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Soccer Parenting Jul 17, 2015

Dure: Presenting the FREE education plan for parent coaches

BeauDure-HeaderThe Virginia Youth Soccer Association’s new coaching program has a noble goal: to keep FUN in soccer.

“FUN,” in this case, is the following:

  • Facilitate an age-appropriate environment
  • Understand the physical, psychological and technical aspects of the game
  • Nurture a love of the sport

Sounds like a bold new approach for beginning coaches, mostly parents, who’ll be working with kids in the crucial Under-6 to U-10 years. Parent coaches are important people, providing that first experience in soccer that can create lifelong players, lifelong fans, or lifelong “people who are indifferent to soccer.”

Too many parents sign up to coach a U-6 team and act like they’re coaching a high school team or Chelsea. Coaches at this age need to focus on skills … and fun!

The part that isn’t so bold: This course is available the same way most coaching licenses are available — your local club must request to host a course and get the facility so that you can pay $30 to take this course at the one time it’s available. It’s like viewing Halley’s Comet — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you’d better not miss it.

So if you’re volunteering as a parent coach, avoid the following three words: nonrefundable vacation plans. Especially if you’re in one of those school districts that starts after Labor Day, and you thought you’d sneak in a late-summer weekend trip to the beach.

+READ: Dure: Brainstorming a coaching curriculum for parent coaches

U.S. Soccer is trying to meet parent coaches halfway. The new “F” license course is available online. It’s about two hours of videos, with a few quizzes to make sure you were watching. It’s a much more efficient means of teaching than a typical classroom session, where even the most dedicated coaching candidate is likely to zone out in Hour 3. Watching a few videos from the course made me want to go back and coach U-7s again — and this time, coach the right way, or at least a little closer to the way former national teamer Shannon MacMillan coaches in the videos with a bunch of happy children.

And the club benefits because parent coaches no longer have an excuse. No more U-9 coaches who’ve managed to skate by for years, claiming they can’t make it to the F license session. Coaches can do the course 10 minutes at a time if they like, or knock it all out in one sitting.

Stafford Revolution 00G Blue U-13s coach Jonita Hooker speaks to one of her players at the 2013 Capital Fall Classic.The cost of these early-age sessions is relatively low — $30 for the VYSA FUN session, $25 for the online F license. They creep upward for higher age groups — why am I paying $225 to get my D license this year?

But time is money for overworked parents. Coaches can benefit from one on-field session, which is part of the “FUN” module. That’s not an excuse to hold just one or two sessions within a 20-mile drive each year. Clubs should be able to offer new coaches a choice of one out of two or three sessions a season through the club’s technical staff, who would then be available to their student-parents a couple of weeks later when the lessons are starting to get a little hazy.

+READ: Dure: Young players must learn to pass the dadgum ball

That, combined with the online F license, should give coaches a good grounding in reality before taking the Pugg goals and the cones out for that first practice.

So with that in mind, here’s a suggestion for a coaching program designed to reach the parent coach.

F: Flexible. Especially in scheduling, but also accommodating of parents’ questions.

R: Reasonable. Not something that shows parents a bunch of squiggles on a lesson plan and expects them to be able to explain them to kids in the five to 10 seconds they have before the kids’ attention wanders.

E: Entertaining. How are we supposed to learn to talk to kids in a manner that keeps their attention when you’re talking to us like The Guy in the Office Who Will Never Be Allowed to Do a PowerPoint Presentation Once This Meeting is Finally Over?

E: Expensive, not.

Yes, FREE. If we’re trying to get rid of “pay to play,” shouldn’t we also get rid of “pay to coach”? Or at least reduce the barriers that leave clubs perpetually short of qualified volunteers?