Do I Need An Assistant Coach? And What Should I Look For?

I recently started a position with a soccer travel club. I have run different clinics, assisted teams in the past and have been certified as a soccer coach for 4 years, but this is my first time as head coach. I am having a hard time finding an assistant coach and I really do not want to have a parent assist me. I am worried that they will overrun me, since I am new to the position and am fairly young (I am only six years older than some of the players on the team). I worry that these players will not respect me and will be more willing to listen to a parent over me. Should I ask if a parent wants to step up and help me or should I just do this on my own? If I do this on my own, how should I get started?

- An aspiring soccer coach

If you can get an assistant coach, then by all means, do so. You don’t want to carry the load all season alone, and having someone with whom you can kick around ideas is useful.

Choosing an assistant coach is an important step for a coach. Ideally, none of the coaches should be related to the players. Nevertheless, the reality in youth soccer is that many coaches are related to one or more of the players on the team.

The head coach being potentially younger than an assistant coach should not be a concern. A quality head coach will be respected by the majority of the parents of the players. When you are looking to tab someone as your assistant coach, look for personal qualities over soccer knowledge, regardless of their age.

Your assistant coach plays many vital roles. He or she can assess the quality of your team, help you to decide player development issues, attend parent-coach meetings on your behalf (I wouldn't recommend this, though, always try to handle these yourself) and help you to choose game-day team formation and tactics.

Begin the process of choosing an assistant by considering your own strengths and weaknesses; then, look for someone who can balance them out. First and foremost, look at the character of the person. The knowledge of soccer and how to coach the game can be learned; the right personality for coaching children cannot. Your assistant coach should enjoy interacting with soccer players. So, look for someone who can be motivating with the players — an adult they will see as a role model, as well as a coach. You don't want an assistant who just runs players through the motions in training or in a match, you want your assistant to help inspire or motivate them.

Secondly, can the person judge player potential? Your assistant needs to be able to aid you in determining a player’s strengths and weaknesses so that the two of you can make a plan for each player’s improvement. 

Next, we come to tactical knowledge. He or she has to know their stuff and should be good at arranging set pieces, formations, etc.

Here are the types of assistant coaches that do the best job:

  • Open-minded, do not have a set idea on systems of play or formations
  • Do not care what their role is
  • Ask a lot of questions; they want to improve as a soccer coach
  • Detail-oriented
  • Are out to improve the lives of the kids, not build themselves up as a coach
  • Are great listeners and observers
  • Take whatever task they were given and excel
  • Volunteer to help at nearly every turn
  • Ask underlying “whys” without being abrasive
  • Once a decision is made, do not question anything and implement the decision
  • Are calm, non-“rah-rah” types that keep the game in perspective (watch them coach other sports, or as a fan)
  • Are not complainers or excuse-makers, they are doers
  • Admit their lack of knowledge and admit mistakes freely
  • Want to get all the kids into games
  • People that have had success in other parts of their lives
  • Coach (or have coached) other sports, or have worked with youth

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