Coaching Education Key To Continued Growth

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The development of a good soccer coach isn’t all about getting to the next license, but a lifelong process of learning, listening, and discovery.

As our player registration numbers continue to grow in Alabama, it is vital that we continue to educate coaches so that they can best serve our players. I’m blessed in that my role is to lead and train coaches to improve their craft. Coaching Education is a powerful tool that can help transform the game in our state and in our country.

However, we all know that obtaining a coaching license does not necessarily make one a great coach, and we also know other coaches that are great at their craft but have never taken a coaching education course. As a lifelong learner, I’m always striving to maximize potential, improve as a coach and leader, and “keep the axe sharp” by seeking out as many educational opportunities as possible.

Education can occur in many different settings, formal and informal. Informal settings can include working with a mentor within your club, utilizing feedback from a Director of Coaching, or from simple networking and relationships. ASA member clubs/associations can request to host a Youth Module Course, which includes an hour of online modules followed by two hours of field sessions conducted by one of our staff instructors. Moreover, I can come out to visit clubs to run demo sessions for coaches and meet with them to discuss topics relating to game management, preparation, training, etc. Also, with today’s technology, one can video record a training session and later watch it to self-critique.

The formal setting usually requires a mixture of both theory (classroom) and practical (field sessions) where candidates are led through a series of lectures, interactions, and live training sessions on the field. Alabama Soccer Association delivers the coaching courses for U.S. Soccer, NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America), and U.S. Youth Soccer.

This past summer was an active one concerning formal coaching education. Over 130 coaches participated in courses from all three methodologies. The state was canvased from Fairhope to Huntsville with the U.S. Soccer E License Course, which focuses on athletes ages 9-12 and the 7v7 to 9v9 game. One course was hosted in conjunction with the ODP State Team Mini-Camp July 1-3, and out of the 21 candidates, 13 were ODP players ages 16 or older — a requirement for the course. ASA provided scholarships for these players as a way to give back to them for their commitment to the program as well as to help grow and promote the game. What a joy to see these older players giving back and serving as role models for younger players in Alabama.

Another opportunity occurred with the National Youth Coaching Course, formally the National Youth License. Twenty-five coaches from across the nation came to Birmingham to learn how to coach players ages five to 12. This five-day course was instructed by Virgil Stringfield, an original author of the course, Bob Bigney, the New Mexico State Technical Director, and me.

Each day was spent discussing the cognitive, psychomotor, and psychosocial characteristics of players in each age group for U6, U8, U10, and U12. Out of the 25 candidates, 20 were from Alabama and 13 of them had recently taken an E or D License with me in the last two years. The local candidates included three club directors, an art teacher, a referee, and other coaches from across the state. Candidates conducted field sessions with children, which were captured on video and reviewed from the instructional staff and fellow candidates.

Dillon O’Hare, a coach at BUSA, said, “Many people told me how influential and inspiring the course was, and none of them were wrong. This course has given me the tools I need to continue to make a difference in the lives of the kids that I coach.”

With all of the different options of coaching education available here in Alabama, I hope that all coaches will continue to strive and not simply think that they have arrived. If you or your club has an educational need, please reach out to me at the State Office and I will do my very best to help deliver content that helps meet the needs of our ever-growing game.

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About Author

Zac Crawford

Zac Crawford holds the USSF ‘A’ License and National Youth License, the NSCAA “Premier diploma” and “Advanced National Goalkeeping” diploma, and a TOPS Soccer Level 1 Certification. He also earned two master’s degrees (Cognitive Psychology in 2003 and Human Performance with an emphasis in Sport Management in 2009) from the University of Alabama.

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