Over the years more of our 6,000 youth soccer clubs have become increasingly professional. The clubs are paying more attention to facilities, staff and programming. Among the staff some clubs have hired are coaches. A number of clubs have the coaches do administration as well as coaching.
That can be good practical use of employees - as long as the scales don't tip too far toward office work. After all, the coach was hired because of his or hers expertise in developing players.
Once a club makes a decision to hire coaches it must also decide how to use them. This step includes the club deciding its identity. What kind of soccer club will it be? Visionary leadership is necessary to answer that question. A critical role among the club leaders is the Director of Coaching.
The Director of Coaching should not coach if he or she wants to do a good job for everyone. Why such a statement?
Presently in most cases the Director is the head coach of one or more teams and may also be the assistant coach with other teams too. Or the Director is more the coaching coordinator or administrator or educator in the club. While those jobs need to be done in the club the primary goal of a club Director is the mentoring of the club's coaches. By positively influencing the club's coaches the Director impacts the players.
The Director of Coaching should not coach if he or she wants to do a good job for the club. The Director must see the teams play and train; as well as seeing the coaching. This is only possible if the Director is on the field with all the teams rather than with one team or off the field coordinating. This objective requires an investment from the club since many clubs subsidize the Director's salary with fees from coaching teams or being the soccer operations coordinator. The tradeoff is a Director who does not and cannot influence every team, every coach and every player.
Does the club want to spend its money on soccer or administration?
Many people can administer. A coordinator organizes supports and coordinates. American soccer clubs should choose the soccer. Many do not and the Director of Coaching becomes a club coordinator - coordinating much that could be done by administrators.
A Director of Coaching is a coach and an educator of coaches - not many people can do that. Of course to assist with the education of the club's coaches are the state and national coaching schools. Managing the education of the coaches with the state association Technical Director is a wise move. Yet the club Director must follow up those formal coaching courses with clinics and mentoring. Those clinics could include model training sessions with various teams in the club.
The Director needs to give the coaches guidance on running a training session, season objectives, match management and how to interact with parents and club officials.
Furthermore the Director of Coaching needs to assign coaches to appropriate teams and levels of play. In this vein the Director also helps the coaches grow in their craft by helping them move into coaching either gender, different age groups or perhaps various levels of play. The Director must oversee the inclusion of good coaches into the club.
Of course impacting the development of the players is a core objective for any Director. The Director of Coaching must help to write and implement a player development model, so use the U.S. Soccer Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States as a primary reference for the club model.
The list of ways the Director of Coaching can influence the club goes on with scouting opponents at elite levels of play or recruiting coaches as examples. That influence extends outside the club with a truly visionary Director getting involved in meetings at the local, state and national levels to speak up on matters concerning the players and coaches.
In the end, though, get out on the field and do what the job title depicts - direct the coaches!
(Sam Snow is Interim Technical Director of US Youth Soccer.)