the club and pretty well qualified, with 15 years’ experience as the man in black. But twice in the first 10 minutes I raised the flag and wasn’t spotted. On the third occasion, I stood waving away trying to get the attention of the referee to a chorus of “you must be joking!” from opposition players and parents alike.

“Does he know you’re there?” quipped one of comedians. Up my arm went again as the opposition started another attack. “NEVER!” shouted their manager who was standing half way down the pitch obviously in a better position than myself. I wondered why I was bothering!

During an attack in the second half the ball was put in the net by a boy clearly standing in an offside position. “I’ve given it,” shouted the referee to much cheering from the opposition players and parents.

I asked him if he’d again failed to spot my flag waving. “Look,” he said, “I’ve given it; you were too slow.”

“Too slow?! I am not a professional linesman,” I was about to say – but the moment was gone and I still had a job to do… not that I was enjoying it much!Needless to say I was glad when the final whistle blew and I could give the flag back to the referee.

“Thanks”, he said, with a smile.

In fact that was the only thing that prevented this from being a completely thankless task.

The point of all this – youth soccer coaching may come with many pitfalls and frustrations, but the rewards are plentiful, and real, and when you do things correctly, it really does get noticed.

There are many worse roles in soccer – running the line being one of them!

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The right response to an under pressure referee

David Clarke

Reacting to the decisions of officials is a very challenging aspect of being a coach, and a tricky thing in terms of making sure your players develop their game in the way that they should.
We came up against a team earlier on in the season who claimed for everything, even throw-ins that were obviously not theirs! But coupled with the pressure applied by a band of vocal parents as well, this had an effect on the referee who, in reacting to the side constantly appealing for decisions, gave the team the benefit of the doubt in almost every 50/50 situation.
That’s not something that you want – nor expect to see – at this level, but it was evidence enough that it happens. Certainly, I would never recommend my players to constantly appeal for decisions – it’s not the brand of football I want them to learn. After half-time though, I did recommend they were more vocal when they were sure that possession was theirs, be that from a ball going out of play or an obvious free-kick situation.
Otherwise, by accepting that the other team was ‘better’ than we were at claiming a corner, for example, we were giving up a good deal of possession. When you play teams like this where the opposition players and parents put pressure on the referee, it can be very daunting for your team. You will probably find that your own players’ parents begin shouting opinions from the touchline, and the match can descend into something of a farce.
The best solution is to talk to the parents of your players and explain that, as a team, we have to get used to coming up against opponents who try to bend the rules. Point out that we want the lads to learn the game in a respectful way, and always retain hope that the referee will begin to see a pattern emerging in the game and will get smart to the barrage of appeals.
If he sees the opposition calling for everything but then realises your players are only reacting when they know it is their ball, he will respond accordingly, and your players will get their fair share of the ball having gone about it the right way.

Give your players a code of conduct


I’ve come away from a match this week with the behaviour of one of the opposition players bothering me. It bothers me because I know the manager of the team and he has put a lot of hard work into his coaching, but he allowed one player to ruin the game.

Putting aside the wild tackles, the constant whinging about my players and the tantrum when taken off, what was ringing in my ears as I drove away from the game was his last verbal tirade because one of my players chested the ball down and he was adamant it was a handball.

And the annoying thing is it was a good game, a close match with some good techniques shown by both teams… but that one player spoilt it.

Manager, parents and players all have to realise it spoils the game if you shout or contest decisions. No one wants to hear it and most parents just want to see their children enjoy the game. They won’t do so if bad bhaviour and lack of respect is allowed to continue.

A timely reminder then that a code of conduct for players is vital to your club.

Here are the main points you should base a code of conduct on:

  • A code of conduct is written to reflect the responsibilities players have to the game.

  • Young players should be made aware of this and be made aware of what is expected of them.

  • They should know that nobody wins all the time. You win some, you lose some and when they lose they should do so graciously.

  • They should congratulate the winners, not blame the referee or anyone else and be determined to do better next time.

  • Good losers earn more respect than bad winners.

Obligations towards the game – a player should:

  • Develop their sporting abilities in terms of skill, technique, tactics and stamina.

  • Give maximum effort even when the game is lost.

  • Set a positive example to younger players and supporters.

  • Never use inappropriate language.

  • Always keep within the laws of the sport and use fair play.

Obligations towards the team – a player should:

  • Know the laws, rules and spirit of the game and the competition rules.

  • Accept success and failure, victory and defeat, equally.

Respect towards opponents – a player should:

  • Treat opponents with due respect at all times.

  • Avoid violence, rough play and help injured players.

Respect towards officials – a player should:

  • Accept the decision of the match officials without protest, if a decision needs explaining the team captain should ask.

Watch this clip from the English FA about player respect:

How much respect do you show the referee?

dc1The FA’s latest move to promote respect for referees in grassroots football has resulted in a video with Hollywood hardman Ray Winstone playing the roles of good and bad parent.

The programme provides a series of tools for leagues, clubs, coaches, referees, players and parents from grassroots to elite football to ensure a safe, positive environment in which to enjoy the game. These tools include agreed codes of conduct, in-service training for Referees, Respect club packs, spectator sideline barriers funded by the Football Foundation and ensuring captains work with referees to manage player behaviour.

The question is will it work?

Already this week I’ve seen Premier league superstars showing disrespect for the referee. In my own leagues our linesman was called names by a 12-year-old which went unpunished.

