As a player, having the right attitude and mindset is important, but as a coach it is essential. In order to inspire others, create a positive environment, and develop confident players, a coach has to set the right tone for their team.
In addition to teaching soccer techniques and tactics, coaches have the opportunity to teach life lessons and shape the lives of their players. With this in mind, the game of soccer can be a great teaching tool for players to develop traits that will serve them in life beyond the pitch. The great inspirational speaker Tony Robbins always says that success is 80% psychology and only 20% due to strategy and tactics. Often times coaches get so caught up in teaching players technical and tactical skills that they forget to spend time developing the most important part of all – the mind.
This article includes 7 traits of successful soccer coaches to develop strong and confident players. Not only are these tips applicable to coaching soccer, but they are foundational qualities of successful people in sports, business, and many other industries. With that being said, these tips are not my own. They are an accumulation of the best ideas from successful individuals that I’ve gathered through reading best selling self development and business books, sports autobiographies from leading soccer, football, and basketball coaches, and watching countless hours of video content from top athletes and psychologists.
When a coach embodies theses 7 traits, they start to rub off on their players. Usually teams take on the characteristics of their leader which is why a coach can have such a large influence. A coaches attitude, how they respond to adversity, and willingness to embrace challenges contributes to the culture within their club. With this in mind, these 7 tips will ensure that coaches are cultivating an atmosphere that breeds success.
The first step to achieving a goal is to believe that it is possible. If an individual doesn’t believe, they are unlikely to put in the time and effort necessary to accomplish the task. This is what Henry Ford meant when he said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”. Believers take massive action to prove themselves right. They know that through dedication, work ethic, and persistence they can transmute their thoughts into a reality. In addition, this is the premise of one of the best selling business books of all time – Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
Takeaway For Soccer Coaches: Believe that your team will achieve it’s goals and inspire players to share this belief. Having a growth mindset can be helpful to create empowering beliefs.
2. Be Proactive
While believing is important, belief on it’s own is not enough. Successful people take action and make things happen which is the essence of being proactive. In his best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey listed being proactive as the first habit.
At it’s core, this habit is about taking responsibility for your actions. Proactive people know that they are ‘response-able’ meaning that they know they can choose their response to whatever happens to them. When facing struggles or adversity, proactive people respond in a way that serves them and focus on factors that are within their control.
Takeaway For Soccer Coaches: Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Focus on the things that you can control and make it happen. When faced with adversity, know that you can choose your response. For example, if an opposing team scores against you, there are two ways to react. You can drop your head in frustration or you can lift your team up and try to inspire them to get the next one!
3. Be Persistent
The next of the 7 traits of successful soccer coaches is to be persistent. Persistence is the quality of never giving up. Whatever journey life takes you on, one thing is certain and that is that their will be setbacks along the way. For this reason, persistence is an essential trait of successful people. Those who run at the first sign of failure never accomplish much. Persistence is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
Takeaway For Soccer Coaches: Having persistence takes discipline. Instill players with a strong work ethic and help them develop ‘never give up’ attitudes. View losses as opportunities to grow and improve so that your team can come back stronger next time.
4. Use The 80/20 Rule (Focus On What Is Working)
The 80/20 rule also known as the Pareto principle is a concept I pickup up reading ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris. This revolutionary concept basically states that 80% of our results typically come from 20% of what we do. For example, in business it is not uncommon for 20% of customers to make up 80% of an organizations sales. Through another lens, perhaps a large portion of an athletes fitness results are coming from a small portion of their workouts. This principle can be applied to almost any part of life because there are usually always a few things we do that contribute the most to our end results.
At the same time, this principle can be applied to coaching soccer. If you notice that one thing is working, spend more time doing that thing. It seems really simple but often times coaches don’t pay attention to the correlation between the activities they do and the results they yield. In my personal experience, I found that when my team performed small sided games and possession drills, their ball movement and chemistry improved quite a bit. With this in mind, I spent more time doing these drills in practice which yielded excellent results on the field. If you’re interested in the best possession drills I use with my teams, be sure to check out them out here.
Takeaway For Soccer Coaches: Be mindful of the correlation between activities and results. By analyzing what is working and what isn’t, you can amplify the 20 percent of activities that are yielding the best results to help your team improve more quickly. Focus on what is working and concentrate your energy on the things that matter most.
5. Use Teamwork
Harnessing the power of teamwork can have a compounding effect when everyone works together to achieve a common goal. Sometimes teams with extremely talented individuals will fall into the trap of relying too heavily on a single player.
This happened to my younger brother’s high school soccer team during his senior season. As a future college soccer player and all-state selection, my brother accounted for over 89% of his teams offensive production. While there is no doubt he was an extremely talented player and a great asset for the team, when he had an off day, his team was ineffective on offense. As opposing teams realized this, they would focus on my brother and give him less time and space on the ball. This made things more difficult for him and the whole team suffered as a result.
The best teams aren’t reliant on a single individual. Although it’s a different sport, a team that is a perfect example of this is the New England Patriots from American football. As an illustration, even when their quarterback Tom Brady, who is one of the best players of all time is unable to play, they are unfazed and the next player is able to step up and perform the job well. The Patriots never get rattled when one of their top players gets injured because they have a strong team oriented culture. In addition, they are unafraid to get rid of players who go against their way of doing things, regardless of how talented the individual may be.
Teamwork In Soccer
Coming back to soccer, my brothers team would have been more successful if they weren’t so reliant on him. Imagine if his team would have been able to move the ball effectively and get more players involved in the attack. This would have made it much harder for the defense to swarm to my brother giving him more time and space on the ball when it came his way. In addition, having multiple goal scoring threats would have made his team more difficult to defend as a whole.
Takeaway For Soccer Coaches: Create a team first atmosphere where emphasis is placed on achieving goals together. The importance of a single individual should never detract from your teams overall mission. Together everyone achieves more.
6. Be Positive
Creating a positive team atmosphere is vital as a coach. Having a positive attitude is contagious and it creates an environment for the players full of optimism and enthusiasm. In addition, people usually respond better to genuine praise than they do to criticism. Focusing on what players do well will make them feel good and help them grow more confident. According to the Harvard Business Review, the ideal praise to criticism ratio as a rule of thumb is to say five good things for every one criticism. This way, when you do have to make a correction as a coach, it is more constructive and the player is less likely to take it personally.
One of the best books I’ve ever read as a leader and a soccer coach was How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I highly recommend this book to coaches because the concepts in this book can be applied to players to make them feel good, accept your ideas, and become the best they can be.
Takeaway For Soccer Coaches: Have a positive attitude and praise players when they do things well. Always try to focus on the good and your players will do the same.
7. Enjoy The Process
The last of the 7 traits of successful soccer coaches is to enjoy the process. Always remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. If you expect success instantly, you’ll almost surely be disappointed. Success happens when good habits are repeated over and over again and through applying the traits listed above. Great coaches enjoy the process because they know that it’s the most important part. They always look to grow and find new ways to improve. Everyday is an opportunity to get better. Enjoy the process, have patience, and be grateful for the opportunity to coach the beautiful game.
The 7 Traits of Successful Soccer Coaches Video
Some people prefer to watch videos rather than reading articles so for those people I go over the main points of this article in the video below.