When I first started out coaching I was also a full time high school student, so I only coached on average three and at most four sessions a week for a total of six hours. So as I prepare for a 30-hour work week coaching job (to no fault of my employer as I knew what I was getting into when I took the job) I'm wondering if there's an optimal number of sessions per week that a coach should be coaching to allow themselves both the experience and the time to reflect on their coaching and how to improve it.
One of the first coaches that I worked with is now academy coach at Nottingham Forest and also coaching for private companies. In our conversations he often mentioned how coaching 15 sessions a week has limited his ability to reflect on sessions, how it made him feel a bit burned out and that he needed to get away from football for a while. Keep in mind that this is a professional football coach who has been involved in the game on a full time basis for the past three years!
I can't help but think of how I'm going to find the time to reflect and review on myself when I am coaching 20 sessions a week. The entire basis of the USSF coaching system with mandatory time between licenses is to allow license holders to gain experience, apply what they've learned and reflect on their progress before moving onto the next level of qualifications. But isn't it just counter productive for coaches to coach so frequently to a point where they no longer have the time to reflect on themselves as a coach, and thus defeating the purpose of the gap in time set between coaching licenses by the USSF?
It would be interesting to see how many sessions the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Slaven Bilic coach directly per week at the highest level of professional football. Granted they have more responsibilities than just coaching, but knowing how much they directly coach per week would give us a clue about the optimal work hour!
When any football fan hears the phrase The Special One, there is only one person that comes to their mind. The news of Jose Mourinho returning to action with Manchester United has undoubtedly been the talk of the weekend. One of the most hated/loved coaches in the game managing one of the most hated/loved clubs in the game? Expect firework.
For me, though, I have my own definition of The Special One. Or Ones, rather. They are players who I have coached throughout my career and have developed a tight bond with on and off the field. They are the ones that really push me to go above and beyond at my job, not only delivering the best training session I possibly can but also providing the mental and emotional support that is so vital for a young player's development at such tender ages.
The bond between a player and a coach is incredible. Back in my first coaching job I was working with a young Polish player who happened to go to the same school as I was (K-12 international school). Within our first two weeks he was already coming up to me to chat away about football, his favourite player (Robert Lewandowski) and FIFA. From then on he would always give me a hug before and after each training session, and his affection grew on me. After leaving the club I would often visit him when I had the chance, just to hear all about how many goals he scored in the weekend match and what he did in training.
And it's not just the players that you get to know more and bond with. You also get to interact with their parents too, and some turn out to be very interesting people to talk to. During my time at AIS and SSA I coached three brothers from Switzerland and got to know their mother who I have to say is one of if not the best soccer moms out there and I say this with every positive intention! She would spend so much effort in getting every kid to soccer training, signing them up for tournaments and camps, making sure they're well fed and energized, and her boys are the sort of kids every coach would love to work with: well-behaved, passionate, hardworking and constantly improving. Upon my return to Vietnam I had the chance to catch up with them over a few cups of ice creams, one of those moments that make the hard work and low pay associated with this job worth it.
As long as I am capable to coach at a high standard, I will make every effort to get to know my players on a personal level so that they know they can feel comfortable around me and trust that I have their best interest in mind.
Here's to having more special ones!
Back in March when I was booking my round-trip ticket to return to Vietnam for five weeks, all I could think of were my mom, my friends, the soccer kids that I coached, and all the food I missed out on during my time in America. Coming back to coach for the club that gave me the platform to build my career upon was definitely the last thing on my mind, or rather it wasn't on my mind at all! So to be here writing this blog while being a week away from taking 18 soccer players to the 2016 edition of the Bangkok International Supercup is quite special, and I indeed am glad to be back to the place I considered my home.
Coming back to SSA to provide cover coaching, I was greeted by four former players of mine who took me down and sat on me. Obviously wasn't a very nice welcome back, but their intentions were genuine and I felt happy to know that I left the club after making a positive impact on these young players, enough for them to still welcome me back with a positive reception.
Youth coaching is more than just teaching a player to play soccer. It also is about developing a unique bond between the coach and the player, something that really can't be found anywhere else in any other occupation. And that is exactly why I do what I do.
About the Author
Bao "Terry" Cao is currently a coach at Manchester United Foundation and the FA Development Centre for girls. Terry is licensed by both the FA and USSF. He shares his personal experience of being involved in youth soccer as both a coach and an outside viewer.