Getting started as a professional soccer coach is often done in one of two ways: as a parent coaching a children’s team, or as a former player coaching in an amateur division. The latter has the advantage of profiting from one’s own skills and knowledge from time as an active player. This is then added to over time to lay a theoretical foundation that can be expanded upon through training events, observing others, and self-instruction.
Tips for developing as a coach regardless of the level of your license
Get practical experience
After obtaining a certain license, a coach has to work for at least one year at that level in order to be allowed to go on to the next tier. This time is designed to gain practical experience and be able to put newly learned (theoretical) knowledge into practice. The practical work involved in training and playing simply cannot be replaced by anything else. It’s the only way for a coach to develop his/her skills in planning, organization, coaching, and leading the team further.
Let yourself be coached
Especially when starting out as a young and inexperienced coach, it can be extremely helpful to let yourself be coached by an experienced colleague. This doesn’t mean having someone constantly looking over your shoulder – here and there is enough. This is a great way to get tips for how to talk to your players and try them out, discuss your training schedule, or talk about problems in the team. You don’t always have to follow the advice of your colleague, but it’s still important to compare different solutions to problems or behavior that could be changed. This helps to find your personal style as a coach over time.
Read a lot and try out new things
Another important part of the constant development of a coach is self-instruction. The informational articles on our coachbetter platform offer a great foundation and stimulation for your work as a coach. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to adopt every practice you read about – critically questioning what you learn is an important part of expanding your professional knowledge and broadening your horizon. It doesn’t really get interesting until you start to put into practice what you’ve learned by adapting new knowledge to your own team and training goals for your own purposes anyway. As a coach, you should be mindful not to focus on just one area of study, but rather look beyond mere technical, tactical, and organizational skills. Other important topics include athletics, sport motorics, psychology, as well as basic knowledge of sports medicine and dietetics. For special issues it’s still recommended to ask an expert for advice. It’s important that a coach is able to assess what his/her team needs – depending on performance level – when it comes to certain issues or external support.
Great players! Great coach?
It’s increasingly easy to find coaches who didn’t have an extensive career as a soccer player and have nevertheless been successful as coaches. An example from the past is Arrigo Sacchi, who was successful at his club’s level and with the Italian national team. José Mourinho, the successful Portuguese coach, is another who didn’t play a noteworthy number of matches in the highest divisions. The German coaches Ralf Rangnick and Julian Nagelsmann are other examples of this kind of coach. This just goes to show that a career as a player – however helpful it may be to know the professional business beforehand – is no longer a requirement for a successful coaching career.
Important skills for a coach
Quite often coaching is about an array of attributes: empathy, expert knowledge, communication skills, and the ability to successfully lead a heterogeneous group of players and functionaries. When it comes down to it, these skills are a mixture of character traits and methodological capabilities that can be trained purposefully. Whether it is emotional intelligence, neuro-linguistic programming (a psychological communication technique), rhetoric, or leadership skills, you can often find classes pertaining to these topics at universities, diverse public education providers (such as adult education centers), and through commercial providers. Some of these subjects can even be studied in online courses. For coaches it’s crucial to recognize what one’s personal weaknesses are and deliberately work on them. The development of a coach can be seen in the experience and coaching qualification he/she has as well as in the division(s) of his/her team(s). This doesn’t mean, of course, that every coach with a license is automatically good at what he/she does. A license simply means a coach has reached a certain level of qualification and is therefore eligible to be primarily responsible for coaching a team in a certain division.
Julian Nagelsmann: a prodigy
A coach’s career that stands out from the rest is certainly that of Julian Nagelsmann, head coach of Red Bull Leipzig in the German Bundesliga. As the youngest head coach to win the German U19 Championship (at age 26) and the youngest head coach ever in the German Bundesliga (at age 28), Nagelsmann is a prodigy on the coaches’ bench. His special ability to present himself confidently, and by doing so motivate and excite others, is often said to be Nagelsmann’s key to success. In addition to his charisma, this young coach exudes an eagerness to succeed and is brave enough to play risky, aggressive soccer to do so. The foundation for being able to work your way up successfully as a coach is hard work that requires work on yourself and your skills, as well as dedicated training work on the pitch. In addition, a coach also needs a bit of luck for his/her hard work to pay off and be recognized in the right situations. In many cases, a coaching career is only successful when someone is there to trust you with responsibility and allow you to implement what you envision. It’s important to remember, though, that every career is different and there is certainly no royal road to success.