By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
Over the last 20 years the number of professional trainers working in ENY and indeed throughout the country has exploded. The reasons for this change in the culture of who teaches the game seem obvious:
• Soccer parents wanting an educated, qualified and licensed teacher to help fulfill their child’s potential.
• Parent coaches having less and less time to give to coaching as their free time has dwindled.
• Soccer parents tired of the pressure placed on them by other parents in the group (playing time, win/loss record) not wanting to coach anymore.
• Fewer job opportunities for college players, who then recognize the opportunity to earn some money because they played the game.
• The culture of parents chasing the scholarship dream has helped promote the idea of professional trainers.
• A consumer base that seems willing to throw money at anyone with an accent who can kick a ball.
The dictionary definition of professional reads as follows:
pro·fes·sion·al [pruh-fesh-uh-nl] 1. following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder. 2. Of, pertaining to, or connected with a profession 3. Professional studies appropriate to a profession 4. Professional objectivity. 5. Engaged in one of the learned professions. A lawyer is a professional person. 6. Following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime: a professional golfer
I believe, in addition, that the definition of professional soccer trainer must involve the words or phrases below:
• Formal education and ongoing training.
• Dedication to task.
• Innate desire to become as qualified as one can in the chosen field.
• Fair and reasonable reimbursement for work provided.
• Desire to uphold high level of ethical standards to protect the profession (job)
I do not believe that anyone can be considered a professional simply because they either get paid to do a job they have not trained to do or simply have some experience within the field. I have been on lots of airplanes yet I still could not fly one. Teaching the fundamental skills and tactics of the game in an age appropriate, developmentally fun manner must be the task of educated coaches.
The debates on the positives and negatives of more trainers working with teams of all ages and levels is an ongoing and interesting one, which motivated parents and team managers should be involved in. The minimum criteria which should be considered when employing a new trainer in are:
1. Background check.
2. Insurance coverage.
3. Level of First Aid and CPR training.
4. Teaching and education background.
5. Age appropriate coaching license. (year obtained)
6. Coaching licenses obtained and kept current
7. Last coaching education opportunity attended.
8. Playing experience and level of play.
9. Economics of situation – can the team afford the cost of the trainer without forcing hardship on individuals.
The game is bleeding players with more and more clubs struggling to field teams at older ages and an ever increasing number of players leaving the game. With this bleak reality facing all those involved, and concerned about the growth of the beautiful game, we must do all within our power to ensure that all soccer training environments are good experiences. Carefully examining the trainer issue is an effective way to try to ensure that youth players are placed in effective and fun training sessions.
The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) has recently introduced a trainer certification program which will help team managers and soccer parents easily view a list of professional trainers who have had a background checks, insurance checks and their coaching license verified. This part of our website is a valuable resource for all soccer parents.
I would also encourage all soccer parents to find the time to observe at least one soccer practice a season and in so doing offer the following checklist which may help in forming a sensible evaluation of what they see;
1. There should be NO LAPS, NO LINES, NO LECTURES.
2. Activities chosen and progressions used should look like the game.
3. Ages 5-12 players should be touching a ball hundreds of time in each session.
4. The coach should be attempting to use questions which encourage players to think and solve problems rather than simply give orders.
5. Typically the practice should get more complicated as it develops.
6. Physical activities should never be used as a punishment.
7. The players should spend more time "doing" than listening.
8. Practice should go through the following stages, warm up (with ball), technical-tactical progressions (2 or 3) and scrimmage/game to end.
For parents or coaches who wish to have more guidance in terms of age appropriate content the new U.S. Soccer F license would be an ideal learning opportunity.