As coaches we all have a responsibility to accept the word of the referee. If you have a grievance talk to the referee at the end, and don’t let your players see. The players will have forgotten the bad offside within minutes of the game ending so don’t remind them of it.

If you feel angry just walk away for a minute or two and gather yourself together.

Watch this video, sometimes it’s good to see how bad it can get. I’m sure most of you have witnessed this kind of behaviour. I know I have.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Why was this goal given offside?

Here’s one for all you budding referees and assistant referees.

In a match between the USA National Women’s Team and Brazil, the US team score a goal that is given offside.

The US team take a corner kick which was played into Brazil’s penalty area. A Brazilian player heads the ball out but it was returned by Lori Chalupny toward her teammate, Cat Whitehill.

Whitehill chips the ball above an opponent to herself, retakes control of the ball past the second to last Brazilian opponent, with only the goalkeeper to beat. When the ball was chipped up, a teammate (Heather O’Reilly) was in an offside position – she runs next to the player but doesn’t touch the ball.

Should the goal have been given?

Look to your players Mr Wenger

“Every single decision has gone against us in every game and I don’t know why…” Arsène Wenger, April 2007

I like and admire Arsène Wenger. His teams play wonderful passing soccer, just like I imagine my team will play when they get to the professional level!

So it always surprises me when he makes statements about referees that make no sense. I felt sorry for him and his team when they played so well at Liverpool in the Champions League but lost out to a penalty decision that was his player’s own fault rather than the referees fault. And it was something dear to the hearts of all of us at Better Soccer Coaching where our publisher is Liverpool through and through.

By throwing himself at Liverpool’s Ryan Babbel, Kolo Toure was leaving himself open to a split second interpretation of the game by a referee. From the refs position it looked like a penalty so he gave it. The reason Wenger was sore was that in the first leg a different referee in a similar incident had chosen not to give a penalty. This time it was an Arsenal player who was knocked over in the penalty area. A definite penalty, fumed Wenger. The two decisions over the two legs were virtually identical but the referees saw them differently.

It’s difficult to criticize a referee over his interpretation. Last week playing at home my Under 15s had one of our best young referees on the pitch. At 0-0 we had a certain penalty turned down when a player tripped our striker. No penalty. Up the other end they went and to my amazement they won a penalty. I wasn’t happy and stormed around the pitch to our linesman, who confirmed it was a penalty. I asked the ref at half-time why he hadn’t given our penalty. “I’m really sorry, Dave,” he said, “at that point two players ran into my line of vision and I couldn’t actually see what happened. I can only give what I see.”

And that’s the truth of it. These guys give what they see. I accept what my referee tells me because I know him and because on a rainy cold day you expect things like that. Just because a match is on TV doesn’t mean the conditions are any different to the conditions my referee was playing in.

Where Arsène Wenger went wrong was that it was his players at fault. If his forwards – namely Emmanuel Adebayor – had scored from the chances that came their way Wenger wouldn’t need a refereeing decision to decide his fate. If Philippe Senderos had actually defended Wenger would not be ranting at the referee.

In a way it’s “welcome to our world Mr Wenger”. The world we write about in Better Soccer Coaching. If young Matt had put his three easy chances into the net on Sunday I wouldn’t have worried about the penalty. If Tom hadn’t rugby tackled the opposition they wouldn’t have been given a penalty.

Players lose games – not referees.

Dave Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching

Is there anything worse than being linesman?

How popular are you when you walk over with the linesman flag and look for a willing dad to run the line? Funny how thedavidclarke1.gif mobile phones start ringing, the pulled muscles start playing up, the dogs need walking, all in the desperate urge to escape having to run the line. It’s something we’ve never covered in Better Soccer Coaching, the skills of being linesman, but perhaps we should.

As a coach of course you don’t have to do it, I’ve always had a right hand man who runs the line every week come rain or shine. The one who can stand up to the shouting and ridicule, not just from the opponents parents but from his friends and other parents who he normally stands with and moans about… well you guessed it the linesman. You’re right there in front of everyone, not even the pitch to hide on like the referee. Tripping over the siblings that are sitting by the pitch tutting as you knock over their bottles of diet coke.

I ran the line last week as a favour at a boys under 14 game. The referee was chairman of the club and pretty well qualified having been a ref for 15 years. I raised the flag twice in the first ten minutes both times he failed to spot me so I sheepishly put it down. “Does he know you’re there?” quipped one of the opposition parents. Up my arm went again as the opposition started another attack. “NEVER!” shouted their manager who was standing half way down the pitch obviously in a better position than myself.

In the second half during an attack – with at least three “phases” as the experts call them – the ball was put in the net by a boy standing clearly offside. “I’ve given it,” shouted the referee to much cheering from the opposition players and parents. “Are you blind?” one of the 13-year-olds shouted. I was adamant he was offside and strode over to the referee. “Look,” he said, “I’ve given it, you were too slow.” Too slow! I am not a professional linesman, I was about to say, but the game was going on around me and the players were running past gesticulating.

Two minutes later I had slipped and went crashing to the floor. Imagine the commotion on the opposition side of the pitch, the cheering, the whooping.

I might start a section in Better Soccer Coaching so you can send in photos of the linesman in action. Come to think of it I will do a ten point guide to being the linesman for Better Soccer Coaching. One point will be to wear non-slip shoes. I don’t mind be a coach or a referee, but do me a favour, don’t ever ask me to run the line again.


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