Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

What Makes A Great Soccer Coach


I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes a great soccer coach. What is the essence of coaching? What are the core

skills that a coach needs to have in order to fulfil his role?

I guess the answer depends on what the role is, and there are a number of different ways to look at that. For example, a great youth coach might have different characteristics to a great adult coach. Similarly, a great grassroots coach might need different skills to that of a professional coach.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to lump them all in together and take the broadest view possible. Here are my five criteria for what makes a great coach:

Communication: a great coach should be able to communicate with his players on their level. The communication should be supportive and encouraging and should include everyone in the team.

Coaches should generally avoid using the word “don’t” and should try to be nurturing as opposed to bullying. And it’s important that no one is allowed to slip through the cracks – a loner in a soccer team is a potential problem and communication has to be consistent.

Listening: a great coach needs to be able to listen to his players and everyone else with a stake in his team’s success.

Players need to feel that they can talk to their coach about their game, and a good coach is able to respond to that in a positive way. I’m not saying that we should let players dictate where or how they play, but I think that a good coach can establish an effective two-way relationship with his players.

We also need to be able to take advice and guidance from other coaches and assistants. All the world’s great coaches recognise that they are part of a team and I doubt there are many successful coaches who dictate everything at their club. I know some coaches who are uncomfortable when a peer suggests a different approach. They need to be able to tell the difference between helpful advice and criticism. For me, the more ideas and viewpoints the better. I’ll still make my own decisions, but I’ll do that with the benefit of the views of the people whose judgment I trust.

Motivation: a coach has to arm his players with the tools to be better individuals and a better team. Chief amongst those tools is the motivation to succeed. Many people would say that this is the key factor – the magic ingredient – that every great coach must have.

Organisation: an effective coach must be organised. Everyone’s time is wasted if no-one knows what they are supposed to be doing, if the equipment isn’t in place, and if arrangements haven’t been made. Some coaches are terrible organisers but the trick is to recognise that and find an assistant who is a good organiser.

Have the knowledge: a coach can have all of the skills and characteristics described above, but it won’t count for much unless they have the technical knowledge to back it up. At youth level that might mean knowing how to coach players to pass over distance or perform a stop turn. At senior level that might mean knowing how to coach a team to change shape when moving from possession to defence. Either way, the coach has to have the knowledge, and whether they get it from the internet, a bookshop or a training course, a great coach has to know the nuts and bolts of the game.

I found it very strange that Newcastle United appointed Kevin Keegan as their new manager. Keegan is no doubt a great motivator and is known for his strong bond with his players. But it’s also true that he has tactical and technical shortcomings. I know that he will have people on his team who take care of that, but for me a truly great coach shouldn’t have to ask someone else to work out his team’s tactics.

Motivation alone is not enough, at grassroots or Premier League level. A great coach will invest the time to know and understand the principles and techniques that underpin the game.

So that’s five for now. As soon as I post this blog I will no doubt think of another half dozen so I’ll post those in due course. In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch and tell me what you think makes a great coach.


9 Comments so far
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I think a good soccer/football coach is one that can make the game fun for those playing. If they are not having fun, they won’t be back next season. If you’re not winning but practices are learning experiences mixed with fun, it can make up for the losses.

Comment by Tgears

Good to see that you started this blog. Will return to read more.

Comment by Niyaz PK

i completely agree with all 5 points, inparticular the final one. Knowledge is king!

Comment by swift1

One fault with the entire “better soccer coaching” is the constant use of the “s” word. I know this originates in Britian and is taken from the word “ASSOCIATION”, and it also gives it a more global understanding to countries that have there own versions and it also makes a clear difference between Association football and Rugby football, but after all said and done it is FOOTBALL and that “s” word does make me cringe. Apart from that the website, forums, blogs and coaching tips are absolutely spot on!! Excellent work.

Comment by swift1

Thanks for replying Niyaz. I really look forward to sharing my thoughts and musings with coaches around the world. Please get in touch with anything you want to discuss.

All the best to you and your team.


Comment by soccercoachblog

Thanks for replying Tgears. You’re absolutely right. Making training fun for our players is possibly our number one duty as youth coaches and I’m a little annoyed at myself for missing that.

All the best to you and your team.


Comment by soccercoachblog

Great post. In particular I agree that communication is critical for any coach. Knowledge is one thing however the ability to convey that knowledge in a style that is easily understood by all is vital.

Comment by Muz

Thanks for getting in touch. I know a number of well-qualified coaches who are unable to communicate in a way which brings out the best in their players. Anybody can attend a course and pass an exam – not everybody can coach.



Comment by soccercoachblog


That is the best post yet. That is why i said i agreed with knowledge over the other points, although all the other points are essential, you do not need knowledge to pass any course you just literally need to follow instructions yet knowledge and being able to comunicate that knowledge are the main factors in my opinion to teach anything not just football.
Good ideas are useless unless you can show and tell people them in practice. So i agree you need the knowledge then the communication and not just a piece of paper to show you have attended a course.

Comment by swift1

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