It wasn’t the same for me. Not that I didn’t enjoy watching him have fun but because, having read so much about football development and having spoken to so many coaches, it was somewhat inevitable that I would look critically at the level of coaching delivered.
And that is where my displeasured stemmed for. For half of the allotted time, the kids were put through physical exercises: running, skipping through ladders, jumping over obstacles and so on. It was only in the second half of the session that they got to see the ball and, when they did, the number of kids who were there meant that each one only got a few moments of play.
So much that, if it were to me, I’d try somewhere else. The thing is, as I said, my son loved it. He was excited every time he had to go and looked forward to the session. Which, given that the reason why I take him is purely so that he can have fun, has left me with a bit of a dilemma: how do you tell if a coach is a good one or not?
It is a question that has been preying on my mind for some time. Because in most cases the coaches are prepared and the instances where the coach is clearly incompetent are quite rare. If that is the case, however, how do you decide who you should be putting faith into?
The child’s happiness, which I’m letting guide me at the moment, is clearly one of the prime factors: regardless of how good the coach, if your child is unhappy in most cases* it isn’t advisable to keep taking him.
That, however, is only the start. How a coach acts during a game is another good indicator: you want to avoid someone who is constantly critical of the players and places an exceedingly high importance on winning.
A good coach can be seen with how he communicates, both with the children as well as with their parents. Most importantly, the validity of a coach comes through in his training sessions. How innovative are the sessions? Do they try different things? How is feedback being delivered? Are you seeing progress in the kids?
Ultimately, there is no golden rule; there isn’t just one thing that determines a good or a bad coach. It also depends on the children. If you have a child who doesn’t handle stress well, then probably they won’t be too comfortable with a coach who tends to shout when training isn’t going well. Yet another kid might love how that same coach pushes everyone hard to improve.
Indeed, as a parent that you won’t find a better guide than that: seeing how your kid is doing and whether they’re enjoying training.
*I say in most cases because there are instances – for example, if you have a supremely talented child – where, in order to ensure that they maximise their potential they might need a coach who really pushes their limits.