Business lessons learned as a little league soccer coach

This past weekend marked the end of another long soccer season. I’m the coach of my daughter’s U12 team and the assistant coach for my son’s U8 team.

I love to coach, and I love soccer. One of the things that I enjoy so much about coaching is dealing with the dynamics of the team. Many times (even with 10, 11 and 12 year-olds) the challenges of working as a team are great. If I have done my job well, the payoff is well worth it.

Another of the reasons I love to coach is the ties to leadership that it has. As I reflect back on this past season, there are 3 things I’ve learned that can apply to your studio and the team you have built around you. I am going to spend the next few posts sharing these three things with you –

  1. The importance of teaching foundational skills and strategies.
  2. Why it is important each player buy into the team.
  3. The value of every team member believing the team can compete and win.

1. The importance of teaching foundational skills and strategies.

Let me be clear, I coach in our local community’s recreational league. This means that some of the kids are walking in with little or no foundational skills. I know going into a season that I will have a few kids who have a hard time kicking the ball, won’t ever be superstars, and most likely won’t play past elementary school.

Instilling skill

To allow each player and the entire team to have a chance to compete though, it’s imperative that I help them develop and improve their basic dribbling, passing, offense and defense skills. This means repetitive drills of dribbling up and down the field. It also means playing silly games to get them to do the skill while they think they are simply having fun.

One of the most important skills I try to instill into each player is never giving up on a play. No matter how bad they are beat you simply must keep working to recover the ball. No matter how stupid you feel, you have to work hard to make up for that mistake.

To help your studio team improve, you need to make sure that they are trained to the best of their abilities. This means that you either need to know how to do the job you want them to do, or you need to find someone who can train them. It could mean that you expect them to spend time researching and learning during specific times in the day.

It also may mean helping each staff member improve life skills that don’t have direct impact on their job, but have a larger indirect impact on the entire studio. Skills like treating other people with respect, confronting issues with other staff members or management.

As a coach, I map out what I want my players to be able to accomplish with specific skills. I want them to be able to pass at least half way across the width of the field, to be able to have one “move” to beat a player one-on-one, etc. Have you laid out what abilities you need your staff to be proficient in? If not, write it down. Then begin to help them be better at what you have mapped out.

Teaching strategy

I love the U12 age bracket because strategy finally begins to come into play. The players are old enough to understand concepts like ball possession, offsides, and staying spread out. It doesn’t come overnight; it takes repeatedly saying the same thing over and over, demonstrating in different venues, and a lot of patience. When it does finally come (even in small glimpses) it may be the most gratifying part of coaching.

Do you talk about strategies to better take care of clients with your staff? Do you train them to think strategically to help grow your business? Ideally, your employees will learn to think what is best for the studio, because they know that it will long-term also be best for them. When they begin to bring you ideas to improve your studio, you know that they are thinking strategically.

Tomorrow I’ll continue to share on the lessons I’ve learned this year from PeeWee soccer. What about you – what have you learned from coaching youth sports that you now apply in your business?

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